Jeff Bezos To Step Down As Amazon CEO; Andy Jassy To Take Over
The company announced changing roles as it reported that revenue in the fourth quarter soared 44% to US$125.56 billion.
The company announced changing roles as it reported that revenue in the fourth quarter soared 44% to US$125.56 billion.
Jeff Bezos is stepping down as chief executive of Amazon.com Inc. to become executive chairman, marking the biggest change in leadership of the tech giant since he started it in a Washington state garage more than 26 years ago.
Amazon said on Tuesday that he will be succeeded as CEO in the third quarter by Andy Jassy, Mr Bezos’s closest lieutenant and the longtime head of the company’s booming cloud-computing business.
Mr Bezos, 57 years old, is handing over the day-to-day reins, as Amazon’s core businesses of online retail and business-computing services are booming during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has shifted work and life to the internet more than ever. The company announced his changing role as it reported that revenue in the fourth quarter soared 44% to US$125.56 billion—surpassing US$100 billion for the first time in a three-month span—and profit more than doubled.
But Amazon also faces the biggest regulatory challenges in its history, with multiple federal investigations into its competitive practices and lawmakers drafting legislation that could force Amazon to restructure its business. Tension with regulators and lawmakers has directly embroiled Mr Bezos, who was called to testify in front of Congress last summer for the first time.
Mr Bezos’s leadership of Amazon has made him one of the most respected, and feared, leaders in business, as well as fantastically wealthy. He is currently neck-and-neck with his rival rocket entrepreneur, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, as the world’s wealthiest person. Forbes lists Mr Bezos’s wealth at more than $196 billion.
In an email to employees made public Tuesday, Mr Bezos said he plans to focus his energy now on new products and early initiatives as well as his outside interests. “Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” Mr Bezos wrote. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else.”
Mr Bezos’s move makes Amazon the latest of today’s tech giants to transition leadership away from the people who started them. The co-founders of Google stepped back from their management roles at its parent Alphabet Inc. in 2019, and both Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. have long been run by successors to their founders.
Mr Bezos left a career on Wall Street to start Amazon.com in 1994 as a scrappy online bookseller during a time when most Americans didn’t own computers. Amazon became an against-all-odds success story that would go on to completely disrupt the bookselling industry along with nearly every other industry in its path, from logistics to advertising. The company today is America’s largest online retailer, the leading provider of cloud-computing services, a significant player in Hollywood, a competitor in bricks-and-mortar groceries through its Whole Foods subsidiary, and a growing rival to United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. in logistics. Amazon employs nearly 1.3 million people.
The executive imbued the Seattle-based company with a “Day 1” philosophy of always maintaining an underdog startup ethos. However, in recent years, Mr Bezos has stepped back from day-to-day management of the tech giant—with a brief pause when he became more actively involved in the early days of the pandemic. Many in his inner circle describe Mr Bezos’s role over the past few years as akin to that of an executive chairman. The executive famously tries to not schedule meetings before 10 a.m. and to make all of his tough decisions before 5 p.m. Amazon employees say the billionaire is elusive, with many saying they have never spotted him on the company’s sprawling downtown Seattle campus.
In 2016, he appointed two of his top deputies to oversee management of daily operations. Jeff Wilke was named CEO of world-wide consumer at Amazon, overseeing everything from Amazon’s retail arm and warehouses to its advertising and devices business. Mr Jassy was CEO of the cloud business, called Amazon Web Services.
The appointments freed up Mr Bezos to devote time to innovations and moonshots. He took on pet projects such as Amazon’s voice assistant product, the Echo, and spent time with Amazon’s studio executives on what movies and television programs it had in the pipeline.
Mr Bezos’s tightknit group of top lieutenants at Amazon has seen its ranks thin out in the past few years. In addition to Mr Wilke’s departure at the beginning of the year, Jeff Blackburn, a 20-year veteran and member of Mr Bezos’s team of top executives, took a sabbatical in 2020. Steve Kessel, another member of Mr. Bezos’s top executives, retired from the company last year.
Beyond Amazon, Mr Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013 and has spent a sizable chunk of his time at Blue Origin LLC, the space company he founded. While the coronavirus pandemic re-engaged Mr Bezos, as the company had to deal with unprecedented demand, he remained involved with Blue Origin’s mission. Just last week Mr Bezos posted a photo on Instagram of a “hotfire test” of a Blue Origin engine.
Mr Bezos, a father of four children, also has experienced a major transition in his personal life recently. In 2019, Mr Bezos and his wife divorced and the National Enquirer tabloid reported his affair with a former television reporter who was the wife of a Hollywood executive.
The leadership transition at Amazon will take place as it grapples with unprecedented scrutiny.
The company is currently the subject of probes from the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, the European Union and other governing agencies about whether it participates in anticompetitive practices.
In October, the House Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee—before which Mr Bezos testified in July—concluded its 16-month investigation into the biggest U.S. tech companies. Its report accused Amazon of exerting “monopoly power” over sellers on its website and suggested legislation that could cause Amazon to exit business lines—like its private-label or devices businesses—that compete with sellers on its platform.
In response to the Congressional report, Amazon said: “All large organisations attract the attention of regulators, and we welcome that scrutiny. But large companies are not dominant by definition, and the presumption that success can only be the result of anticompetitive behaviour is simply wrong.”
On Tuesday, a member of the committee, Ken Buck (R., Colo.), tweeted Amazon’s announcement saying: “I have some questions for Mr Jassy,” indicating that the new CEO will inherit much of the regulatory scrutiny from his predecessor.
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Investors are taming impulsive money moves by adding a little friction to financial transactions
To break the day-trading habit that cost him friendships and sleep, crypto fund manager Thomas Meenink first tried meditation and cycling. They proved no substitute for the high he got scrolling through investing forums, he said.
Instead, he took a digital breath. He installed software that imposed a 20-second delay whenever he tried to open CoinStats or Coinbase.
Twenty seconds might not seem like much, but feels excruciating in smartphone time, he said. As a result, he checks his accounts 60% less.
“I have to consciously make an effort to go look at stuff that I actually want to know instead of scrolling through feeds and endless conversations about stuff that is actually not very useful,” he said.
More people are adding friction to curb all types of impulsive behaviour. App-limiting services such as One Sec and Opal were originally designed to help users cut back on social-media scrolling.
Now, they are being put to personal-finance use by individuals and some banking and investing platforms. On One Sec, the number of customers using the app to add a delay to trading or banking apps more than quintupled between 2021 and 2022. Opal says roughly 5% of its 100,000 active users rely on the app to help spend less time on finance apps, and 22% use it to block shopping apps such as Amazon.com Inc.
Economic researchers and psychologists say introducing friction into more apps can help people act in their own best interests. Whether we are trading or scrolling social media, the impulsive, automatic decision-making parts of our brains tend to win out over our more measured critical thinking when we use our smartphones, said Ankit Kalda, a finance professor at Indiana University who has studied the impact of mobile trading apps on investor behaviour.
His 2021 study tracked the behaviour of investors on different platforms over seven years and found that experienced day traders made more frequent, riskier bets and generated worse returns when using a smartphone than when using a desktop trading tool.
Most financial-technology innovation over the past decade focused on reducing the friction of moving money around to enable faster and more seamless transactions. Apps such as Venmo made it easier to pay the babysitter or split a bill with friends, and digital brokerages such as Robinhood streamlined mobile trading of stocks and crypto.
These innovations often lead customers to trade or buy more to the benefit of investing and finance platforms. But now, some customers are finding ways to slow the process. Meanwhile, some companies are experimenting with ways to create speed bumps to protect users from their own worst instincts.
When investing app Stash launched retirement accounts for customers in 2017, its customer-service representatives were flooded with calls from panicked customers who moved quickly to open up IRAs without understanding there would be penalties for early withdrawals. Stash funded the accounts in milliseconds once a customer opted in, said co-founder Ed Robinson.
So to reduce the number of IRAs funded on impulse, the company added a fake loading page with additional education screens to extend the product’s onboarding process to about 20 seconds. The change led to lower call-centre volume and a higher rate of customers deciding to keep the accounts funded.
“It’s still relatively quick,” Mr. Robinson said, but those extra steps “allow your brain to catch up.”
Some big financial decisions such as applying for a mortgage or saving for retirement can benefit from these speed bumps, according to ReD Associates, a consulting firm that specialises in using anthropological research to inform design of financial products and other services. More companies are starting to realise they can actually improve customer experiences by slowing things down, said Mikkel Krenchel, a partner at the firm.
“This idea of looking for sustainable behaviour, as opposed to just maximal behaviour is probably the mind-set that firms will try to adopt,” he said.
Slowing down processing times can help build trust, said Chianoo Adrian, a managing director at Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America. When the money manager launched its online retirement checkup tool last year, customers were initially unsettled by how fast the website estimated their projected lifetime incomes.
“We got some feedback during our testing that individuals would say ‘Well, how did you know that already? Are you sure you took in all my responses?’ ” she said. The company found that the delay increased credibility with customers, she added.
For others, a delay might not be enough to break undesirable habits.
More people have been seeking treatment for day-trading addictions in recent years, said Lin Sternlicht, co-founder of Family Addiction Specialist, who has seen an increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.
“By the time individuals seek out professional help they are usually experiencing a crisis, and there is often pressure to seek help from a loved one,” she said.
She recommends people who believe they might have a day-trading problem unsubscribe from notifications and emails from related companies and change the color scheme on the trading apps to grayscale, which has been found to make devices less addictive. In extreme cases, people might want to consider deleting apps entirely.
For Perjan Duro, an app developer in Berlin, a 20-second delay wasn’t enough. A few months after he installed One Sec, he went a step further and deleted the app for his retirement account.
“If you don’t have it on your phone, [that] helps you avoid that bad decision,” he said.
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