Metamorphosis: Europe's fuel cards market casts off its shackles

Anyone, in any market sector, will tell you that they work in a "fiercely competitive" market. The fuel cards, or more properly fuel payments sector, has been just the same.

The truth is somewhat different. For two decades, competition has been a dull trade-off between discount and network acceptance, with imagination and "disruptive" innovation nowhere to be seen. That "fierce competition" has come down more and more to a game of discount "chicken".

Until now, that is. There are a number of mighty interesting outcomes from the forced belt-tightening of the major networks. The "fifty dollar oil" paradigm means shareholders in the integrated oil majors don't want to see capital tied up in expensive luxuries or peripheral service businesses.

Have a fuel card business which isn't showing a decent return? Have a fuel card management system which can't keep up with impatient customer demands? Stuck with large field sales teams costing an arm and a leg to serve ever less profitable customers? Mmmmm.......

Those tortured decisions of the past decades are looking ever easier for the majors, the answers ever more obvious. Should we sell? Can we outsource? Might we deploy channel partners? Should we throw our acceptance doors open to allcomers?

All this, of course, means more new entrants than ever before, more interested capital than ever before, all sorts of emerging alliances and partnerships, and a broad reshaping and consolidation of our once soporific market. All good fun.

As things unwind, and as confidentiality allows, we'll be publishing news of all the twists and turns on our new website at, so please come and take a look......

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