Eastern Outlook 2024

2024 Outlook: Eastern

Sailing with the wind.

See the big picture

Last year I was cautiously optimistic but in 2024 I think we’re a step on from that – there are still headwinds, but supply chains have stabilised, inflation has peaked and it’s time to be brave and actively seek out opportunities to invest and grow.

Stephen Ainsworth

Head of Mid-Corporate, Eastern Region, Barclays Corporate Banking

Winning with AI

Whether it’s film production in Hertfordshire and north London, life sciences in Cambridgeshire or the vast spectrum of businesses across many sectors in Essex, I think investment in digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) will start to accelerate in 2024. It’s a topic close to my heart, and we’ll be looking to help our clients understand how they can make the most of AI. What I’m observing is businesses looking to use AI to augment rather than replace people and thereby increase productivity.

Of course, AI includes everything from search engine recommendations to sophisticated deepfake corporate fraud. The former is pretty benign, well understood and most people are comfortable with it, while the latter is of great concern to all businesses. The recent explosion in the use and potential uses of generative AI such as chatbots is another reason why it's important for all businesses to get to grips with the benefits and risks of this technology.

In 2024 I think smart corporates will start to educate themselves as to what AI is and equally what it's not – what it can and cannot do, what the challenges are – and how best to integrate it with human talent for maximum benefit.

Stephen Ainsworth

Head of Mid-Corporate, Eastern Region, Barclays Corporate Banking

Seizing the opportunities in sustainability

As I meet with businesses across the Eastern region, it is clear from speaking to them that demonstrating sustainability commitments and taking action to achieve them is increasingly important to clients, employees and other stakeholders.

Supporting your sustainable transition


Explore our hub to gain the tools and insights to understand the bigger picture.

Investing for growth

No single industry dominates the East of England but what we do have is a diverse mix of vibrant SMEs, some of which benefit from good connectivity with London, plus dynamic owners and an entrepreneurial spirit in abundance to drive growth. My team anticipates significant deal activity across the region in 2024, with businesses looking for opportunities to make bolt-on acquisitions to boost capabilities and expertise, to improve their competitive position, or to improve productivity and start to scale up.

Following a couple of years which have seen increased costs from inflation and interest rate hikes, as well as supply chain disruption (now subsided) businesses will, as ever, benefit from keeping a close eye on their cashflows and accessing prudent levels of additional finance where they need it to push the envelope a bit more. The right market opportunities might also persuade many businesses to deploy excess liquidity built up during Covid to invest in the future.

Key takeaways

Think collaboration

Many regions could learn the lessons of places like Cambridge, which has developed a highly effective business ecosystem, with the university, businesses and other committed parties working together for mutual benefit, and as a result has become a globally important hub for knowledge-intensive industries and cutting-edge research.

Go with the (cash) flow

Staying on top of cashflow management is absolutely critical to create the right foundations to access and service the debt finance that might be required to accelerate growth.

Get help to grow

Our local Barclays teams will help identify opportunities for growth, provide tailored finance solutions and share with you our insight on topics such as cyber fraud, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and AI.

Keeping fraud front of mind

Fraudsters are as active as ever, impersonating our colleagues and attempting to defraud our clients. To help protect you and your business we have a wealth of resources available. You can view our quarterly fraud webinars and take a look at our other educational resources on our Fraud Protection Hub.

Remember, Barclays will never:

Ask you to make payments or move money to a ‘safe’ account

Call and ask you to provide or enter your PIN or use your biometric device, for any reason

Take control of your computer.

Get in touch

Request a call back from our team and see how we can help you develop strategies for managing your business.

Under £6.5million (please visit https://www.barclays.co.uk/business-banking/‡ or call 0800 515 462)

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