Flight Centre Buys 25% Share in The Upside Travel Company

Photo courtesy of
Quintin Soloviev

Flight Centre, the world’s largest travel agency and ASX-listed company, purchased 25% of The Upside Travel Company. The company did not disclose how much they paid, but Flight Centre is now the largest single shareholder of Upside.


Flight Centre anticipates that Upside’s unique tech platform will add value to its Corporate Traveler brand. They look forward to using Upside to target customers in North, Central and South America immediately, and move on to customers in the UK at a somewhat later date.


“Upside … has the potential to disrupt traditional offerings in the [small and medium-sized enterprise] sector in the future,” said Graham Turner, Flight Centre managing director.


Dean Smith, Flight Center’s president, said the company would gain an edge over its competitors from Upside’s “cutting edge artificial intelligence” technology.


“Its use of machine-learning models to dynamically price business travel packages in real-time to save clients’ money while increasing traveler options is just one example of Upside’s best in class technology,” he said.


Flight Centre’s stock gained two percent after the announcement, trading at $44.07 in the afternoon.

SEC Allows Exxon to Block Shareholders from Demanding Climate Goal Transparency

Exxon Building in NY. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The SEC has decided that Exxon does not have to allow its shareholders to vote on a company proposal to make public its goals for lowering CO2 emissions. This move is in reaction to a push by activist investors and led by the New York state comptroller to have Exxon set annual targets which will reach the goals prescribed by the international Paris climate agreement of 2015.


In January Exxon requested the SEC disallow a vote on the proposal to disclose such climate-oriented goals. The SEC answered this week, stating that it would not recommend the SEC to take any enforcement action against Exxon if the company decides to keep the proposal out of May’s annual shareholder meeting.


Activists say they want to vote on the issue to compel Exxon to be more responsible and accountable about climate change.


A lawyer for the SEC said the oversite agency decided in Exxon’s favor because the proposal would “micromanage” the company and harm the value and supplant the judgement of Exxon managers and directors.

Harley-Davidson Considering Entrance into e-Scooter Market

LiveWire: H-D’s Flagship Electric Motorcycle

Some recent moves made my Harley-Davidson points in the direction of the company’s embrace of electric vehicles of the two-wheel variety. LiveWire and some other concepts indicate the iconic motorcycle company wants a piece of where the future lies in electric transportation.


Included in the future is the growing consumer appetite for renting their transportation rather than owning. H-D vice-president of product portfolio, Marc McAllister spoke on CNN business about the e-bike rental platform. McAllister said that the fast-growing e-bike platform is more of a commodity market place and H-D is exploring how it could offer its brand to customers in this type of platform.


The thought of Harley-Davidson, so well-known as the bike of choice for serious bikers, is considering a life in the world of cute little electric scooters, is a bit mind-bending. But the company has faced enormous pressure over the past few years in what has become a frighteningly competitive market for big bikes.


So, it’s not so surprising that the company has plans to introduce a naked motorcycle, an adventure tourer, and even a small-cap bike for consumers in places like India.
The company is now working on launching a full-electric ecosystem for its LiveWire. It is likely that entrance into the e-scooter space will bring more riders to the bond with Harley.

Companies Backtracking on Trump Love

Trade is a big issue today as it was throughout history.

The joy experienced by global and US business after US President Donald Trump’s 2017 corporate tax break has turned into fear due to his isolationist trade policies, at least according to Fidelity International analysts.


The new study shows that “almost half of all analysts globally say Trump’s policies will be a drag on their sector.” Compare this sentiment to just last year when the same Fidelity analysts reported broad optimism about US leadership and policies.


This year Fidelity says that “most significant is the shift among analysts covering North American companies, whose watchful optimism has entirely evaporated.”


Fidelity’s research is based on 16,000 interviews with chief executives and chief financial officers conducted by Fidelity International, the non-US affiliate of Fidelity Investments. Each year they ask 165 analysts what companies in the sector they cover are expecting for the up and coming year.


Most significant was the doubt Fidelity’s analysts had about Trump’s trade policies. Forty-five percent said the policies would be a burden on business, up from thirteen percent last year. Seventy percent of its China analysts predict that companies’ return on investment will go down in 2019. Only twenty-nine percent thought the same last year.


Global chief of research for fixed income for Fidelity said that “as expected, the impact of trade wars is a key issue amongst our analysts, which has brought a lot of uncertainty into the system.”

Becoming a Leader: Tools and Tips

Becoming a leader in today’s world – irrespective of what industry – can be extremely challenging and competitive.  Having a mentor help navigate the system and share their experiences is a very positive way of getting started. 

This is especially true for women.  While there are mentorship programs available, often it is best conducted through an informal arrangement.  This was one of the messages given at last year’s Women Leaders in Global Health Conference, London.  According to Dr. Joanne Liu, International President at Médecins Sans Frontières:

“For me, a mentor is someone who believes in you when you don’t believe enough in yourself.  [She also said that age is not a factor..taking advice from those who are] 20 or 25 years younger [than herself, which is why she] believe[s] in the wisdom of youth.”

Another success female medical leader is Chair of the Department of Radiology at the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Professor Hedvig Hricak.  At the recent European Society of Radiology Congress (February 28-March 1, 2019), she organized a program entitled ‘Women in Focus.’  These sessions were for both women and men on what it takes to become a leader. 

Hricak explained:

“Many people aspire to be leaders and sometimes really don’t know which way to go and how to take that path.  So it really starts with leadership but it has a combination of academia, administration, as well as industry and government and then the second one is about understanding people, listening, and understanding differences.  This part looks at the generation of differences and respecting everyone’s opinion and understanding where other people are coming from.  There’s also a session which is mostly for women on women in challenging environments.  So often we take for granted what we have and we have to be reminded – just like ECR has celebrated Africa or Pakistan – that so many luxuries that we take for granted are not really available to all over the world. And lastly we all need mentors.  Children, parents, teachers, you always have mentors and then you start working and suddenly you’re on your own.  The last one is dedicated to mentorship.”

In an article in Business2Community, Larry Kim gave his opinion on what qualities make a leader.  He touched on 7 qualities people have that they may not even know they have which are crucial to great leadership.  These are: empathy, optimism, forgiveness, altruism, eloquence, discernment and modesty.  These attributes are not traditionally associated with leaders but in Kim’s experience they can be very useful for those who want to lead and mentor others.

There are many  different routes to becoming a great leader in one’s industry but it seems they all have one common denominator: staying open to new ideas, to advice and to change.