In 1997, we invested in Cordena, a call management centre based in the Netherlands.
Today's familiar customer-service ethos - driving increasingly direct communication between companies and their customers - was in its infancy in Europe in the late nineties.
Invariably coupled with the requirement for sophisticated technology and dedicated resourcing, demand for outsourcing such activities to specialist centres, quickly developed. Call centres - Cordena's core focus at the time of our investment - were the primary area of demand. It was clear, however, that e-commerce and fulfilment services were also set to become operationally critical requirements for many companies. Cordena had been quick to spot the opportunity in the Dutch market and established first-mover advantage.
Although there were other local players in what was a highly fragmented market, there were no significant European competitors and only one US competitor. Aggressively focused on expansion, Cordena completed its first acquisition but required funding to accelerate its programme in order to maintain its first-mover advantage. The company made acquisitions in the UK, Germany and France and establishing start-up operations in Scandinavia.
Within two years, the business had grown from being a single-centre local operator to the fifth-largest independent call centre in Europe with sales of $70m (€67m). In 1999, Cordena was sold to Clientlogic Corporation.