Planet Business

This week: Postal retreat, the first woman to run a global automaker and “CIO” explained

 

Image of the week: Ministerial chat
Spain’s economy minister Luis De Guindos is pictured exercised in conversation with Portugal’s finance minister Maria Luis Albuquerque (right), as their slightly nonplussed Swedish counterpart Anders Borg (centre) listens with the look of a man who would rather not be at a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Brussels.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that two seconds later Borg got stuck into the debate. Cameras do lie – just ask Michelle Obama, who this week was widely declared to be “furious” with her husband for chatting to “attractive Danish PM” Helle Thorning- Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, even as other pictorial evidence showed her cheerfully joining in the diplomatic small talk.

Happily, for Borg that is, the Swedish economy is one of the most solid in Europe. Photograph: François Lenoir/Reuters

In numbers: Return to sender
5

Years over which Canada Post will phase out home delivery in urban areas across Canada, citing financial struggles and a rise in digital communications that has “dramatically changed the postal needs of Canadians”.
24
Percentage drop in the number of letters delivered by Canada Post since 2008.
66
Percentage of Canadians who already receive their mail through community post boxes installed in residential areas rather than home delivery.

The lexicon: CIO
“CIO” is usually taken as the abbreviation for Chief Information Officer, aka the man or woman in charge of IT at large corporations. In some tech business circles, it has a double meaning, referring still to chief information officers, but also taken as short for “Career is Over”.

Private equity investor Luke Johnson, writing in the Financial Times earlier this week, described this in-joke use of CIO as a reflection of the tendency for technologists to be “clever, but poor at office politics”, in that they are “better at making machines function well than inspiring people”. For this reason, CIOs “almost never become the big boss” (Tesco’s Phil Clarke is one exception). But when chief executives fear tech specialists or view them as “geeks with a narrow focus”, they’ll be the ones left smarting when their company suffers an IT crash.


Getting to know: Mary Barra
She started her career on a factory floor as an intern at General Motors more than 30 years ago – next month Mary Barra will take over as the boss of the company, making her the first female chief executive in the global automotive industry.

Barra, who has most recently served as the company’s global product development chief, comes from “a GM family”, in that she grew up in Waterford, Detroit, and is the daughter of a Pontiac die maker. “Look, Mary was not picked because of her gender,” departing chief executive Dan Akerson said, lest there was any confusion. “Mary’s one of the most gifted executives I’ve met in my career.”

Barra (51), who takes over just as the US government has sold its stake in GM, said she would keep the company’s momentum “at full speed”. Her motto is “No more crappy cars”.

The list: Twitter in 2013
Twitter published its annual “Year on Twitter” report yesterday, reviewing the year’s most tweeted, most retweeted and most frequently trending topics on the social network. But what did we learn about Twitter this year?
1 It likes chat: One of the main changes to its interface in 2013 came when Twitter decided to group conversations on timelines using much-hated blue and grey lines.
2 It wants more advertising revenues: Another new feature that incorporates images directly into timelines – with no need to click – is suspiciously brand-friendly.
3 It doesn’t hate women: After much criticism of its all-male board, Twitter appointed former Pearson chief executive Marjorie Scardino as a non-exec.
4 “Influential users” are key: Twitter’s IPO prospectus spelled out just how critical it is that celebrity-types keep tweeting.
5 Death is golden: Twitter’s review highlighted what it calls “golden tweets”, or the most retweeted this year. In second place was a tweet announcing the death of actor Paul Walker, while the most retweeted tweet was Glee star Lea Michele’s first message after the death of boyfriend Cory Monteith.

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