Each week, we review the press, highlighting and responding to interesting and relevant articles in the news.

Learning the ABCs of the Alphabet Workers Union

Remember when Google’s motto was “Don’t be Evil”? We do, and so do over 200 Alphabet, Inc. workers who decided to unionise on Monday 04 January, forming the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU). After years of organised demonstrations and calls for change, workers believe Alphabet will respond to an official call to collective action. This is the first instance of unionisation from a BigTech company, though workers from companies like Kickstarter and Glitch unionised in the past few years. However, AWU has a long journey ahead in its campaign to be heard. Altio thinks it's highly unlikely that Alphabet Inc. will recognise AWU anytime soon, so the union will need to garner 30% of the workforce to sign a petition, followed by a majority vote for union representation. The implications of AWU’s formation raises questions over the simultaneous existence of both democracy and innovation: can both thrive at the same time? After reviewing the workers' op-ed in The New York Times, it's clear that AWU representatives have every intention to uphold both, employing democracy and representation to foster creativity and innovation.

Auto Sales on the Road to Digitisation

After receiving $15M Series A funding in December, Modal is positioning itself to be a formidable new player in the auto industry. As an eCommerce platform for auto retail that is entirely integrated into the dealer's website, Modal's technology simplifies and accelerates the complex auto transaction process. Contrary to popular assumptions, the integration of tech and eCommerce into the auto industry, especially in sales, is not at odds with traditional auto ecosystems. Rather, platforms like Modal enhance auto purchases to be more efficient and effective. Altio sees potential in companies like Modal that attempt to disrupt industries while working within the traditional industry ecosystem. Though 2020 saw increased digitisation in response to the coronavirus, Altio believes this trend will continue to spread across sectors as companies see increased profits and reach from the transition.

War of Regulation (not to be confused with the 18th c.)

In a recent Financial Times op-ed, Santander’s executive chairman Ana Botín called for a “reset” in regulation due to a perceived unfair advantage amongst tech companies. Targeting primarily fintech, Botín claimed that companies intermediating financial services do not face the same restrictions as those in the traditional banking ecosystem. While Botín claims a regulation reset would level the playing field, she overlooks the fact that fintechs are designed to do just that: open up the world of finance to banking and non-banking populations alike. Altio’s take is thatBotín is jumping on the EU tech regulation bandwagon, following many others in traditional industries who are threatened by the digital revolution. Does financial regulation need to change? Probably. Do fintech and traditional banking need to be regulated exactly the same? No, because they are entirely different entities. Fintechs and tech companies are not banks, and many are designed be alternatives that are in direct opposition to banks. Accordingly, we think that regulation should reflect this. Any future regulation should allow for flexibility and change, characteristics of the digital revolution, so as not to stifle innovation amongst disruptors.