Q&A: Katrine Young CA, CFO and co-founder of Ascensos

Katrine Young CA
By CA magazine

12 May 2016

Katrine Young CA, CFO and co-founder of multi-channel contact centre company Ascensos, talks about her career history, the new generation of contact centres and her advice for CAs.

When did you qualify as a CA and who did you train with?

I qualified in 1986 with Thomson McLintock (now KPMG) in Glasgow.

Tell us about your career history...

On qualifying I moved to London to join Virgin, then gained international HQ experience at a large media group before moving to Blenheim Exhibitions plc as UK finance director. Blenheim had been one of the fastest growing companies in the UK and I gained a taste for entrepreneurial organisations there.

Having spent most of my career in London and working for organisations including Dell and Conran, I joined the contact centre business beCogent in 2005, which we grew and sold in 2010 to an international competitor. We formed a strong bond as a management team and in 2013 Dermot Jenkinson, John Devlin and I formed Ascensos to re-enter the contact centre market.

What does your job involve?

My job involves liaising with banks, advisers and external stakeholders as well as the internal focus of ensuring we are on track as a business and delivering against our business strategy. It varies from the strategic elements of looking for new sites and organising our current and future funding, to never losing sight of what yesterday’s daily revenue was.

Who do you report to?

I report to our executive chairman although we all work very closely together as a board.

What particularly appeals to you about entrepreneurial companies?

I love the energy. There is an underlying sense of things mattering, which is infectious.

What's your proudest moment so far?

The speed with which we were able to fill our first site, which holds just over 600 employees. We went live in mid-2014, the majority of our clients are major retail brands, and with the retail ramp in Christmas 2015 we were full. Some of this was seasonal, but we are working on our second site now and should reach more than 1,000 employees in 2017.

What’s different about the 'new generation' of contact centres?

We have been able to launch with the most relevant current technology without constraints from old legacy systems. Social media is now a major part of the contact centre and the insights we can give our clients through technology are extremely powerful. We have also designed our contact centre to be a place where people can feel proud to work – and that is very much reflected in the positive atmosphere as people walk around.

How’s your work/life balance?

I live in London and commute to Scotland most weeks – which sometimes makes it more difficult to do things spontaneously.

What do you do to relax?

I love London theatre and restaurants and always have a list of new places to go. I have also invested in an organic skincare business, Skin Guru Organics.

What single piece of advice would you give a CA looking to pursue this career route?

Work with the right team of people who you trust and respect. Entrepreneurial organisations move and change very quickly and as the CFO you have a responsibility to be constantly looking ahead – you need to be working with a team of people who you know share the same vision.

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