CRT Insight Feature: Squaring the Circle – are “hybrid” cards about to transform corporate mobility?

How corporates manage fuel costs, and why they don’t even want to

 

The thing is this: if you’re running a fleet of trucks, probably somewhere around a third of your overall operating cost is fuel. Only drivers cost you more. So you manage it. You negotiate hard with the fuel suppliers and card issuers. You monitor usage and try to eradicate unauthorised refuelling.

If your drivers are executives, salespeople, or service engineers (and that’s a good 35% of the overall b2b fuel market), fuel is probably less than 5% of the overall cost of running those teams. It’s not irrelevant, but it’s not business-critical. Siemens won’t go bust because their drivers spend too much on fuel – Waberer or Duvenbeck might.

It is, frankly, a nuisance for corporates to have to manage fuel accounts separately. They don’t want to. The cost centre they actually manage is “sales” or “field service” – where they combine all the costs of having field teams representing their company – leased cars, entertainment, travel and subsistence, mobile phones, vehicle leasing, parking and so on.

So why has the market been so slow, or reluctant, to recognise this and respond accordingly?

 

A one-eyed approach on the part of major fuel card issuers

It’s clear that to offer corporates the kind of solution required to pull together commercial mobility costs, there has to be some integration of data from different sources. And there has to be a single supplier of the combined, “intelligent” picture.

Herein, of course, lies the problem. The fuel card issuers’ insistence on “owning the customer” (a prehistoric notion if ever there was one) is at the root. Notwithstanding the fact that this implies a marketing strategy fundamentally at odds with customer demand (unwise), it also – by limiting customer value – ensures that margin is sacrificed. Give me something I may need but isn’t what I really want, and I’ll drive your price down. Give me something which is of real value to me, and I’ll reward you.

Fuel management functionality and fuel purchase data is valuable only within an overall corporate mobility package. It may be that fuel card issuers need to rethink their channel strategies.

 

The age-old sticking points

It’s not that these trends haven’t been recognised. Most fuel majors have played with corporate card initiatives for b2b fleet, but have been hamstrung by the eternal quartet of “insurmountable difficulties” which frustrate and ultimately kill off those initiatives:

·      The inability to offer network specific network fuel discounts on scheme cards

·      The unwillingness of schemes to limit or block specific merchant category codes (MCCs)

·      Corporate nervousness about giving unrestricted scheme cards (Mastercard/Visa) to mobile employees

·      The inability for scheme cards issuers to break transactions down to level three (specific product) data

Despite numerous phantom breakthroughs, technological advancements and shifts in position, solutions to these challenges have remained elusive.

 

Hybrid cards – a way out of the jungle?

The emergence of hybrid cards presents a genuinely viable solution to the issues described above. A hybrid card functions as a closed-loop fuel card when used in a contracted fuel retail network – thus solving the issues of fuel discount and level 3 data. At non-fuel merchants, it functions as a corporate card – with early versions (XXImo, for example) having managed to restrict certain merchant category codes (gambling, erotica etc).

Visa and Mastercard both remain nervous and reluctant about further MCC restriction. Well why wouldn’t they? The very essence of these brands is universality, and in that context restriction is as close to anathema to them as it gets. It would seem, however, that putting MCC activation (starting point nothing) or MCC restriction (starting point everything) into the hands of a corporate customer via a card management portal is the next step, particularly in the world of mobile payment apps. 

Still, even the ability to control and restrict merchant category codes doesn’t go far enough. So how can a hybrid card proposition settle the nerves of corporates nervous about abuse?

 

Expense management functionality – why it’s vital

Plugging a hybrid card into expense management software is the winning solution, here. Any expense management application can be pre-populated with specific company expense policies and rules, as well as more general fiscal rules – and can therefore produce “red flags” on out-of-policy transactions, and block employee reimbursement.

What is more, it can recognise merchant categories, and ask for transactions to be split into specific product lines by the cardholder as part of an expense management workflow. Working with fuel card data, it can manage a split of business versus private mileage, and therefore cover off any tax benefit or insurance liability. Its ability to interface with a firm’s general ledger simplifies both accounting and reporting.

So imagine – a hybrid card linked to an expense management tool as a next generation proposition for the corporate fleet market. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it?

 

Talk to us…..

CRT (Europe’s) partners have considerable experience of problem-solving, proposition development and new initiative launches in all the areas we write about ….

….so if anything in this feature has piqued your interest, if you or your company are looking at future-fit solutions for corporate driver mobility or if you’re keen to find out more about CRT (Europe) and how we help firms operating in fuel and fleet markets, then:

·      contact us via our website at www.crt-europe.com

·      download our brochure

·      or just get in touch via email to npa@crt-europe.com or mst@crt-europe.com

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