"Our business was not built on being successful on its own, but for you accountants and bookkeepers” – Russ Fujioka, Xero president, Americas
This was a key statement the Americas president gave after shooting T-shirts at the crowd of nearly 1,000 attendees during the first day of Xerocon San Francisco 2016, the company’s user and partner event. It was key because of how clearly Xero’s focus is starting to shift away from taking swings at its competitors and more toward what they are building for their core user base: accountants, bookkeepers, and small businesses.
With claims of 77 percent subscriber growth in North America and 1,400 product enhancements since last year, Xero is still a challenger brand in this market. But much of Fujioka’s opening speach, as well as that of the company’s co-founder and CEO Rod Drury and its development and marketing team, was around accomplishments and enhancements for accountants and bookkeepers.
For one, Drury touted that they are the largest used accounting system in the UK and that there are $1 trillion worth of transactions processed on their platform. Then it was on to the product improvements themselves.
For accountants and bookkeepers, they will get to experience an “invisible” chart of accounts in the next several months, first for invoicing functions and then banking by next year.
Drury, co-founder, CTO Craig Walker, and a team of product marketers from Xero touted several new features coming that will be of interest to accountants and bookkeepers:
- There will be an integrated Facebook Messenger bot that will interact with core accounting and financial features in Xero, as well as add-on functions
- Budget variance, period variance and more control over who gets to adjust templates in Reports
- Check styles in Xero had been difficult, there will now be ability to edit and add templates for new styles
- For anyone that uses bank rules for bank recs, you will be able to clone settings from another organization for ease of use
- Integration with PayPal and other similar services was disconnected experience, now it will be all inline
- Payroll admins will be able to add information and perform approvals via the Xero Me mobile payroll app
- There will be a new direct deposit experience in Xero Payroll, the signup for new customers will be cut down to minutes
- Xero Payroll will be in all 50 states by the end of the year, in 26 states now versus only 8 this time last year
- Xero HQ is coming soon, it is a new global platform to more effectively manage the practice priorities
Outside of product improvements, accountants and bookkeepers remained front and center during Day 1 of Xerocon with another new offering. Xero officially unveiled its Ambassador Program, whereby select Xero accountants and bookkeepers will be responsible for connecting with other colleagues during monthly meetings in their given regions in the U.S. Their main job will not only be to educate about Xero, but about the key issues vexing accounting professionals in their daily professional lives and how to address them.
“I find in talking to accountants and bookkeepers that there is a knowledge gap around moving to be an advisor. We are trying to fill that gap through what we are offering in this program,” said Amy Vetter, CPA, global VP & head of accounting at Xero. “The Ambassador Program is about the new business model of being an accountant and bookkeeper, using the time to work with your client and understanding the platform better. The goal is to get into regional accounting and bookkeeping associations and driving a community of Xero users, learning what the value is.”
In summation, it does appear Xero is doing what it has done in other markets and putting a key focus on the accountant and bookkeeper as a key partner and pathway to the small business. What do you think? We would love to hear from you and keep the conversation going.