Midlands Outlook 2024

2024 Outlook: Midlands

Standout like the bullring this year.

See the big picture

Despite continued economic challenges, I sense a lot of optimism among businesses in the Midlands about their prospects for 2024, with many considering acquisitions to fuel their growth.

Karen Thomas

Head of Mid Corporate, Midlands, Barclays Corporate Banking

Balancing growth with higher costs

As we head into 2024, the tightening of monetary policy continues to dominate the economic landscape. Inflation is finally more under control, we’ve avoided a recession and consumer sentiment appears to be ticking up. Businesses in the Midlands appear more optimistic about their growth prospects but are keenly aware of the significant headwinds they are still facing, particularly due to higher labour and materials costs and the prospect of higher-for-longer interest rates. Many of the conversations I have with businesses in the region are around how they can drive growth in the context of a higher cost base.

Although many of our manufacturers, in particular, are performing strongly, some are facing an acute shortage of warehouse space, and will need to think outside of the box if they are to expand while managing costs, perhaps by exploring new locations. Businesses in every sector will be weighing up the costs and benefits of implementing artificial intelligence (AI) models to increase efficiency, while keeping a careful eye on quality and service standards. Exploring alternative, lower-cost energy solutions will also contribute towards meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) requirements.

An appetite for acquisition

Many businesses I speak to across the region say they will be looking at mergers and acquisitions as a route to accessing new markets or extending the range of their products or services. I think we’re likely to see active deal-making in the healthcare and professional services sectors in particular over the next year.

Businesses pursuing growth through M&A will, of course, need to use all of the resources and support at their disposal to identify the right partner, as the critical success factor in any transaction, as well as carrying out the necessary due diligence, whilst continuing business-as-usual operations. Despite the higher interest rate environment, there is plenty of funding readily available to businesses that can demonstrate that a prospective deal stacks up.

It’s up to us in the banking community to highlight that there is financing available for the right deal and businesses considering M&A should involve us early in the process.

Karen Thomas

Head of Mid Corporate, Midlands, Barclays Corporate Banking

Winning the battle for talent

Ensuring they are in a position to attract and retain the best talent is front of mind for many of the businesses I speak to. Although they don’t expect the same wage inflation we’ve seen in the last year, employers are aware that they may come under pressure for pay increases as the full impact of higher mortgage rates takes hold and disposable incomes take more of a hit. In parallel, employers are still grappling with new post-pandemic employee preferences regarding remote and hybrid working, flexible hours, and early retirement.

As a consequence, businesses will be putting a lot of effort into thinking creatively about solutions that meet the demands of today’s employees and how to fill talent gaps. One opportunity I see is greater cooperation between businesses and academia. We are spoiled for choice in the region when it comes to educational institutions and I think it’s incumbent on us to make the most of young talent and introduce students to exciting new job opportunities.

Key takeaways

Stay focused on margins

With interest rates likely to be higher-for-longer and inflation still leaving its mark, businesses need to find ways to manage costs and improve productivity. Measures to reduce energy costs and increase automation should be on the agenda.

Be diligent on deals

While businesses are well placed to access finance to support their growth plans, financial institutions expect a rigorous due diligence process to maximise the chances of a deal delivering its intended benefits. 

Get creative with your people

Employers should focus on identifying what really matters to their employees to ensure they retain their best people, while exploring innovative recruitment strategies to secure new talent.

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)

Preferred response*

*Required fields

You may be interested in

Regional Insights

Regional Insights

Keeping you up to date with insights from near and far.


Corporate Banking Solutions

We provide a complete spectrum of solutions to enable your business to transact and trade easily, manage risks efficiently and finance its plans for growth.

Fraud and scams toolkit

Fraud and scam toolkit

Our comprehensive guide to protecting your business against fraud, scams and cybercrime.