December 12, 2018
Business Latest News | Joyce McLain | Ranked-Choice Voting | Anthony Cipolle | Today's Paper

WEX sees new tech as path to grow company, cut costs

Courtesy of WEX
Courtesy of WEX
Melissa Smith, president and CEO of WEX Inc., one of Maine's largest public companies. The company offers payment cards to corporations so they can secure and control how the cards are used by employees to buy fuel, pay for hotels and other services.

WEX Inc., which provides financial and technical services for corporate credit cards, reported strong revenues Wednesday for the third quarter and said it will use technology to help it grow even more and to trim costs.

“This year we have implemented a number of new technologies to improve the customer experience, lower costs and have less errors,” WEX President and CEO Melissa Smith told the Bangor Daily News. That includes adding robotics, analytics and mobile technologies.

“This could transform the business,” she said. “We can increase activation rates [of cards], get the product into someone’s hands [faster] and use technology on mobile devices for applications for smaller fleets in particular,” she said.

WEX, based in South Portland, is the second-largest nonbank public company in Maine. It has been on a strong growth trajectory. Revenue for the third quarter of this year for the three months ending Sept. 30 rose 18 percent to $382.7 million from the $324 million in the third quarter of 2017.

The company’s three main businesses are in fleet, travel and corporate solutions, and health and employee benefit solutions.

Many consumers do not realize WEX’s products and services are working behind other applications they use. For example, someone making a hotel reservation via Expedia will activate WEX’s products as soon as they pay for the room. WEX’s products will handle the billing and payments for the transaction.

And stickers saying WEX or its former name, Wright Express, can be seen on gas pumps around Maine, including at Dysart’s. That means a WEX corporate credit card can be used in the pumps to buy fuel, a company spokesman said.

Smith said digital technology makes WEX’s products more compelling. And it is a way of doing business less expensively.

Another example is more quickly processing customer leads that come in through the company’s digital channels and getting cards to those people more quickly.

In June, the company launched a product called DriverDash that lets truck drivers, for example, authorize a fuel transaction via a mobile device and biostatistics within their vehicle. The idea is to make fueling faster and keep the transaction more secure, the company said. DriverDash uses thumbprint or facial recognition technology to authorize or document a transaction. It is currently used at Exxon and Mobil stations in the United States, though WEX said it plans to add more types of stations.

In April the company also improved its fleet payments services with a tool called ClearView Snap, which gives a customer company’s management a unified view of analytics on fuel spending in their fleet.

For the third quarter, net income per shareholder was $57.3 million, up $23.4 million from the third quarter of last year. Earnings were $2.19 per share, beating consensus estimates of $2.12 by 13 Wall Street analysts. The stock’s price rose 5.49 percent to $177.14 per share in mid-afternoon trading.

The third quarter was the ninth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, led by strong performance in the travel and corporate solutions business and the fleet business, said WEX’s Chief Financial Officer Roberto Simon.

WEX forecast that revenue for all of 2018 is estimated as high as $1.49 billion, and net income is expected be as high as $359 million.

In a conference call with analysts this morning, the company said it expects a boost to revenue in the second half of 2019 from recent agreements with Shell and Chevron.

The company also announced Wednesday that it had entered into a partnership with JCB International, a Japanese payment company, to expand its network in that country.

WEX, which operates in more than 10 countries, is in the process of completing a new 100,000-square-foot headquarters across from Portland’s Ocean Terminal that can accommodate 450 workers. It is scheduled for completion in February or March of 20 19, WEX spokesman Rob Gould said. The company will still use its current South Portland building.

Follow the BDN Business Page on Twitter @BDNbiz.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like