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I just ran across a reference to "incumbent companies." I think the writer means "established" or "long-established" companies.

I thought incumbent referred to office holders — politicians and other public servants. Is it OK to use incumbent this way?

Here's the paragraph:

The big challenge for many incumbents is speed and agility. They are simply too slow. For companies to become faster and more agile, B— believes that the key is building an engaged employee base.

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    Can you give the fill sentence or, better, paragraph? – Mitch May 23 '17 at 18:04
  • Here's the paragraph: >The big challenge for many incumbents is speed and agility. They are simply too slow. For companies to become faster and more agile, B— believes that the key is building an engaged employee base. – debbiesym May 23 '17 at 18:32
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It's a way to refer to established companies in business and economics.

A Dictionary of Economics: "incumbent firm"

Harvard Business review: "The Incumbent's Advantage"

Google Scholar results for "incumbent firm"

  • I wouldn't describe it as "common" in business (I am a business editor, and today was the first time I or any of my staff have seen it used, ever). But your links do show that it is an accepted term and being used more and more. Thank you. – debbiesym May 23 '17 at 17:38
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    I suppose "common" is subjective anyway. Fixed. – Evan May 23 '17 at 17:41
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    @debbiesym I gather from your comment that this answers your question. If it does, would you care to accept the answer? If not, could you identify why that's the case? – Evan May 23 '17 at 18:34
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I guess it depends on what sector you are in if it's part of the standard jargon. This term very common in telecoms - e.g. "Incumbent telco" or "Incumbent operator" gives lots of google hits, where it actually has an extra connotation, e.g. quoting http://moneyterms.co.uk/incumbent-telco/:

An incumbent telecommunications company is a former monopoly that still has a dominant market share. For example,the incumbent telco in Britain is BT, the former British Telecom. Incumbent telecoms companies are in a very strong position.

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