A life in the day of... Catherine Birkett, CFO, Interoute

09 July 2013

 
European operator Interoute is aggressively pursuing a strategy of growth with its enterprise cloud and computing services. As the company’s CFO, Catherine Birkett’s life is often a whirlwind of activity both inside and outside of the office.

Birkett has been at the forefront of the company’s streamlining activities, as well as overseeing the search for new opportunities and acquisitions. At the same time, the company has also placed a strong focus on centralisation.

Having already moved its customer care service to Prague in the Czech Republic, the company is now pursuing similar plans with a centre in Sofia, Bulgaria. "We’ve really driven down the centralisation road," Birkett says.

In a further bid for efficiency, Interoute has shifted its billing unit to Nottingham: "All data is controlled and billed from a central location, so it doesn’t matter where in the world the customer is," she adds.

Working in a capital-intensive industry, much of Birkett’s day is spent managing day-to-day working capital requirements. "We’re funding our growth, so if a customer buys from us we have to spend upfront and collect later from the customer," she explains.

In order to process this, Birkett keeps a close eye on all of the company’s incoming receipts and outgoing expenditure, a task made all the harder by having to managing multiple currencies due to Interoute’s European-wide operations. Her management duties can be split into two areas. Firstly, she oversees 110 people across the company’s operations, which keep her updated with any local issues. Secondly, Birkett works alongside Interoute’s CEO, Gareth Williams, to evaluate investment decisions, as well as plan projects and M&A strategies. "I have a very good grip on where I think our business is going month by month," she says.

Birkett also claims to share a healthy relationship with Interoute’s shareholders and investors, but emphasises that the company is largely run by the management team. "We tend to go to the board with our strategy and usually they’re very supportive of what we’re going to do," Birkett explains.

That said, Birkett has regular communication with the board, keeping them updated on where the business is going via weekly reports and quarterly reviews.

As a working mother of two young girls, Birkett’s home life can often be as full on as her working life and she admits that managing the two is sometimes a bit of a juggling act. On top of this, Birkett is also chairman of the PPA at her daughter’s school, as well as governor at another school and a keen runner. "My friends say they don’t know how I manage to do what I do," she jokes.