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Why Santander’s Ana Botín is concerned about Big Tech

May 3, 2022, 9:57 AM UTC

Good morning.

Can we please stop discussing whether corporate concentration is causing inflation? That canard is on a par with claims that disinfectants cure COVID. Current inflation needs no esoteric explanation. It was caused by easy money, loose fiscal policy, a shrinking labor force, and a messed-up supply chain. If corporate concentration were a cause, why wouldn’t it have surfaced years ago?

But that’s not to say corporate concentration isn’t worthy of discussion. Fortune’s Emma Hinchliffe and I had a wide-ranging conversation with Santander executive chair Ana Botín yesterday, and one of the things on her mind was the immense power of tech platforms. “I offer Apple Pay to my customers,” she said, “but Apple Pay does not allow me the same conditions in terms of NFC [near-field communication]…And every time I turn on my phone, it tells me, and everybody else in Spain that has an iPhone, ‘Did you forget to install Apple Pay?’” (EU antitrust enforcers charged Apple over these limitations yesterday.)

“How do these big platforms open up and give equal access? Because in today’s world, what is critical infrastructure?…The App Store, the operating system, these have become critical infrastructure. So making sure that we open those up so everybody has the same access is critical. We need to define critical infrastructure much as we did with the roads and railroads. And it’s not just payments, it’s many other things…What we need to do is…make sure that you as a customer have a choice.”

Asked for her view on the economy, Botín said she thought Europe would avoid a recession in the next 12 months:

“It’s a narrow path that the central banks are having to go through…Yes, there have been supply shocks. But it’s also true that demand is strong. So that’s why I believe as of today, central bankers…can do what they need to do without getting us into a recession.”

Separately, FedEx is at the end of an era. Founder Fred Smith—who started the company nearly 50 years ago—will step down as CEO at the end of this month. Ellen McGirt and I nabbed the first interview with his successor, Raj Subramaniam, for our Leadership Next podcast (Apple/Spotify). Subramaniam was born in India and didn’t have a green card when FedEx hired him 30 years ago—“a truly American story,” he says. I asked: How do you replace a legend?

“One of the great privileges and honor for me over the last several years, and in particular the last three years, has been to work so closely with him [Smith]. One of the by-products of the pandemic was the fact that we spent hours and hours together. And, you know, it’s not just CEO school, but leadership school, visionary school, humanity school, history school, whatever you want to call it. Whatever happens going forward, I will never forget, and I’m forever grateful for that opportunity to work with him.”

I don’t recall Bob Chapek saying anything like that about Bob Iger, do you? In any event, you can listen to the podcast on Apple or Spotify. And apologies yesterday for bollixing both Lynda Gratton’s name, as well as the title of her book, Redesigning Work.

Other news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

TOP NEWS

Women’s rights

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to strike down women’s right to have an abortion, according to a leaked draft opinion that would overturn both of the landmark Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey rulings. That would leave it up to individual states to decide whether or not to allow abortions. It is extremely rare for a Supreme Court draft opinion to leak, so this is a big deal on several fronts. Fortune

Wrong Ma

Chinese authorities announced the arrest of someone called Ma on internet-related charges, and Alibaba’s investors assumed it was company founder Jack Ma. They panicked and caused Alibaba's stock to plummet by 9.4%. It wasn’t Jack Ma. Fortune

Russia teeters

Russian GDP could crash by as much as 10% this year, which would outstrip any contraction that previously took place under Putin’s leadership. (Bonus read: Russia said a few days ago that it would stave off default by making $649 million in overdue bond payments, but it could arguably still default this week nonetheless.) Fortune

BP hit

BP’s withdrawal from Russia was very costly—the oil major just reported a $25.5 billion pretax accounting charge related to the decision, a little over half of which was a write-down of BP’s offloaded Rosneft stake. That didn’t stop BP recording its highest quarterly earnings in over a decade, though. Fortune

AROUND THE WATERCOOLER

Office return

A whopping 76% of surveyed Apple employees are unhappy with the company’s back-to-the-office policies. Apple is demanding workers return to the mothership for at least a couple days a week. Seems the employees are so against this that a slight majority (56% of the 652 who responded to an external survey) claimed they’re looking to leave. Fortune

Tech regulation

The U.K. was going to give a lot of power to a new digital markets unit within the Competition and Markets Authority, but the government’s new legislative program reportedly does not include this measure. It’s a major blow to what was supposed to be a tough British approach to Big Tech and its power. Financial Times

Musk in Asia

Much has been made of the headwinds Elon Musk will face in Europe, as he tries to push Twitter in a more anti-censorship direction. (Bonus read: Fortune’s deep dive into the takeover saga.) But he will also likely have problems in Asia—how to handle China’s propaganda efforts, the Indian government’s censorship drive, and “foreign interference” laws in places like Singapore and Vietnam. Bloomberg

Carbon gamification

There’s an increasing number of apps trying to use “gamification” techniques to help users understand how to make their lives more environmentally friendly. As Katherine Dunn writes for Fortune: “There is plenty of evidence that gamification—in its most old-school form simply the competitions and flash cards you used at school—can help us learn. What’s less clear is whether it can really change our behavior and then ensure those new habits stick, whether it’s eating less meat or shifting the way we commute to work or school.” Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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