Intuit’s CEO steps down, Sage downgraded by Deutsche Bank, Thomson Reuters shows up to the dance, and Xero’s big mistake

cloud-accounting-podcast-episode-30

David shares the big news that Brad Smith is stepping down from the CEO role at Intuit after 11 years guiding the transformation of Intuit from a U.S.-centric desktop-based software company to a global cloud platform. 

David is also himself departing Intuit after twenty-one years! What’s next? For now, just lots of relaxation and Madden football on the PlayStation. 

Blake shares the news that Deutsche Bank has downgraded Sage Group to a “sell” rating, citing the threat of key competitors Xero and Intuit to its core mid-market business. 

In other big software company news, Thomson Reuters has debuted its own cloud accounting app for small businesses. Welcome to the show, Thomson Reuters! 

Then, Blake and David discuss claims from an investor that Xero could become a $100b global tech giant company — the same investor who also says that Xero made a huge error by coming to the U.S. before taking over Europe.

Finally, Blake will be in NYC on September 13 for a panel discussion for accountants and controllers on Best Practices for the Month-End Close hosted by Stack Overflow and FloQast. Don’t miss it!

Stories in this episode:

Transcript:

Cloud Accounting Podcast E30: Intuit's CEO steps down, Sage downgraded, Thomson Reuters shows up, and Xero's big mistake

Welcome to the Cloud Accounting Podcast, a show for accountants, and bookkeepers using cloud technology to make their jobs more strategic, and impactful. I'm Blake Oliver-.

And I'm David Leary.

David, you blew my mind this morning. I had just rode in on my bike to work. I'm still sweaty. I haven't changed yet. I hop on this recording session, and you give me this amazing news, which I didn't even hear about, because I was at a networking event last night, and then I went home, went to bed, and-.

I feel like you're Rip Van Winkle. You were on vacation for a week, and now you're like- it's like I woke you up. I told you this big news, today, and you thought it was just one other thing, and then, I really let you know the big news. I don't know if we should just jump in?

Let's do it. What is it?

Brad Smith is stepping down from Intuit-.

CEO-

As CEO. This is going to take place on January 1, 2019. Sasan Goodarzi is going to replace him as CEO. The CTO is actually- Tayloe Stansbury is actually stepping down, as well. I know some people who are really excited, because we're now gonna have a female chief technology officer. Marina ... I forget Marina's last name. I'm gonna blow it, watch me. Ma Marianna Tessel. Sorry about that. Marianna Tessel is gonna be- We're gonna have a female CTO, which is really cool, and kind of a testament to Brad Smith's legacy, and the culture of Intuit, which is really, really great.

Brad Smith ... He's been at Intuit for 11 years, running the show. Was he there before? Must've been.

16, total, yeah.

He's out there 11 years, and basically guided Intuit, shifting from desktop-software company to being an online, in the cloud, global platform, which is kind of incredible that he was able to accomplish that in just about a decade.

It's been a lot of change. Just watching Brad grow has been amazing, as a CEO. Full circle, he, I think at one time, managed the Intuit Developer Network, back when it was called IDN, years ago. He actually managed that team, early on in the iteration. He's been pushing for platforms, and developers, and apps for a while.

Who's this guy that's gonna be taking over for him?

Sasan Goodarzi ... About a year ago, Intuit did a VP division swap, if you wanna call it that. Dan Wernikoff took over all of TurboTax, and Sasan, who was running TurboTax, took over all of the QuickBooks side.

Intuit has two major divisions, right? TurboTax ... They swapped, and they ran each other's divisions for a while, and then ... Sasan's done TurboTax for years, and now, he's done QuickBooks the last ... It already feels like a quick two years, I feel like Sasan's been running the QuickBooks division. Obviously, Brad's mentored him, and Sasan's ready to take the charge for the future. I think he's our sixth CEO.

It's amazing what he has accomplished, running QuickBooks Online. This Wall Street Journal article I'll put in the show notes says that for the year ended July 31, QBO subscriber base grew 38 percent, to 2.6 million, while non-U.S. subscribers grew 62 percent, to 800,000. It's pretty fantastic growth there.

Some more stats, there. Overall, company revenue was up 17 percent in the most recent quarter to almost a billion dollars - $988 million - and that was helped by a 20-percent rise in the small business division's revenue. That is clearly working for Intuit.

Yeah, and I think QuickBooks Online, now, it says 3.4 million online subscribers, which is just ... I think we've talked about this, and we've talked about it plenty of times. We've tipped, right? We are at mass numbers, now, of people using online accounting software. It's just gonna keep going. I don't see a slowdown in this, at all.

So, David, Brad Smith is not the only high-profile Intuit employee to be departing the company.

Yes, I am also leaving Intuit-.

What?!

Yes, yes, after 21 years, I have made the decision to leave. It's really me pursuing a lot of new opportunities. At first, I'm gonna step back. I'm just gonna play Madden Football, all day, on Monday. I'm gonna attempt completely checking out.

I'm gonna get used to not having an inbox. I never really check out. I'll still do this with you. We'll call, and we'll still do this, but I'm really gonna check out, and just kind of reassess what's next.

It's been an amazing journey. Obviously, there's a lot of tears, this week. This was not an easy decision, but I'm really looking forward to what's next on the road. I suspect- I'm not do anything crazy. I'm not taking another job, tomorrow, or anything like that. I'm not gonna go to work for another huge company in our space, but I suspect I'll wind up in our space, just because it's the only space I know.

I do plan on writing some long, sentimental, historically significant LinkedIn post, sometime today, or this weekend, and capture 21 years of emotion, and thoughts, and history. People said I should write a book ... We'll call it Transaction History Report, or something like that, and put it out there.

Yes, yes, more news. There's been major exits. I'm very honored ... It's kind of amazing timing. I'm very honored to be going out on the day Brad announced, as well.

Yeah, good timing, and you deserve a lot of the credit for helping that small business division grow, with being the ecosystem evangelist for QBO. How many integrations were built in the time that you were doing that?

The first three. Bill.com, Mavenlink, and Shoeboxed, who, I think, just got acquired. We had three apps.

Yeah, you had three apps, and now there's over 600.

Yeah. If you click Apps.com, depending on how you count, and what day you count on, it's pushing 600. Then, there's another 2,700 to 3,000 that integrate with QuickBooks Online, as well, that are like- I call them 'in funnel.' One day, they'll be on Apps.com, eventually.

That's amazing. What a crazy 10-year run that has had. David, there's some more news. I guess this episode has a theme of big software-company news, right?

Something that you brought to my attention was a story about the Sage Group. Deutsche Bank downgraded Sage Group on August 20 to a 'sell,' and the shares tumbled about 6.4 percent. Deutsche Bank's main criticism is that the competitive situation in Sage's core mid-market franchise "appears to be worsening." That's the reason. They're worried that entry-level players, like Xero, and Intuit, who focus on businesses that are just starting up, are gonna move up market, and build functionality through either internally, or through third-party platform partners, and disrupt Sage's core mostly desktop-based ERP market.

I thought it was interesting, actually, in this article here, in Proactive Investors, that they mentioned the third-party platform partners. It shows that like Deutsche Bank is aware of this ecosystem concept.

Yeah, it's almost ... It's funny. This article came out, and I really almost suspect that one of them either listened to our podcast with Matt Paff, a couple weeks ago, or they read Matt Paff's blog post, because, essentially, he was calling this out, like, Xero, and Intuit are kind of chipping away at midmarket, and you'd better be ready. Obviously, the investors are recognizing that as a possibility, as well.

We should have listening tracking. We should see if we had any listeners from Deutsche Bank.

I wish we could know. If you're from Deutsche Bank, and we influenced your buy/sell rating, let us know. I'm gonna guess that that's not what's happening here, just to be a little modest.

Okay, okay. Ego check [crosstalk]

-the thing that I don't understand. They're criticizing Sage's core mid-market business, but Sage bought Intacct, and the whole idea, I think, behind that was to give Sage a really strong cloud-ERP accounting system in the mid-market that they could then go sell globally. There's no mention of that at all in this article. It's not clear to me whether or not Deutsche Bank is even aware that that's the plan.

That's a good point. This is the problem, I think, of news in general, these days. The downgrade happened, which is fine, but then, that's the reported news. Whoever wrote this article didn't take the time do the rest of the news; like, "We should look, and see what offerings Sage has, before I write an article, and just publish it."

Since the 20th, the share price has recovered about half of that, so it seems like the market is not quite as critical-.

Or they know a little bit more, possibly.

What else is new in software?

Thomson Reuters, who's kind of a big legacy player in mid-market ... They have their legal division, but then, they also have all their accounting-software apps they bought over the years. Apparently. they're launching a cloud product now. Everybody's getting in the cloud game.

Wait, so this is ... It's called OnBalance Express, and it's described in this article in Accounting Today as a cloud-accounting application for small business. It sounds very, very much like a QuickBooks Online, or a Xero. It's gonna run from both computer web browsers, and mobile devices. It's going to include customer tracking, vendor tracking, invoicing, online payments, expense tracking, banking, blah, blah, blah, and a dashboard interface. Why are they doing this?

According to the article, they did a survey of small businesses, and accountants, and found out that people want to streamline processes. I think they discovered, "Well, to do this, we need a cloud-accounting app.

I just don't know how much this is, because I tried to go to the website, and look at it, and there wasn't much for screenshots. There wasn't really an easy way to ... It wasn't a typical SaaS experience, where you could just sign up for trial, give it a run. How done is this, or is this more just an announcement, or is this really a thing yet?

I guess the value is that it's gonna integrate with the other Thomson Reuters apps that accounting firms are already using - UltraTax, Accounting CS, that sort of thing. Accountants still are not the first place that businesses go, owners go, when they're looking to implement software, in the U.S., anyway.

If I'm a business owner, I'm looking to implement accounting software, I usually do that, before I even have an accountant, if I'm starting a business. I go get the accountant later. I don't know how much business they're really gonna get out of this, and are accountants really gonna take the effort to onboard their clients onto these platforms?

Maybe this is for big firms, right? If it's affordable enough for them, then they might just roll it out to their clients, and say, "Here. Here's some free accounting software. We bundle it with our services."

Yeah, I could see that. It's just like, "Oh, here's something we offer to you for free. You can use QuickBooks, or Xero, or some other product, if you'd like, but here's one we just have, because we get it, when we buy all the other stuff we use from Thomson.".

It's hard to know for sure. It sounds like a very basic level, typical cloud-accounting package, where it does some tracking, vendors; does a little bit of invoice, some online payments. You take a photo of a receipt with it. They've kind of hit all the check boxes, so I don't feel like there's anything revolutionary, here, happening, but you're right, it's ... Some part of it, though, is like, "Welcome to the game," right?

Welcome, 10 years later. .

Yes, thank you for showing up, finally.

We'll see what happens. I have a feeling that the user experience is not gonna be anything like what Intuit, or Xero have developed, after all of that effort. You're not gonna build that, in one day, what took a decade to build.

I was at the Intuit mothership, yesterday, and there's this huge barbecue they had outside, whatever. Thousands of people are working on QuickBooks Online. There's an army of people working on this. It's not like three engineers, over 10 years. It's an army of people to build cloud [crosstalk] software.

That's something that Xero had to learn, when they came to the U.S., which is that they had a small developer team here in the U.S., building U.S.-specific features, but not nearly as many engineers as Intuit had developing the product.

That's actually part of another article that I've got here, in our series of big software-company news. This is in Financial Review, and it's called "The one ASX company Bronte Capital thinks could be a $100b global tech giant."

John Hempton of Bronte Capital, he's an investor in Xero, and he thinks that Xero has a shot at being a $100 billion company for a variety of reasons. We all know there's a huge market out there. It's doubling every few years. A lotta opportunity. I think there's a lot of room for everybody to grow, so that is not surprising to me.

The one thing that he said - it was either in this article, or in a follow-up blog post - that was very interesting to me is he calls out Xero for having made a huge strategic blunder by going to the United States, before going to Europe.

He says that Xero should have gone to Europe first, left Intuit alone, because 10 years ago, Intuit was kinda sleepy. There was not much going on with QuickBooks Online, not a lot of ... No cloud-accounting ecosystem, or not much of one. Xero kind of woke up the sleeping giant.

I have no idea. You know way better than I do about the inner workings at Intuit, and what happened, but it just looked ... As an outsider, it seems to me like Brad Smith saw this threat, and just totally turned the company around, and answered that threat to great benefit.

No, you're absolutely right, absolutely right. I think this is gonna be one of the major legacies of Brad. Brad set up a lotta legacies, and impacted so much change, but this might be the single most important thing he did, because he pivoted Intuit to the future, and really set up Intuit to where it is today.

What drove that, and Brad Smith'll tell this story ... Brad used to be at Pepsi, back in the day. Pepsi, and Coke were just staring at each other, three inches from each other's face, duking it out. PepsiCo-PepsiCo ... Take the Pepsi challenge; Take the Coke challenge.

In the meantime, bottled water,, Snapple Red Bull ... All these drinks alternatives started popping up on the market, and Pepsi, and Coke missed it. They just missed it, this disruption that was happening on the market. Then, later on, they played catch up, and acquired Powerade, and all these other companies, but they just missed the disruption.

Because Brad went through that experience, he was able to recognize this right away, and make changes at Intuit. If it wasn't Brad, it was somebody else, you're right. Intuit may never have pivoted, and adapted as fast we did.

I remember a time that Jamie Sutherland ... He used to be- he was the U.S. president at Xero?

Yep, early- the first, yeah.

We were at the LAX Accounting Show, early on, and this is when every single person was coming up, you know, "What's this cloud thing? I don't know if I trust cloud." That's where we were in this space. I remember sitting at that hotel bar, chatting with him for a couple seconds, and I told him that. I was like, "You came to the States too early. You woke us up." I remember, I said, "You shoulda just took over the whole world, then came to the States later on.".

From a numbers perspective, you said that article talks about them being- they could be a $100 billion company?

Yeah, because the global opportunity for small-business accounting is humongous, and it's something that I think Intuit realizes. Xero is bigger, globally, than Intuit, by far, so it's gonna be interesting to see who captures that untapped global market - the one that is still desktop, that hasn't yet moved to cloud - because there- a lotta countries are 10 years behind us.

One way I've thought about these numbers a little bit ... Addressable market, maybe, is 54 million, for people that are really gonna spend money on software, and buy other SaaS apps. It's probably easily 54 million for the next 6 to 10 years.

Let's say history repeats itself, which means Intuit, and QuickBooks gets 89-percent market share, again. Second place ... Let's say Xero gets second place. You could say, "Oh, they lost ..." but it still makes them bigger, possibly, than Intuit is, right now, today. That gives them six million small businesses using Xero, and that's if they lose. It just shows how big this space is. It's gigantic, still.

There's a lotta opportunity for highly localized accounting applications. I'll have to dig it up, I don't have in front of me; maybe we can talk about it next time. There was a story recently about an accounting-software startup in, I believe, Thailand. They make accounting software, similar to QuickBooks, and Xero, but specifically for the needs of the Thai market, and similar one in Japan, called Free, when they just raised something like $60 million dollars.

It's gonna be interesting to see whether these local solutions develop, and sort of take over that- build a wall around themselves in those markets, or if Xero, and Intuit are able to build a global empire.

Yeah, the interesting thing about that is, as you go into each region, and I think Xero's probably learning this, and I knew Intuit, and QuickBooks had to learn this ... Every time you go to market, you need two things. You need a payroll product-.

Yes, yes.

-in that market. That's always difficult. You gotta figure out a way to either build, which is super-hard. Even Xero discovered that in the States. You have to partner with somebody, so you get payroll, but then, you have this back-end tax, and compliance side, so you kinda need that.

I think the thought was just roll into a new market, roll out your accounting software, and everything's gonna work. No, every time, you need to figure out a payroll solution, and possibly back-end tax-type solutions, and really do a lotta partnerships. You're gonna see that, going forward, I think, a lot more. A slower pace to these other regions, because that just takes time.

You either have to partner, like you said, or you have to have the resources of a multi-multi-billion-dollar behemoth behind you, like NetSuite, and Oracle. NetSuite was U.S.-based for, what, 16 years, really. They weren't going after the international market very aggressively.

I could be wrong about that, but the whole Oracle acquisition, a big reason for that was that Oracle is global, and they have all these offices, locally, and they can help NetSuite become localized, and sell locally, and do that effectively, and developed all of these features that you need to be successful. For instance, sales-tax calculations are super-complex in Asia, or payroll, or whatnot.

You can do that if you have thousands, and thousands of engineers at your disposal; you can throw money at it. It'll be interesting to see what works, and what succeeds in the small business, versus the midsize, versus the enterprise.

Yeah, I feel like today ... This week, we'll put down in history. We've been building towards this week, I think, from a cloud-accounting standpoint. I know Rod Drury recently made an exit, but it's almost like Cloud Accounting V.2 is now gonna come out.

Yes this is the end of the beginning. The first 10 years of cloud accounting are done. The early-adopter phase is over.

Should we hurry up, and go get this hashtag, and trademark this - Cloud Accounting 2.0? Should we jump all over this right now?

It's all yours, David. You better grab it before this podcast is published.

We could call the episode that. Yes, Cloud Accounting 2.0. It's been an amazing week- amazing, amazing week, Blake. I think you said you had a little FloQast news, too so we don't forget. I forgot you mentioned that.

I'm gonna be in New York, in September, and I just wanted to let everyone know, who's listening, who is in the New York City area, that they are invited to a FloQast event. We're gonna be at the Stack Overflow offices.

Stack Overflow is an amazing website for programmers, where they can share knowledge with each other. They are a FloQast customer, so they've generously offered to host us at their offices in Manhattan. We'll be there on September 13, doing a panel discussion about best practices for the month-end close.

If you're a controller, CFO, and you've got a midsize organization that you're managing, you're running, or you've got a startup that you are- has quickly grown, you might wanna come, and hear some great learnings from some folks.

We've got the VP of finance of Stack Overflow, the controller from HelloFresh, the assistant controller at Oscar Health, and a senior manager from CFGI, and, of course, our CEO will be there, Mike, and I'll be there, as well. I'll put that link in the show notes to register. All controller, and accountants are welcome to join us.

I have nothing to do. Maybe I'll fly to New York City on a whim, and sit in.

Come join us. It'll be fun. Flights are cheap to New York City.

Yeah, I think there's definitely direct from Phoenix. There might be one from Tucson, by the fall time, I think, as well. Accountex was this week, as well. Did you attend that?

No, I couldn't make it-

Did you see any news from that? It feels like it was a very quiet event.

Yeah, no big announcements that I'm aware of, but again, I'm kinda like the Rip Van Winkle; I didn't even know about Intuit, until this morning, so ...

That's great. I think that's it, this week. Hopefully, next week's a little bit more of a breather week. Maybe we'll get into some other oddball news, and less massively industry-changing news. Hopefully, next week, we'll have [crosstalk].

It would be surprising if that happened, two shows in a row. David, if folks want to get in touch with you, and give you feedback on the show, tell you what to talk about, where should they reach you?

Definitely on Twitter, that's probably the easiest way - @DavidLeary. Possibly, I swear I'm gonna write some long-form novel on LinkedIn. I'd suggest you jump on LinkedIn. Find me there. I'm David Leary, on LinkedIn, as well.

I'm @BlakeTOliver on Twitter, and I am getting more, and more a fan of LinkedIn. I don't know, I just find the feed to be good. Look me up on LinkedIn: Blake Oliver. There aren't too many Blake Olivers, but if you type in 'accountant', I will absolutely pop up.

Perfect, and with that said, we will close out with the Introduction of Cloud Accounting 2.0.

It's the- wait, the end of the beginning.

The end of the beginning.

All right-.

Awesome.

Have a great week, David.

Bye, everybody. Later, Blake ... All right.

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Blake Oliver

Los Angeles, California, United States