The HSJ Accountants and HSJ Strato team headed again to London for the 2018 Xero conference – XeroCon. You can’t call XeroCon “an accounting conference”, if it were, then it would be the rock concert of accounting conferences or the Glastonbury of accounting. XeroCon among many other things is fun, inspiring and informative. This year was no let down, (each year we wonder how they will make it bigger and better next year, but they do).
The 2018 conference was perhaps particularly poignant as UK businesses face the biggest step in their digital journey : Making Tax Digital (MTD); MTD is the government’s initiative to simplify and digitise tax fully. It will change the way UK businesses operate. We were all curious to see how Xero is evolving to give UK businesses full compliance and MTD readiness. MTD news didn’t disappoint, Xero have re-vamped VAT and have a whole new VAT central to release imminently. (if you are an accountant this is a big deal).
If there were 2 themes to describe our takeaway to XeroCon we’d say: Completing the circle and FinTech.
Completing the Circle
Xero has developed over the years into a platform or an ecosystem. It’s not just a bookkeeping or accountancy product, it’s a central place to run your business from, encapsulating the numbers, key back office operations such as payroll, expense and project management as well as a vast selection of industry software that can feed into it (known as Xero AddOns).
Xero announced a number of updates that felt like the circle had been completed. Accountants got excited about their acquisition of Instafile, software that will allow them to prepare and file the end of year accounts directly with HMRC and Companies House from within Xero. Techies like the us in the Strato team got far more excited about significant improvements to the Xero expenses app allowing multi currency claims, multi line claims and mileage claims early in 2019 (hurrah to mileage).
The Xero Projects app also got some love with a new neat integration with Trello. Trello is a popular cloud based task management tool, the integration (called Power Ups in Trello) now allows you to log your time on a project task in Xero Projects direct from Trello. Whilst this might seem like a minor deal, this joining up of the dots makes a big difference to project teams. Just to go one step further the time you log on Xero projects can now feed into Xero Payroll. Talking of Payroll, administrators will heave a sigh of relief that they will soon be able to bulk upload employees and send encrypted payslips. Employees on the other hand will get a re-vamped XeroMe app where they can submit their timesheets, request leave and see their payslips.
FinTech is an exciting, and fast evolving area, where financial services and technology converge. Technology helps deliver innovation in the financial services world. London is home to 17 of the top 50 FinTech companies making the UK a stimulating hub for cutting edge development. Banking is at the heart of FinTech, the key being the Open Banking model (basically it revolutionises the way we move, manage and make more of our money). Xero announced it’s AISP – (Account Information Service Provider) an accreditation of open banking. This means that Xero can provide information to authorised open banking requests. To go one step further Xero announced open feeds to 9 UK banks with (finally) Lloyds coming on board soon.
Open feeds use open banking to pull in account transactions into Xero in near real time and are free to Xero subscribers. FinTech goes beyond banking and touches on all areas of financial services, Xero announced it’s partnering with mobile only banks Starling Bank & Revolut, Soldo (pre paid mastercards for business) & MarketInvoice (invoice finance, business loans & cashflow solutions)
All in all it felt like the software dots have been joined (both for accountants and businesses), Xero is positioned at the forefront of MTD readiness and it has established itself in the exciting FinTech arena.
P.S. Over 75 Xero AddOn app partners exhibited which gave us a lot of technical chat time, however, that would extend beyond this blog post!