Why Meta executives are fleeing Silicon Valley

August 3, 2022, 12:11 PM UTC
Nick Clegg, Meta's president of global affairs
Meta president of global affairs Nick Clegg is partially relocating to London as Meta executives take advantage of the company's remote-work policy.
Lino Mirgeler—picture alliance/Getty Images

Nick Clegg is joining the growing list of Meta senior executives leaving San Francisco.

Mark Zuckerberg’s president of global affairs, who previously served as the leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister of the U.K., will be splitting his time between California and his London home, which will provide a better base for travel to Europe and Asia.

Clegg is in charge of all of Meta’s dealings with governments globally, which has put him in the eye of many political storms, including the one currently unfolding in the EU.

Facebook and Instagram face being banned from importing Europeans’ personal data from the bloc, due to U.S. intelligence’s collection of that information. Meta is now warning investors it may need to pull out of the EU market, which houses around 15% of its user base.

But Clegg is not the first high-ranking exec to relocate to London.

In fact, he becomes the second in the space of a week after it was revealed Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, is also heading to the English capital to build out the company’s biggest engineering hub outside of the U.S.

Alex Schultz, Meta’s chief marketing officer, also relocated to the U.K. earlier this year.

So why is the U.S. social media giant allowing some of its top executives to leave the Palo Alto mothership?

Meta truly embracing remote working

CEO Zuckerberg has been an early adopter of remote working—a year into the COVID-19 pandemic telling employees “anyone whose role can be done remotely can request remote work.”

Facebook has given its workers the choice between going fully remote or hybrid working, where they are encouraged to spend at least half their time in the office.

But while top managers are often excluded from these sweeping changes, Meta executives are given free rein to move as far away from Silicon Valley as they wish.

Meta hired Guy Rosen, its chief information security officer, who is based out of Israel, in 2022, while Naomi Gleit, head of product, relocated to New York after having worked at the Palo Alto headquarters since the company first set up its offices. Javier Olivan, head of growth, is also splitting his time between California and Spain.

Meanwhile, the big boss himself divides his time between the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley and his 1,400-acre Hawaiian property.

Battle with TikTok

As Meta ramps up its offensive to fend off the competition from ByteDance’s TikTok, the company is growing out offices and centralizing its Instagram base in London.

Not only does the move to England help Instagram scale up its company’s product team, which is dedicated to retaining a community of influencers, it also acts as a cost-saving measure as engineers come up to three times cheaper in London than in San Francisco, according to reports from the FT.

It added that Meta could also be taking advantage of the local government’s overhaul of research and development tax credits.

Meta’s transformation

Allowing its C-suite to work from wherever they want comes at a difficult time for Meta.

As the company’s flagship site, Facebook, suffers from slow user growth and increased competition from rivals, Zuckerberg is investing billions of dollars into building out the virtual-reality-enabled metaverse platform, which might not even find a market.

The company has lost around half of its market value this year alone, a trend that worsened in February after Meta reported it had lost daily active users on its flagship Facebook site for the first time ever in the last quarter of 2021.

“Working fully remote could make it harder to pull off major changes” at a critical time for the company since “creative and innovative” work is easier in person, Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who has studied remote work, told the FT.

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