4A Somerville City Group Event was held on Monday, 16th November, at the Aviva HQ in London. The City Group enjoyed a fascinating and thought provoking talk by economist and regulator, John Fingleton, in the splendid 24th floor meeting rooms of Aviva HQ in Bishopsgate.  Having headed up both the OFT and the Irish Competition Authority John offered a unique insight into the impact of disruptive technology on diverse business models.

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John’s talk took us back to the innovative nineteenth century owners of hackney carriages, who leased them out to help cover costs through to EBay and Airbnb. He challenged the popular understanding of the term disruptive – does Uber’s activity actually meet the definition? He also debated how effective or otherwise the interventions by the authorities have been, citing London boroughs’ attempts to restrict the operation of Airbnb during the Olympics and the challenge of regulating to encourage Uber services for wheelchair users in London.  It was fascinating to learn that the biggest boost to technological innovation comes from government spending most notably on behalf of the US and Israel. He felt regulators needed to improve their understanding of technology and market trends, and that they are sometimes too slow to relax the rules. Ultimately merger thresholds may be too low in relation to innovative tech businesses.

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Altogether the talk was informative, provocative and hugely enjoyable.  Many thanks for John Fingleton and to Judith Buttigieg of Aviva for hosting the event

Further reading?

Joyce Reynolds

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The Long Read: Reflections on the Elizabethan Age

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