Great read Alex – thanks for your thoughts on this topic. It has certainly been a fascinating, albeit sometimes concerning, time in history. The sheer speed of technological development has outpaced regulators abilities to develop satisfactory governance systems to keep these pioneering companies balanced between their own corporate interests and those of their employees and society at large. And even with regulations in place, the advancements in digitization have allowed Uber to often stay one step ahead of their watchdogs (and the competition). In March 2017, it was revealed that Uber had developed a program called “Greyball” that aimed to “deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.”  This practice demonstrates one of the risks major of our growing digitized communities and the companies that benefit from (and perhaps maliciously take advantage of) this new frontier. As regulators and governments adapt to the technological advancements of our time, it will be interesting to see if those groups can strike a balance between protecting consumers and employees, or if they will overreach and instead stall further development, competition and supply of superior services.
Thanks for the article – exciting to see how companies are reacting the the shifting tides of technological advancements. I’m curious why you focused on the benefits of digitization in Wells Fargo’s mortgage business specifically – do you think the mortgage business is particularly ripe for disruptive technology enhancements versus Wells’ other businesses? It strikes me that another segment that would benefit from digitization (as much, if not more than the mortgage portfolio) is Wells’ retail banking system through ATMs. As the company’s leadership team discussed in its Q3 2017 earnings report, its 374.2 million branch and ATM interactions this quarter were down 1% QOQ and 6% YOY, reflecting “continued customer migration to virtual channels, lower customer growth, and the impact from lower activity in
hurricane-affected areas”.  Additionally, its 1,514.5 million total digital secure sessions were up 5% QOQ and 6% YoY, reflecting “continued increases in digital adoption”.  Seems to me that your overall thesis is not only applicable to the mortgage business, but to Wells Fargo’s holistic business acitivites.
Thanks for the insight Daniel – thought provoking piece. Having lived through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I can sincerely empathize with the tragic situation Puerto Rico is facing. Given the humanitarian crisis associated with such widespread devastation, the pharmaceutical industry has a delicate balance to strike when approaching solutions to the supply chain management problem, as they need to make their case for assistance without appearing to divert the already limited resources from hospitals and other emergency services. However, as Katie Johnson reported in the New York Times, “returning the drug and device industry to its feet […] is crucial for ensuring the island’s economic recovery as well as safeguarding the supply of medicines and devices to the rest of the United States.”  It’s a fine line to walk, but a critical one to get right and I believe the pharma companies should take on their fair share of the costs (or even more of their fair share) of restoring the energy grid and water supply (instead of waiting for government assistance).
Very insightful article David – thanks for your thoughts on the topic. It’s certainly concerning to see the U.S. airlines relying on a a fickle administration to set an strategic direction. While companies of course have to react to any shifting political or regulatory policies, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s volatile tendency to waffle between positions makes operating in this environment very challenging. To that effect, it seems that a better strategic course would be to focus on fundamental improvements in their business model (better service, higher quality product offerings, optimized service routes) versus reliance on isolationist policies (which, to your point, could be reversed by the next administration or even this White House).
Another alarming policy from the Trump administration that similarly affects the airlines is the “travel ban” – how much will that compound the effect isolationism will have on the airlines?
Unique take on the climate change discussion Dan – it does make you wonder how Exxon handles this sensitive issue internally (ie balancing the reality that you are a contributor to a problem while also trying to fortify yourself against that same problem). While I do agree with Berit’s comment that consumers have some power in forcing Exxon’s hand, I believe that government incentives to reward large oil and gas companies to develop new alternatives will be a critical driver in the progression of technological advancements. In fact, Exxon mentions in their 10-K that, due to governments providing tax advantages and other subsidies to promote research into new technologies to reduce the cost and increase the scalability of alternative energy sources, they are able to conduct their own research both in-house and by working with more than 80 leading universities around the world, including MIT, Princeton University, the University of Texas, and Stanford University. Their research projects “focus on developing algae-based biofuels, carbon capture and storage, breakthrough energy efficiency processes, advanced energy-saving materials and other technologies. For example, ExxonMobil is working with Fuel Cell Energy Inc. to explore using carbonate fuel cells to economically capture CO2 emissions from gas-fired power plants.”  Given this federal support, they can hopefully play more of a role in providing the energy products of the future in a cost-competitive manner.
Apologies, accidentally posted before finishing the thought. Complete post below:
Great article Lauren. It will be interesting to see how other airlines approach the adoption of the CORSIA regulations. Given the CORSIA has introduced the rules through a voluntary compliance period (2021-2026, after which it will become mandatory), I wonder if other airlines will view non-compliance until 2026 as a strategic way to remain price / cost leaders in the industry . Given the amount of investment required to appropriately address the new regulations (i.e. improved technology, including the deployment of sustainable low-carbon fuels, more efficient aircraft operations and infrastructure improvements, including modernized air traffic management systems), Alaska Airlines’ competitors may wait to be late movers in these efforts and effectively outsource the expensive technological advancements to the first movers. It will be interesting to see how this affects the profitability of both sets of airlines over the coming years and the resulting competitive environment.
Great article Lauren. It will be interesting to see how other airlines approach the adoption of the CORSIA regulations. Given the CORSIA has introduced the rules through a voluntary compliance period (2021-2026, after which it will become mandatory), I wonder if other airlines will view non-compliance until 2026 as a strategic way to remain price / cost leaders in the industry. Given the amount of investment re