Uber has hired Melinda Roylett to lead its UK and Ireland operations, with the appointment coming amid uncertainty over the company's London licence and significant layoffs in its marketing department.
Joining from Square, the fintech startup founded by Twitter chief exec Jack Dorsey, Roylett will be responsible for Uber's UK business across 40 towns and cities, as well as the Republic of Ireland. Her remit covers more than 60,000 licensed private hire drivers and around five million riders.
Prior to being head of Europe for Sqaure, Roylett spent close to a decade at PayPal, where she oversaw its small and medium business division.
She will report into Jamie Heywood, who was recently appointed general manager of Uber in Northern and Eastern Europe. Heywood said the exec's international experience working for highly regulated companies in regional offices and company HQs would be "invaluable" in helping write Uber's "next chapter".
"She joins at a particularly exciting time for Uber in London, bringing our platform vision to life with electric vehicles, in-app tube and bus transport and Jump bikes all in the same app," he added.
London licence woes
While it might be investing in the UK's capital, Roylett's arrival comes as Uber's business, and brand, are under strain in London.
The ride-hailing app has been tussling with Transport for London (TfL) over the renewal of its long-term private-hire licence.
In 2017, city's authorities expressed concerns about Uber's regard for public safety and security – particularly on issues like how crimes committed under its watch are reported to the police and background checks on drivers.
After heading to court in 2018 to successfully overturn an outright ban, it now looks like Uber (which is valued at $68bn) may only be granted a temporary two-year certificate from London's transport regulator. A report from Sky cites "tensions" between Uber and TfL about whether the former is meeting conditions set out by lawmakers when it was awarded its temporary licence last year.
Over the past two years, Uber chief exec Dara Khosrowshahi has sought to bring a more transparent and open approach to the business' marketing to improve brand perception. As well as investing heavily in apology ads in the US, it's also been reassuring users that they can trust their drivers in the UK.
Roylett's hire also follows on from the news that Uber has slashed its global marketing team by approximately one-third, with 400 people losing their jobs in a bid to get the business back in the black.
The layoffs came less than two months after the company overhauled the leadership of its marketing team. The firm is currently without a global chief marketing officer after Rebecca Messina exited after less than a year in June. Her predecessor, chief brand officer Bozoma Saint John, also exited after a similarly short tenure.
Uber lost just over $1bn over the first three months of the year alone according to its first published earnings report as a public company, illustrating the scale of the task at hand in turning the way to a profit.
Commenting on her new role Roylett said: “Having grown up in the suburbs, with limited transport options, I know how apps like Uber can make a genuine impact on the day-to-day.
"Getting from A to B should be easy, no matter where you’re going or what time it is. I am excited to be joining the company as we look to build out even more ways to get the UK moving, support licensed drivers and help make our cities cleaner.”
She replaces Tom Elvidge, who left the upstart in March to join WeWork.