Ali Saigar: A day in the life
Ali, please introduce yourself.
I’m the CFO of Delete/Kagool. Over the last few years, I’ve been working with my board colleagues to shape the business and lay the foundations to pursue an ambitious buy-and-build growth strategy to propel the group into a ‘top 10’ player in the UK digital scene. During peak pandemic in 2020, we achieved two important milestones towards this vision: I co-led an investment round to support our 5 year buy-and-build strategy backed by the Business Growth Fund, and three months later we completed our first acquisition, effectively more than doubling our turnover and headcount. I’m currently working on the integration of both businesses while keeping an eye out for new acquisition opportunities. The integration has proven to be a fun, rewarding and exciting experience. The level of talent in the business is off the charts and I’m surrounded by exceptional people with great ideas – a great place to be!
What does a typical day at Delete/Kagool look like for you?
It is fair to say there is no such thing as a typical day. Every day brings with it a new set of opportunities and challenges but there are certain matters that are cyclical, and these become part of the day’s agenda. The only pattern I can draw from my experience is that my typical day is likely to be busy and varied. Today started by walking my five-year old son to school. I reviewed the latest management accounts and updated the financial forecast for my board meeting. I’ve got calls planned with my insurance broker and the bank as well as a weekly catch-up with the senior management team. I’m also working on a number of client contracts for work due to commence in the new year. Late afternoon I’ll collect my son from school and then plan on going to the gym before spending the evening with my family, and if I’m lucky, some Call of Duty practice on my new PlayStation 5!
What are your passions, and how have they impacted the direction of your career?
From a young age I’ve always been curious about technology and business. I grew up in Kenya where there was very little tech around me. My dad had a computer for his business. I learned to operate it and became quite good at MS DOS commands and BASIC programming – and this piqued my interest in tech ever since. I graduated with a degree in Computer Science and Management studies from the University of Nottingham.
I joined PwC as a graduate in 2005 to pursue my other passion – business. PwC gave me an ideal opportunity to learn about how businesses work and what makes them successful. I started off working in Audit and did a variety of financial audits, IT audits and pension audits before moving over to the Deals practice where I spent four years working on M&A projects in a variety of different roles.
Working at Delete/Kagool allows me to bring together both my passions as well as my audit and M&A background all in one enjoyable role. I’m able to business partner with the tech and creative parts of the business and ensure that, commercially, all decisions are made with our business goals in mind. Equally I can shape financial and business policy so as to foster innovation, creativity and talent and allow our teams to thrive. Additionally, the experience gained from working in the M&A world at PwC was invaluable when executing the MBO and Kagool’s first acquisition.
Who has been the greatest influence on you during your career?
I’ve been supported, inspired and shaped by many people along the way from all walks of life. However, the one person who has been my ‘north star’ has been my father. I often fall back on the work ethic, values, principles and pragmatism he has imparted on me when faced with challenging moments or difficult decisions.
What three people would you invite to a dinner party?
I’d invite Sasha Baron Cohen, Jamie Foxx and Trevor Noah. I’ll probably not get a word in edgeways but it would nevertheless be a fascinating night full of laughs.
What is your favourite holiday destination?
Mombasa in Kenya is my favourite holiday destination. My parents took my siblings and me there for our holidays and I have nothing but great memories. I visit once every couple of years. Granted, it is a long flight, but totally worth it when you get there. The weather is beautiful, the people are wonderful, the beaches are stunning, the ocean is warm, and the food is to die for.
What would be your motto?
If you keep your feet firmly on the ground, you’ll have trouble putting on your pants.
What have your learnings from lockdown been?
That the internet is the best invention ever, gardening is surprisingly therapeutic, and that DIY is best left to the experts!