Alimentation Couche-Tard


In July, we spoke with the CFO of Alimentation Couche-Tard (ACT) to discuss the convenience store operator’s electric-vehicle (EV) strategy. As the only global fuel retailer with a presence in Norway, the world’s most highly penetrated EV market, the company enjoys a unique insight into the consumption and charging habits of drivers and a useful testing ground in which to trial new concepts and ways of operating. These learnings will prove invaluable as ACT looks to roll out its EV strategy in other geographies. While the transition from fuel to EV globally will take time, ACT is right to be on the front foot. Those who don’t ‘futureproof the forecourt’ are likely to be left behind in the long term.

Central to ACT’s EV approach is the provision of a high-quality in-store experience. With charging times of 20-25 minutes, EV customers are not only more likely to enter the store from the forecourt than traditional fuel customers, but they also spend more when inside. This makes it vital that customers enjoy a safe and clean environment, with comfortable seating, a broad product assortment, appealing foodservice offering, and good-quality internet. Today, ACT’s Circle K stores are the number one destination for on-the go charging in Norway. Contrary to the company’s initial expectations, the best performing Circle K stores are not those on highways serving customers making long journeys, but rather those in more urban locations, where apartment-living makes at home charging impractical – a useful learning as EV penetration expands elsewhere in Circle K’s estate.

Whilst management now believes ACT has established a winning formula for the EV customer, there is still plenty of innovation underway to further improve the EV experience. Through the company’s EV app, customers can now charge their vehicles at those times of the day when electricity is cheapest. Technology has been introduced that automatically invoices employers for the cost of charging company cars at home, while loyalty schemes have been established that bundle together fuel sales and EV charging for those customers that require both.

Booking Holdings


The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), agreed in principle in March 2022, hands the European Commission new powers to enforce competition rules on those large digital companies deemed ‘gatekeepers’. Under the new regulations, companies like Apple and Meta will have to prove they are not hampering competition or they could potentially face fines of up to 20% of their global turnover. Not long after the DMA was announced, we met with online travel agent Booking Holdings to discuss the potential impact. With the agreement still in its infancy, the main question for Booking is whether it will be categorised as a gatekeeper. Based on the agreement’s quantitative criteria, it appears likely that this will be the case, although management believes some of the criteria are not necessarily appropriate for Booking. Given the need for further clarity, discussions with the regulator are ongoing and we will continue to engage with Booking as the situation develops.



Cognizant Technologies announced in January that Ravi Kumar would replace Brian Humphries as CEO with immediate effect. Hired from Infosys in October 2022, Mr. Kumar had been due to join Cognizant in mid-January in the role of President, Cognizant Americas. However, he now goes straight into the role of CEO, with outgoing Mr. Humphries staying on as ‘special adviser’ until mid-March before exiting the business. In other changes, Michael Patsalos-Fox stepped down as chairman to be replaced by Steve Rohleder, who joined the Cognizant board as an independent director in early 2022 from Accenture.

Significant changes at the top of an organisation can raise questions, so we welcomed the opportunity to speak with the new CEO and chair soon after the announcement. It was clear from our conversation that Cognizant views these changes as an important step as the business transitions from its recent restructuring phase to a new “growth chapter”. In the new chairman and CEO, the company has two high-calibre individuals with a wealth of relevant management experience at two of the IT service industry’s most successful companies, and both struck a confident tone when discussing what needs to be done to drive the business forward. Their top (and intertwined) priorities are to further reduce employee attrition and to accelerate growth.



A first one-to-one meeting with the new CEO of Ferrari, Benedetto Vigna, was a chance to get his views on a range of issues, among them electrification and the long-term outlook for the internal combustion engine (ICE). Mr Vigna. is convinced that Ferrari can succeed in the electric-vehicle (EV) space, thanks particularly to the company’s world-class mechanical and electrical engineering talent, and customer demand for Ferrari to produce EVs.

There is a chance that the production of EVs may lose Ferrari some custom, but Mr Vigna thinks the business will gain many others. The average age of a Ferrari customer has declined over time, and Generation Z places greater importance on environmental factors than their predecessors. It’s important for an all-electric Ferrari to be a unique proposition when it comes to design, performance and emotion. With respect to performance, there are myriad contributing attributes, many of which are the same for ICE and EVs. For example, Ferrari Active Suspension Technology developed for the heavier-than-average Purosangue model can also be used in the EVs where battery weight is a key consideration. The process will involve a focus within the company on the parts of the car which make Ferrari unique, whilst outsourcing the production of non-core elements to partners.

Demand for Ferrari’s ICE vehicles will remain strong, however, and Mr Vigna see biofuels as key to meeting tightening environmental regulations. He believes that steps taken by Formula One to become more sustainable will help drive Ferrari’s own strategy in this area.

Samsung Electronics


In a meeting with Samsung Electronics, we asked about recent press reports suggesting that cultural issues between management and engineering teams had led to delays in technology development. The reports were largely based on contributions to an anonymous publicly accessible employee message board, some of which appear to be factually incorrect. However, the company did admit that it is having to tailor elements of its leadership culture to meet the expectations of a younger generation of employees. Last year’s CEO change was in part a reflection of this shift in focus, and there is now greater emphasis on communication, town hall meetings, and relationship building with employees, suppliers, and customers. In our analysis of Samsung Electronics, we identify relations between management and the company’s large and globally diversified workforce as a key risk, so it is encouraging to see management adapting to evolving expectations.

In testing times, commitment to mission statements and best practices is truly tested and so we quickly contacted Inditex so that we could understand the steps that the company had taken, or would take, to minimise the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns on vulnerable factory workers in markets such as Bangladesh. In doing so, we were assured that the company had met all its financial commitments and had continued to support its partner factories, whilst also taking a lead in industry-wide initiatives. Inditex will reap the long-term benefits of having done the right thing at this important juncture.

Engagement for Change

An engagement for change typically involves a series of one-to-one meetings and correspondence where we seek influence with a defined objective. An engagement for change will often relate to sustainability issues and our tailored approach enables us to focus on the issues or concerns material to each company. Given the rigour of our analysis before making an initial investment, we find the need for engagements for change relatively limited when compared to engagements for information.