In short / Global
The Agenda: Business
Companies and industries making headlines – or soon to be.
transport – UK
Founded in Nottingham in 1887, British company Raleigh was the world’s largest bicycle maker before the Second World War. Yet in recent years the business has struggled to find its place in the modern market. Its solution, it seems, is electric cargo bikes. With the sector expected to double in value over the next year, this could prove to be a shrewd move. Many UK drivers want to reduce car journeys but cannot balance shopping and children on a bicycle. Enter Raleigh’s new Stride bikes. The line, which includes a cargo bicycle and tricycle, can hold up to 100kg and has been designed to replace cars for everyday errands, such as school runs and shopping trips.
Raleigh isn’t just targeting the consumer market. As the benefits of bicycle-based deliveries become more apparent – for example, they are 60 per cent faster than vans in cities and cut emissions by 90 per cent – delivery services such as Deliveroo are taking notice. A trial is also under way in which the bikes will replace vehicles on National Trust estate.
Banking – Italy
Old money, new times
It occupies a building in Siena’s historic quarter that is more palazzo than corporate headquarters. And it is the world’s oldest bank, dating back to 1472. But Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena has not been faring well. In 2013 the Italian
government was forced to give it a €3.9bn bailout; EU stress tests have since declared it to be the continent’s weakest lender. Reports suggest that it might soon be acquired by Unicredit, a rival banking group based in Milan. While the brand name might live on, this would be the end of an era after more than 500 years. So how are the world’s other historic independent banks performing? We look at their assets.
Germany, founded 1590
Started by a Flemish family, this Hamburg-based multinational focuses on asset and wealth management, as well as corporate banking. Its net profit last year soared by 79 per cent to €108m – its best results ever.
C Hoare & Co
UK, founded 1672
Britain’s oldest private bank admits that it has “weathered many crises”, yet it remains profitable. This year it named its first female ceo, former Lloyds chief executive Diana Brightmore-Armour.
Germany, founded 1674
Originally founded as a cloth-trading business, this Frankfurt-based bank now has a staff of about 800 and bills itself as “independent in all respects”. It had €86bn of assets under management in 2019.
cruises – Norway
CEO of Hurtigruten
Skjeldam was part of the founding team at Norwegian Air Shuttle, where he worked for a decade before joining cruise company Hurtigruten in 2012. Here he floats ideas about where the industry is heading. Anchors aweigh.
“Cruises needed a rebrand long before coronavirus hit. People won’t accept enormous ships in ports like Venice any more. There’s a dire need for better cooperation with the communities we serve. We need to be guests, not intruders.
“Shipping has a long way to go on sustainability. Guests will increasingly demand it now that they’re seeing fires and floods caused by climate change. Those huge ships will soon be a thing of the past. Hurtigruten hasn’t used heavy fuel for 14 years; we invested in battery technology on our three newest expedition ships and removed single-use plastic three years ago. Those companies that don’t embrace this model will lose out.
“After the lockdowns people want to travel again. Perhaps they’ll do less of it, which is the case in the business world, and in a more conscious way. They want to come back and feel good about the way they do it.”
Transit – Iceland
Going off road
The Ísar Roadless Rapid Transit system has a simple mission: to connect the world’s most remote communities without the need for infrastructure investment. Serving that mission is an eco-friendly prototype vehicle that resembles an elongated Humvee. Developed by Icelandic company Jakar, it offers variable-pressure “soft” tyres, reduced weight compared to other off-road vehicles and the ability to run on biogas, which will eventually be switched for electric and other zero-emissions power sources.
Ísar’s first real-world application is now being developed between the towns of Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq in Greenland. The 135km journey currently requires a 30-minute flight. Jakar hopes that its system will help to move people and goods between such places more efficiently and without roads. Not only could links be implemented quickly but the environment would be left intact. That’s a major consideration in places like Greenland, where protected landscapes can hinder transport just as much as tough, mountainous terrain. Isar is not expected to come cheap but for small, remote municipalities the cost savings on infrastructure could well make the maths add up favourably.
Images: Courtesy of Ísar, Courtesy of Raleigh