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Change and adapt to remain on track

Train spotting has never really been my cup of tea, but I was particularly struck by some new signs at Farringdon Station in London.

“Drivers beware – don’t forget to lower the pantograph” they proclaim. When the next train arrived, I dutifully watched for any significant transformation in the train’s appearance. And there it was. Gracefully, a sort of parallelogram structure above the train gently descended after contact with the electric wires and the train had adapted for the next stage of its journey.

Now, before everyone sends me anoraks for my new train-spotting fetish, it did cross my mind that the train is only reacting and changing to its new environment, in the same way as any business needs to alter and meet the challenges of the next phase of its journey.

At Barclays, we have recently completed our first decade in providing industry-specific support to the retail and wholesale sectors. Over that decade, we’ve learned that the ability to change and the importance of an appropriate risk management strategy help to underpin the creativity, drive and innovation which lie at the heart of the sector. As Charles Darwin once said: “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, or the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Fashions change, seasons call for different solutions and the risks encountered will alter as your business grows, adapts and succeeds.
Which brings me back to the pantograph. If the drivers don’t lower it, the next challenge for them is how to get through the Snow Hill tunnel with it raised and on the wrong electrical currency – something which can result in a fairly terminal and painful conclusion to the journey.

Jeremy Rance is national director of retail and wholesale sectors at Barclays Commercial Bank

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