Hello and welcome to our weekly intelligence briefing for boards, where we help directors keep up to speed on the macro trends affecting businesses across the world, and corporate governance news.

We hope you enjoy it and, as always, you can find the latest stories and resources on
Each day FT Leader writers on the Editorial Board meet to discuss the topics to be considered for Leader columns. Here are the issues that dominated this week:

The boss of Norway's vast sovereign wealth fund warned recently that the risk of cyber attacks was his biggest worry. Our editorial board endorsed that view and urged policy makers and private sector operators to do more, particularly to counter systemic risk to the financial system.

“Prudent precautions can… help prevent sporadic attacks from turning into a systemic danger,” we concluded.

The editorial board also curtain-raised the Jackson Hole symposium of the world's central bankers.

As populations around the world worry about spiralling inflation, and with politicians "circling monetary policy makers like sharks", we urged central bankers “to reflect on where mistakes were made and show they can get a grip on the consequences”.

In the coming days, the leader team will turn again to the vexed topic of energy price inflation - and in particular what could and should be done to mitigate its impact on business as well as individuals.

Anxious US consumers are continuing to spend - for now. But consumer confidence surveys, usually a reliable source of advance warning on which way spending is heading, paint a dire picture - though that pessimism has yet to show up in consumer sales.

What happens next depends on the Federal Reserve’s ability to tame inflation without causing a recession.

History suggests a “soft landing” is unlikely. Since the 1950s, the US economy has tipped into recession within two years every time inflation has exceeded 4 per cent and unemployment has fallen below 5 per cent.

Inflation is now running at multi-decade highs and unemployment at multi-decade lows, which means an acute challenge for the US central bank. Our graphic explainer shows the scale of that challenge, and sets out what previous periods of high inflation can teach central bankers about avoiding a crash today.

As Bill English, former director of the Fed’s division of monetary affairs, puts it: “They want to take the heat off, but not have the economy go into the ditch, and that’s tricky to manage.”

The Fed’s task will be made more difficult by President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel $10,000 in student loan repayments for millions of Americans earning less than $125,000 a year - a move that will likely boost consumer confidence, but which risks pushing up inflation.

US consumers hold about $1.6tn in outstanding student debt that can take many decades, especially among minority communities, to repay.

Confidence is dire, too, in the UK, where consumer demand is weak in the face of multiple pressures on households, including high energy prices that have pushed inflation forecasts to more than 18 per cent by January 2023.

One of the country’s largest energy groups has predicted the effort to protect households from fuel bills will cost the government £100bn. Scottish Power CEO Keith Anderson told ministers that a rescue plan against rising bills would need that amount to cap bills at £2,000 per household. The UK is facing a “catastrophic winter”, according to a senior executive at EDF, with half of households expected to fall into fuel poverty without intervention.

Companies, too, face a “ cost of doing business crisis” as many commercial energy bills are expected to rise more than fourfold.

Liz Truss, the favourite to become the next UK prime minister, has already expressed her distaste for “handouts”. How she and a prospective government would tackle the multilayered crisis facing the country remains to be seen, but help is likely to be limited.

With the leadership contest having just under two weeks left to run, Truss is already planning her transition to power - including who will be appointed to cabinet roles and the contents of an emergency budget.

Elsewhere, Apple’s return-to-the-office order to its staff is causing resentment among its workforce. Tim Cook believes collaboration is best done in person and that creative advantage would be lost with a scattered workforce.

From September, the company is demanding staff return three days a week. But a group calling itself AppleTogether is pushing back, demanding “location-flexible work”.

Staff are emboldened by a tight labour market, in which tech skills are at a premium. That has not stopped Elon Musk taking a hardline approach, telling Tesla staff in an email: “If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

Dropbox, by contrast, has declared itself a “virtual first” company, allowing staff to work where they like. (FT columnist Rutherford Hall thinks the time is not yet right for managers to “finally end all this sensitive, caring boss nonsense”.)

One advantage to employees of home working is that they can live wherever they like - and that may mean somewhere other than the big, expensive cities where their employers are based.

In the early days of the pandemic, Sarah O’Connor predicted expensive cities such as London would become cheaper for young renters, with a shift to home working as office workers spread further out from overheated urban centres.

In her column this week, she examines why her predictions were wrong. Housing costs in London - and in many US cities including New York - are higher than ever, despite workers not returning to pre-pandemic working patterns.

The reasons are complicated. But against a backdrop of high inflation, it looks likely that housing costs will soon reach the limits of affordability.

In business news, EasyJet has brought in new directors to focus on operations, logistics and data after a summer of passenger disruption. Staff shortages have plagued the industry after it cut thousands of jobs during the pandemic. Just this week, the airline was forced to cancel 26 flights to Gatwick because of staff absences at the airport’s control tower.

Disruption has eased in recent weeks - just as airlines are about to be hit by forces beyond their control. Gatwick, one of the UK’s busiest hubs, says the UK’s economic uncertainty threatens the aviation industry’s pandemic recovery, while BA is to cut more than 10,000 flights from its winter schedule. Business travel is unlikely to be turbulence-free for some time.
Cyber security experts overlooked for board positions

This article is brought to you by FT Specialist’s Agenda, a publication that focuses on corporate boards.

Join FT associate editor Michael Skapinker at the FT’s offices in London on Thursday 15 September at 7pm for a live panel discussion on workplace leadership. Lockdowns and working from home changed the relationship between leaders and those they lead, probably irrevocably. With hybrid working and labour shortages giving employees the upper hand, what does leadership look like now? Will the shift from a command and control leadership style to trust and influence remain in workplaces? And what leadership skills will be needed in order to navigate the post-Covid world successfully? Register for the event here.

Join us online on Monday 19 September at 4.30pm for a VIP workshop on multi-generational and multicultural organisations. Being a culturally and generationally adept employer requires self-awareness and a high level of awareness of how others think differently. It also requires the ability to understand and manage conflicting objectives. Register for the event here.

Join our journalists at the FT’s offices in London on Wednesday 19 October at 6.30pm for a live panel discussion on the inflation crisis and lessons from the 1970s. This session will explore the inflation crisis and what the 'Great Inflation' of the 1970s can teach us about the economy and the market today. How close are the parallels between today's economic climate and the 1970s? What are the critical differences and what can we learn from the mistakes? The panel will also discuss how business leaders should prepare to mitigate the worst effects of an economic downturn. Register for the event here.
How do you like the Board Director newsletter?
Let us know by emailing [email protected]

And please forward this newsletter to other board members too.
They can join FT Board Director via