Aston Martin’s electric sports models to be made at Gaydon plant

Luxury car giant Aston Martin has pledged to manufacture all of its electric cars in the UK from 2025.

As first reported in the Financial Times, owner Lawrence Stroll said all of its battery sports cars will be made at its plant in Gaydon, Warwickshire.

Its electric SUV models will be made at St Athan in Glamorgan, he confirmed.

The company is due to start making hybrid versions of its cars over the next four years, followed by battery-only models.

Aston Martin cars
image captionThe manufacturer will produce hybrid models over the next four years before moving to electric

A growing number of car makers have said they are moving away from petrol and diesel engines, including Jaguar Land Rover, which announced last month its Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025.

It comes as the UK government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Aston Martin is not going quite as far and said it would continue to make traditional engines for car enthusiasts.

Luxury car brand Bentley Motors, owned by Germany’s Volkswagen, said in November its range will be fully electric by 2030, and General Motors said in January it aimed to have a zero tailpipe emission line-up by 2035.

Aston Martin cars
image captionThe firm has a technical partnership with Mercedes Benz

Earlier this week, Mr Stroll told the BBC electrification would not be a problem for the company as the technology could be brought in from Mercedes-Benz, which Aston Martin has a technical partnership with.

Mercedes also has a 20% stake in Aston Martin, and Mr Stroll told the Financial Times the partnership put the firm “way ahead of our rivals”.

Aston Martin employs about 2,500 people in Gaydon and St Athan, although it is not clear whether the announcement would mean changes for workers.

It announced 500 redundancies last year as the impact of coronavirus hit car makers.

UAE’s first independent digital banking platform launches

DUBAI – The first independent digital banking platform in the United Arab Emirates launched on Sunday, a neobank hoping to become a leader in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

Dubai-based YAP does not have a banking licence itself but has partnered with RAK Bank which provides international bank account numbers for YAP users and secures their funds under its own banking licence.

YAP, like other neobanks which do not have physical branches, does not offer traditional banking services like loans and mortgages, but offers spending and budgeting analytics, peer-to-peer payments and remittances services and bill payments.

YAP is in the process of partnering with banks in other countries, head of product Katral-Nada Hassan said, including a bank in Saudi, in Pakistan and in Ghana.

Global leaders in digital banking, such as Revolut, one of the world’s fastest-growing apps, do not have a UAE presence.

Some UAE banks have in recent years launched their own digital banking offerings targeted at digitally-savvy and younger users, such as LIV by Emirates NBD and Mashreq Neo by Mashreq Bank.

Abu Dhabi state-owned holding company ADQ last year said it plans to set up an as-yet unnamed neobank using a banking licence of the country’s biggest lender, First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB).

“The fintech revolution has become very popular in other parts of the world and we saw a gap and unique need for this service in the Middle East,” said YAP CEO and founder Marwan Hachem

Hassan said there are challenges for fintechs looking to expand to the UAE.

“There are a lot of fintechs right now looking at partnering with banks, but that requires a lot of discussion, relationship building … It is not an easy thing to do,” she said, adding YAP’s founders had an existing relationship with RAK Bank.

YAP is at seed funding stage, funded by founders, a private equity firm and private investors, Hassan said, adding that more than 20,000 customers have pre-registered and accounts will gradually go live in coming weeks.

‘A side of shares’: Deliveroo to offer 50 million pounds of stock to customers

LONDON (Reuters) – Deliveroo said shares worth 50 million pounds ($69 million) would be earmarked for customers in its upcoming flotation, with the offer branded “Great food with a side of shares”.

The Amazon-backed food delivery firm announced plans on Thursday to list in London, with a potential value of $7 billion making it the biggest market debut in Britain for three years.

Founder and chief executive Will Shu said Deliveroo’s customers had supported the firm’s growth and he wanted to give them the chance to share in the next stage of its journey.

“Far too often, normal people are locked out of IPOs, and the only participants are the institutional investors,” he said on Sunday.

“I wanted to give as many customers as possible the chance to become shareholders, which is why we’re making 50 million pounds of shares available to them, alongside our restaurant partners and riders.”

Deliveroo said any customer who had placed an order would be able to register their interest via the company’s app from Monday.

Each would be able to apply for up to 1,000 pounds of shares, it said, adding that loyal customers would be prioritised if the offer were oversubscribed.

Russ Mould, investment director at online platform AJ Bell, said a year of lockdowns had fuelled demand for companies like Deliveroo and there was an expectation that habits formed during the pandemic would remain long into the recovery.

“All this suggests there is likely to be a bun fight for the 50 million pounds worth of customer shares in Deliveroo at the IPO offer,” he said.

Deliveroo said it would also recognise the role played by its delivery riders in its success with a 16 million pound reward programme to be launched on the day of listing.

Cash rewards from 10,000 pounds to 200 pounds will be available to riders in Deliveroo’s 21 markets based on the number of orders delivered. It said the average per eligible rider would be 440 pounds.

($1 = 0.7225 pounds)

Coronavirus: US Senate passes major $1.9tn relief plan

The US Senate has voted to approve America’s third major spending package to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The $1.9tn (£1.4tn) plan passed by 50 votes to 49 on Saturday, and will now head to the House of Representatives where it is expected to be endorsed.

The relief plan has been championed by President Joe Biden, but Republicans have criticised it as too costly.

Mr Biden’s Democratic Party compromised on a key issue ahead of the vote.

There were long discussions over federal unemployment benefit, which Democrats agreed to lower from $400 to $300 a week. The benefit would be extended until 6 September under the plan.

The package also envisages one-off payments worth $1,400 to be sent to most Americans.

America’s worst public health crisis in a century has left nearly 523,000 people dead and 29 million infected, with a current unemployment rate of 6.2%. 

What’s in the package?

The so-called American Rescue Plan allocates $350bn to state and local governments, and some $130bn to schools.

It would also provide $49bn for expanded Covid-19 testing and research, as well as $14bn for vaccine distribution.

The $1,400 stimulus cheques will be quickly phased out for those with higher incomes – at $75,000 for a single person and for couples making more than $150, caption”I’m not sure how we’re going to survive”

The extension of jobless benefits until September, meanwhile, would mark a key reprieve for millions of long-term unemployed Americans whose eligibility for benefits is currently due to expire in mid-March.

The bill also includes grants for small businesses as well as more targeted funds: $25bn for restaurants and bars; $15bn for airlines and another $8bn for airports; $30bn for transit; $1.5bn for Amtrak rail and $3bn for aerospace manufacturing.

What were the sticking points?

While Republicans broadly backed two previous stimulus plans, passed when they controlled both the White House and the Senate under Donald Trump, they have criticised the cost of Mr Biden’s bill.

There was a marathon 27-hour session before the final vote on Saturday, and the 50-49 tally along party lines was indicative of the widespread Republican opposition.

The even split between the parties in the Senate meant that every Democratic senator needed to support the party’s plans.

But on Friday a moderate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, objected on the grounds that the huge bill might overheat the economy. It took 11 hours of negotiation throughout the night to come up with a deal.

The compromise on lowering unemployment benefit meant the package could move forward to a final vote.

“It’s been a long day, a long night, a long year, but a new day has come and we tell the American people help is on the way,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said ahead of the vote.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, however, criticised the aid package. “The Senate has never spent $2tn in a more haphazard way or through a less rigorous process,” he said.

Mr Schumer has predicted that the House will endorse the bill and President Biden will sign it before boosted unemployment benefits expire on 14 March.

How the number of deaths has been falling in the US

Jack Dorsey: Bids reach $2m for Twitter co-founder’s first post

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has listed his first ever tweet for sale, with bids reaching $2m (£1.4m).

“Just setting up my twttr,” the post, sent from Mr Dorsey’s account in March 2006, reads.

It will be sold as a non-fungible token (NFT) – a unique digital certificate that states who owns a photo, video or other form of online media.

But the post will remain publicly available on Twitter even after it has been auctioned off.

The buyer will receive a certificate, digitally signed and verified by Mr Dorsey, as well as the metadata of the original tweet. The data will include information such as the time the tweet was posted and its text contents.

View original tweet on Twitter

The tweet was listed for sale on ‘Valuables by Cent’ – a tweets marketplace that was launched three months ago. 

In a post on the site, the platform’s founders compare the buying of a tweet to that of a more traditional autograph or piece of memorabilia.

“Owning any digital content can be a financial investment,” it says. “[It can] hold sentimental value. Like an autograph on a baseball card, the NFT itself is the creator’s autograph on the content, making it scarce, unique, and valuable.”

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

Tweets are the latest digital assets to be monetised through so-called non-fungible tokens.

NFTs use the blockchain, the same distributed database technology underlying Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, to create unique certificates of ownership of any kind of digital goods.

While the idea that digital artists can earn an income by offering buyers some sense of ownership has its attractions, the “sale” of tweets will leave many scratching their heads.

Valuables, the platform marketing Mr Dorsey’s tweet, seems to recognise that the concept will leave people bemused. In its FAQ it explains “owning any digital content can… hold sentimental value and create a relationship between collector and creator”.

Most of us might think that this is a high price to pay for a relationship with the Twitter boss. But given the feverish and often irrational state of any kind of cryptocurrency related market, maybe the buyer is betting there’ll be someone along soon to take the tweet off their hands at an even higher price.

Meanwhile, on the basis that if you can’t beat them, join them, I put one of my tweets up for sale. It was about this story – and I’ve just accepted a bid of $1. That might sound modest but seeing as I’ve got 72,466 other tweets available it could be the start of something big….

Presentational grey line

Old offers for Mr Dorsey’s tweet suggest that it was first put up for sale in December, but the listing gained more attention after he tweeted a link to it on Friday. That tweet has since been shared thousands of times.

Within minutes of the tweet being posted, bids reached more than $88,000.

But they skyrocketed on Saturday, with a bid of $1.5m being usurped by a $2m offer at around 15:30 GMT. 

According to Valuables by Cent’s terms, 95% of a tweet’s sale will go to the original creator with the remainder going to the website.

BT denies any CEO rift behind chairman’s retirement

LONDON (Reuters) – BT denied any “misalignment” between board and management on Saturday after Sky News said that CEO Philip Jansen had indicated he might resign unless the company replaced its chairman.

The British broadband and mobile telecoms operator said on Monday that Jan du Plessis, who was appointed chairman in November 2017, had informed the board of his intention to retire once a successor has been appointed.

“The chairman throughout his tenure has demonstrated strong leadership … been extremely supportive of management and any suggestion that he has impeded the transformation of BT is without foundation,” BT said in a statement on Saturday.

“There has been no misalignment between the board and executive management over the company’s strategy,” BT added.

On Friday Sky News reported that Jansen, who joined BT as CEO in 2019, had told fellow directors he was frustrated with the speed at which it was taking key strategic decisions.

Jansen indicated that he was prepared to resign unless a new chairman who could accelerate the pace of change was appointed, Sky News said, citing several people close to the company.

Jansen is seeking to make the former monopoly more agile.

He wants BT to accelerate Britain’s shift to fibre and 5G networks, and he is pushing the government and regulator Ofcom to create the conditions that would allow him to turn on the taps to billion of pounds of investment.

That aim was boosted by changes to corporation tax announced on Wednesday to incentivise investment.

Jansen said in November he was open-minded about selling a stake in the company’s networks unit Openreach.

However, he said any decision would come after Ofcom publishes its new framework.

Du Plessis sought to build bridges with Ofcom during his tenure. “Above all, our relationship with Ofcom has improved significantly over the last three years,” he said on Monday.

Malaysia’s AirAsia Group plans air taxi, drone delivery service

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s AirAsia Group Bhd plans to launch an air taxi service and the country’s first drone delivery service as the budget carrier seeks to diversify amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s CEO said on Saturday.

As part of the group’s diversification push, it also aims to launch a ride-hailing service next month as COVID-19 continues to hit air travel.

“The air taxi will have a pilot and four seats. At the moment, we have our team working on this upcoming service by AirAsia,” Chief Executive Tony Fernandes said at the Youth Economic Forum 2021, state news agency Bernama reported on Saturday.

The service should start operating in about 18 months, Fernandes was quoted as saying.

He also announced that the airline’s logistics unit Teleport, which is currently testing an urban drone delivery service with state-backed firm Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), would conduct its first commercial delivery by the end of this year.

“(The) idea was brought up three weeks ago and now it’s reality,” he wrote on Instagram.

Fernandes said the group was recovering from the impact of the pandemic and had used the opportunity to accelerate its digital transformation, Bernama reported.

The struggling airline, which reported a fifth straight quarterly loss in November, has been seeking to raise 2.5 billion ringgit ($613.95 million) from loans and investors.

Last month, it said its 33%-owned Japanese unit, which ceased operations last October, had begun bankruptcy proceedings.

($1 = 4.0720 ringgit)

Microsoft hack: White House warns of ‘active threat’ of email attack

The US is expressing growing concern over a hack on Microsoft’s Exchange email software that the tech company has blamed on China.

“This is an active threat,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. “Everyone running these servers – government, private sector, academia – needs to act now to patch them.”

Microsoft said hackers had used its mail server to attack their targets.

It is reported that tens of thousands of US organisations may be impacted.

Ms Psaki told reporters that the White House was “concerned that there are a large number of victims” and said the vulnerabilities found in Microsoft’s servers “could have far reaching impacts”. 

Microsoft executive Tom Burt revealed the breach in a blog post on Tuesday and announced updates to counter security flaws which he said had allowed hackers to gain access to Microsoft Exchange servers. 

The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) attributed the attacks with “high confidence” to a “state-sponsored threat actor” based in China which they named Hafnium.

The tech giant said Hafnium had tried to steal information from groups such as infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions and defence contractors. 

Reuters news agency, citing a person familiar with the US government response, reported that more than 20,000 organisations had been compromised in the US – and many more worldwide.

Brian Krebs, an industry expert and blogger, put the number higher – citing multiple security sources.

“At least 30,000 organizations across the United States – including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments – have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber-espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations,” he wrote in a blog post.

Mr Krebs warned attacks had “dramatically stepped up” since Microsoft’s announcement. 

News of the breach prompted the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (Cisa) to release an emergency directive telling agencies and departments to take urgent action. 

Jake Sullivan, the White House National Security Adviser, has also urged network owners to download the security patches as soon as possible.

View original tweet on Twitter

Microsoft has not confirmed the reported figures but said in a further statement on Friday that it was working closely with US government agencies and told customers “the best protection” was “to apply updates as soon as possible across all impacted systems”. 

This is the eighth time in the past 12 months that Microsoft has publicly accused nation-state groups of targeting institutions critical to civil society. 

Microsoft said the attack was in no way related to the SolarWinds attack, which hit US government agencies late last year

Although Hafnium is based in China, it allegedly conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers in the US, Microsoft said. 

China presence

While many US tech firms have had a tumultuous relationship with the Chinese government, Microsoft has maintained a mainland presence since 1992. 

Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Microsoft’s business-oriented social media platform LinkedIn is still accessible in China. 

So, too, is its search engine Bing, although locally-grown Baidu dominates the search market.

‘Failing up’: Why some climb the corporate ladder despite mediocrity

Allowing workers to ‘fail up’ can yield talented leaders. But only some people are allowed to fail without penalty, while others never get the chance.

It’s the lacklustre associate who makes partner despite a poor record, even though you’ve been working around the clock at the same firm without even a glance from the bosses. It’s getting passed up for that big account after being at an agency for five years, only to see your unremarkable-but-charismatic colleague score the project after two. Or maybe it’s that ineffective manager who, despite poor people skills, continues to get more staff and responsibility.

Most of us know the frustrating feeling of watching someone ‘fail upward’: landing successively sweeter gigs even after professional mediocrity or missteps. It turns out, allowing employees to fail up isn’t necessarily bad and can sometimes yield talented, resilient leaders. What is troubling, experts say, is the significant gap between who’s allowed to fail without penalty on the way up – and who never gets that chance.

Why people fail up

Multiple factors set the stage for ordinary hires to fail upward. One of the reasons the phenomenon persists, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a business psychology professor at Columbia University in New York City, is because hiring managers, decision-makers, even voters can be easily “seduced” by characteristics incompatible with good leadership, such as overconfidence.

Research published in Leadership Quarterly in 2019 showed that across multiple studies, hiring managers consistently saw leadership potential in those who demonstrated inflated confidence in their skills. At the same time, this type of extreme hubris, which Chamorro-Premuzic says men exhibit more than women, often runs counter to actual competence. In social psychology circles, it’s known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Often, colleagues who perform the same tasks don't have equal latitude to make mistakes in their jobs (Credit: Alamy)
Often, colleagues who perform the same tasks don’t have equal latitude to make mistakes in their jobs (Credit: Alamy)

“The frustrating thing is that we have known for four or five decades what attributes we should be selecting for… and yet we don’t do it,” says Chamorro-Premuzic, who also serves as the chief talent scientist at the workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup. “We started focusing so much on style, extraversion, assertiveness, lean in, be confident, brand yourself, make eye contact, body language, that we forgot to focus on substance.”

And even if arrogance doesn’t win over a hiring manager, similarities in race, gender, self-presentation and personal experiences can increase a worker’s chances of success. Research published in the American Sociological Review says “cultural matching” can have a significant effect on applicants’ evaluations and “often outweighed concerns about absolute productivity”.

Once an individual is promoted, they become more visible to management, recruiters and other leaders; experience on a resumé begins to hold more value than actual performance outcome. And perhaps most importantly, once an employee is promoted, bosses become invested in that person’s success because it becomes a reflection of their own judgement. Failures are downplayed and losses are spun into wins. “It’s very easy to remain strategically ignorant about our mistakes,” says Chamorro-Premuzic.

As people continue to move up, he says we’re conditioned to believe that their positions are the result of merit – and rarely ask questions about how they got there.

The privilege of failing up

When we do ask those questions, however, the role of privilege becomes more evident.

At a panel held during the 2019 Austin Film Festival, the co-creators and co-writers behind the Emmy Award-winning drama series Game of Thrones explained that while they were both writers, neither had any television experience when the show began. David Benioff and DB Weiss said they were allowed to take several risks even though it was their first time running a production. And their unaired original pilot required re-casting, re-writes and re-shoots before it was finally accepted: “It took more than one try, which we were fortunate to get a second chance,” said Weiss. Benioff added: “A lot of the mistakes were basic, elemental writing mistakes.”

In a lot of organisations, the people who are allowed to fail and fail up… are overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white – Ruchika Tulshyan

The comments at the festival sparked a larger conversation on social media about who, exactly, is allowed to fail in workplaces and still get support, another chance and, as in this case, find their way to success.

“In a lot of organisations, the people who are allowed to fail and fail up, the people who are allowed to learn from those mistakes and still be given an opportunity to get back up again, are overwhelmingly male and overwhelmingly white,” says Ruchika Tulshyan, founder of the Seattle-based inclusion strategy firm Candour.

A 2020 research paper from Utah State University reveals women and BIPOC employees in elite leadership roles who make even minor missteps at work – from dress code to displays of emotion – can be judged much more harshly than white men. “For many of us, we only have one shot to try,” says Tulshyan. “Therefore, we will instinctively try and safeguard ourselves … If you don’t feel like you can take risks in your career, it is that much harder to grow.”

Remarks from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss sparked a discussion about who is able to make mistakes and still move forward, and who isn't (Credit: Alamy)
Remarks from Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and DB Weiss sparked a discussion about who is able to make mistakes and still move forward, and who isn’t (Credit: Alamy)

The report, which explores issues of racism and bias not often covered through traditional research methods, also concludes that gendered or racialised leaders were often seen as “outsiders” and even viewed as menacing to a workplace’s status quo.

“Outsiders’ presence is experienced as a disruption, even a threat, and they are often confronted with a burden of doubt regarding their competence, suspicion regarding their trustworthiness, infantilization of their roles and] hyper-surveillance of their work performance,” wrote co-author and sociologist Christy Glass.

With that added scrutiny, mentorship and “sponsorship” – where supervisors not only guide workers but also advocate for their promotions and pay increases – become particularly important on the way to the top. But even that contingency is fraught. Research shows sponsors will most often choose protégés of the same gender and the same race. “So, if the majority of your executives are white, and the majority of executives are white male, guess who gets that second chance to prove themselves after they have failed? And that’s how we create this pipeline where women, and especially women of colour, are really overlooked in these conversations and in these sorts of opportunities,” says Tulshyan.

So, if there are more women and people of colour in leadership, that pipeline should start to change, right? Not exactly, because also studies show that when women and minorities advocate for other women and minorities, those advocates are penalised with worse performance reviews.

When women and minorities advocate for other women and minorities, those advocates are penalised with worse performance reviews

“We are labelled aggressive and confrontational and too assertive and difficult to work with and not being a team player, even though we might exhibit the same characteristics [as men],” says Jodi-Ann Burey, a writer and podcast host who recently co-wrote an article with Tulshyan about racial and gender bias in the workplace.

How do we effect change?

Both Tulshyan and Burey say failing at work, when it’s the result of a professional misstep and not a moral one – such as sexual harassment, racism or generally making your employees miserable – is necessary and can be critical to good leadership in the future. People can often learn the greatest lessons from having to pick themselves up again after a poor performance, difficult challenge or blunder on the job.

Women and BIPOC employees in elite leadership roles who make even minor missteps at work can be judged much more harshly than white men (Credit: Alamy)
Women and BIPOC employees in elite leadership roles who make even minor missteps at work can be judged much more harshly than white men (Credit: Alamy)

They also say being rewarded after those kinds of failures isn’t awful either. In the case of the Game of Thrones showrunners, they were allowed to experiment, take chances and learn along the way with support from higher-ups invested in their success. Eventually, their work produced a monumental hit series. The problem is that everyone isn’t afforded the same room to make mistakes in a safe environment and without swift cost. “You tell me one black woman who would have had that huge of a budget to pull something like that off and without any experience,” says Burey.

Changing the workplace so that all employees can be recognised for their successes and supported through their failures is crucial to building a more meritocratic environment. This begins, says Burey, with acknowledging issues of racism that breed an environment in which women of colour are disproportionately labelled as not up to the task while when white men are allowed to fail as part of their development process. “That awareness could look like conversations, that awareness could look like metrics and tracking who has been moving up and who hasn’t been. And that awareness could immediately look like action, maybe changing the language or culture around failure.”

Tulshyan suggests companies can go one step further by using failure as a learning opportunity in meetings or boardrooms for every employee. Normalising failure can encourage people to take more risks and think outside the box, which can level the playing field and allow talent to rise based on innovation and ideas rather than who’s most visible. “You do need to have an environment where people can take risks and where they can fail without fear of retaliation.”

Chamorro-Premuzic, who has studied the intersection of personality and leadership for decades, says people involved in hiring processes also need to start focusing on more meaningful characteristics for management positions, such as empathy, humility and integrity – measures by which women tend to score higher – rather than giving a free pass to those with extreme confidence or who appear to fit in better.

By: Zulekha Nathoo – BBC