Uber has unveiled former Bank of England adviser Laurel Powers-Freeling as the new chair of its UK operations, as it battles to stave off a ban on operating in London.
Powers-Freeling, who was born in the US but took British citizenship in 2003, will oversee operations at the ride-hailing app at a crucial juncture for the business that claims to have 5 million customers in the UK, served by 50,000 drivers.
Her experience with the tightly regulated financial services industry is understood to have played a part in her appointment, in the light of Uber’s efforts to prove to Transport for London that it is a suitable company to offer a taxi service.
Powers-Freeling is the current chair of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe and the senior independent director of Atom Bank. She has also held senior roles at the insurer Prudential and with US bank Morgan Stanley.
Powers-Freeling has also served as a senior adviser to the Bank of England, a position she took while working for Marks & Spencer, where she led its financial services division M&S Bank and oversaw the retailer’s move into online sales.
“This is an exciting time to be joining Uber as its first non-executive chair in the UK,” she said. “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 60-year-old banker’s wealth of high-level business experience, particularly with regulatory compliance, is likely to come in handy as Uber tries to ensure it can continue to operate in the London market.
The San Francisco-based tech firm lodged its legal appeal against TfL’s decision not to renew its private hire licence earlier this month.
Uber’s licence expired on 30 September, but Uber’s cars will remain available in London until the legal process is exhausted – potentially lasting a year or more.
Tom Elvidge, Uber’s interim UK chief, 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 [Dara Khosrowshahi] has said, we’re determined to learn from the mistakes of the past and make things right.”