Uber appoints former Bank of England adviser as first UK chair
Laurel Powers-Freeling will bring a raft of business experience to the role.
Uber has appointed former Bank of England adviser Laurel Powers-Freeling as its first UK chair as the ride-hailing firm battles to keep its service running in London.
It ends a search that started shortly before Transport for London (TfL) decided not to renew the ride-hailing app’s licence on the grounds that it was “not fit and proper” to operate in the capital.
Mrs Powers-Freeling will bring a raft of business experience with her when she takes up the non-executive role on November 1, having worked as a director of group strategy and planning at Prudential, as well as group finance director at Lloyds Abbey Life.
She later went on to work at Lloyds TSB as a divisional managing director before joining the board of Marks & Spencer in 2001.
There, she helped develop the retailer’s financial services business that later became M&S Bank and helped oversee its foray into online retailing, before joining the Court of the Bank of England as a non-executive director and as a senior adviser to the central bank in the wake of the financial crisis.
Mrs Powers-Freeling will continue to serve as a senior independent director at UK challenger bank Atom while working as Uber’s UK chair.
Tom Elvidge, Uber’s interim general manager for its UK business, said: “With this new position Laurel will help us with the next phase of changes we want to make to our UK business.
“As our new global CEO has said, we’re determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and make things right.”
TfL raised a number of issues when it stripped the ride-hailing firm of its licence last month, including Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, how drivers’ medical certificates are obtained, how criminal record checks are carried out, and its use of technology which allegedly helps it to evade law enforcement officials.
Uber launched its appeal in mid-October, shortly after its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi met transport commissioner Mike Brown to discuss the firm’s future in the capital.
The talks were described by both sides as “constructive”.
Mrs Powers-Freeling said: “This is an exciting time to be joining Uber as its first non-executive chair in the UK. Uber is transforming how people get around and as a business it is also undergoing an important period of change.
“I look forward to working with the UK business to help them manage and implement that change.”
The app – which enables users to book cars using their smartphones and is available in more than 40 towns and cities across the UK – is used by some 3.5 million passengers and 40,000 drivers use the service in London, according to Uber.
Chief executive Mr Khosrowshahi took over at Uber in August after predecessor Travis Kalanick resigned following a series of scandals.
The new boss has apologised for “the mistakes we’ve made” and accepted that the company had “got things wrong”.
He said at the time Uber would challenge the licence decision “with the knowledge that we must also change”, he said.
More than 855,000 people have signed an online petition launched by Uber, urging TfL to reverse its ruling.