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WHY ARE MEDIUM-SIZED ORGANISATIONS STILL LACKING CHOICE WITH CLOUD NATIVE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE?

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WHY ARE MEDIUM-SIZED ORGANISATIONS STILL LACKING CHOICE WITH CLOUD NATIVE ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE?

By Paul Sparkes, commercial director for iplicit

 

Wind the clock back 20 years and there would be tens of pre-cloud solutions available from a multitude of vendors, serving small to medium-sized organisations across the UK. Each of these systems would continually evolve with increasing functionality to meet customer demand and outpace competition including Sage, Pegasus, Access, and Exchequer.

These vendors dominated the market and enjoyed decade-long growth and more, with extremely loyal users backing their every move. However, the emergence of cloud computing and the idea that software didn’t need to reside on-premise meant that many of the incumbent vendors had a mammoth challenge on their hands.

Understandably, strategies were devised to continue harvesting the base while attempting to cover new opportunities presented by cloud. This was a cliched path to tread though as dominant incumbents were obsessed with existing business models and struggled to step away – think Nokia, Kodak and Blockbuster, to name a few.

As these giants fell, nimble newcomers appeared with no customers to appease, zero revenues to fear losing and a visceral passion, belief, and clarity in how the new technology would disrupt the status quo.

In the accounting software world, this has been evidenced by the dominance of entry-level systems, such as Xero, with NetSuite for the corporate entities at the other end of the scale. These cloud-first solutions were therefore not burdened by legacy customer bases, historic contracts, migration challenges and cost challenges.

However, as these innovations took flight, organisations with 30-300 staff – who were too serious and demanding for entry-level packages nor wanted complex tools at the other end of the spectrum – were left with a lack of choice. In response, a vast majority of on-premise software users had to cope with unsophisticated upgrades that weren’t fit for purpose nor were true cloud solutions that met their growing needs.

That’s because the harsh reality of creating highly functional cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions requires a huge amount of investment in time, budget, and resources. And when presented with the idea that a tool may be four-years-in-the-making without revenue, that’s a courageous first step many vendors simply aren’t willing to take. And when others in the market have tried, and failed, to succeed when bringing accounting SaaS systems to life, the risk profile is often too high a bar to overcome.

 

Why ‘fake cloud’ needs to be eradicated from the market

In response, several organisations have opted for quick fixes – creating tools that use both their old and new system and are effectively ‘fake cloud’. In other words, their product looks like true cloud software on the surface, but the lack of performance and integration struggles are instant giveaways.

That’s why, at present, there are only a handful of high-calibre, cloud native finance and accounting SaaS solutions available within the UK’s mid-market – compared to 20 years ago when there would’ve been at least 50 tools on offer.

 

What are the next steps for the accounting SaaS mid-market?

Challenger brands will typically build what their target audience values, and therefore uses. And so, they’re disrupting a marketplace armed with the capability to look at the best ways to design intuitive software that provides maximum productivity savings, ultimate flexibility, and simple usability for high-growth companies.

As they continue to challenge the status quo too, listening to what customers and prospects are telling them, and responding as swiftly as possible, will be imperative. This shouldn’t always centre on functionality either, as service is just as important. For example, evaluating contract length and flexibility is a must for challenger brands to succeed in this arena. Typically, the mid-market has been accustomed to integrating a solution that comes with a three-to-five-year agreement – meaning they’re unable to switch swiftly to and from providers and are effectively being held hostage by their software.

Disruptive brands recognise the resentment among clients who feel ‘trapped’ and, ultimately, the winners will be those who offer all benefits without the handcuffs. As customers get wiser, more flexible alternatives will continue to emerge. And, the multi-year contract ‘lock-ins’ will seem prehistoric to up-and-coming millennial finance directors who have been more accustomed to monthly commitments and the option of cancelling at any time.

Although cloud software has been around for more than a decade, it’s only now that mid-market organisations are starting to see the disruption. Offering a greater level of freedom and agility with their solutions will prove to be more valuable than ever before.

Business

IS SCARCITY OF TALENT THREATENING THE UK’S FINTECH CROWN?

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To be attributed to Rafa Plantier, Head of UK and Ireland at Tink

 

From the Square Mile to Canary Wharf, London has been the historic centre of global finance, with long-established trading exchanges and trusted financial institutions. In the digital era, it has also ensured that it’s moved with the times to become a thriving hub for fintech.

But the UK financial services sector is now at an inflection point. In the past year, London’s position as a global fintech leader has been under threat. Earlier this year, Amsterdam overtook The City as the largest European share trading hub. The European Banking Authority moved from London to Paris. And Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are all competing to win a greater share of the European financial marketplace.

The culprits of the shift are the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, combined with the speed of technological transformation in financial services – disrupting the traditional flow of people, capital and ideas. So the pressing question for the industry is: how do we maintain and, more importantly, accelerate momentum to retain London’s fintech crown?

The answer revolves around one key thing — people.

 

Diverse talent drives innovation

Attracting the best talent is crucial if the UK financial services sector is going to continue to thrive and retain its global position as the preeminent financial centre.

In February 2021, the Kalifa Review laid out a strategy and delivery model for the UK to lead the fintech revolution, covering five key areas. These included skills and talent, investment and international attractiveness and competitiveness. But what became clear was that access to the right level of highly skilled talent was one of the biggest challenges for UK fintech, with barriers spanning both domestic skills shortages and the need to access foreign talent seamlessly.

As a native Brazilian in the UK, working for a Swedish-owned fintech, I understand these challenges as well as anyone. I love London, but we must recognise that fintech firms need unique talent and skills, and such a talent base can’t be met by a single city – not even one as resourceful as London. Not only do fintechs require technology and data specialists, but also experienced managers with good knowledge of high-growth companies and financial services.

As someone lucky enough to have worked with startup and scale-up fintechs across the world,  I understand the unique grounding that comes from being a part of a high-growth global company. That’s why I believe it’s vital that we attract people from across the world with commercial experience at ambitious, rapid-growth businesses — so they can bring this experience to bear on the UK financial services sector.

At the same time, many companies face renewed pressure to create new services and products to meet expectations for growth. That is why it’s critical that the UK has access to people with the right technical skills in areas such as software engineering, DevOps, Cybersecurity and data science.

Put simply, having the smartest minds delivering the best products is good for everyone. It drives efficiency, productivity,  growth and, ultimately, prosperity.

 

The UK is open for fintech

The UK should be proud of being a fintech pioneer and the driving force behind legislation that helped usher in the era of open banking. There is now an exciting opportunity to take this even further. Having access to a diverse pool of talent and skills will empower the financial services industry to create innovative products to tackle complex social challenges, such as better B2B payments, financial inclusion and climate change.

The good news is that the UK government clearly recognises the role the industry has to play in driving growth and innovation. The 2021 Autumn Budget reaffirmed commitments to reskill the nation. With £3.8bn budgeted for skills and a formal criteria for the long-awaited Scale Up Visa, the Chancellor announced a set of proposals that will support the breadth of our sector — from startups right through to unicorns and incumbent banks. This will be essential for fintechs like ours to continue to trailblaze and for the UK to differentiate itself on the global stage.

In an increasingly competitive global landscape, and to sustain momentum, we must keep talent avenues open to attract the best of the best in the industry. As one of the fastest-growing areas of the UK economy, the benefits of nurturing UK fintech to drive productivity, growth and lead the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, cannot be overstated. 2021 has seen a surge of activity in the industry and I am eager to see what London’s fintech sector can achieve in 2022.

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

Dean Fiveash, Head of FinTech Sales, IFX

Without doubt the Coronavirus pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives and fundamentally changed the way in which we all conduct business.

From the widespread adoption of working from home, to the amplified focus on employee wellbeing and work life balance, to simply acknowledging that people are more than their job titles and are often juggling childcare, pets and terrible wifi issues all whilst trying to do their job. The last 18 months have altered the way we work forever and in order to set our businesses up for success we have also needed to rethink how we operate.

Dean Fiveash

In a people facing sector like sales,  it’s  clear that the loss of face-to-face interaction is perhaps the biggest loss and an impending challenge as we slowly emerge from the confines of the pandemic. Gone are the days of instant downloads from ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team discussing deals or general matters. Instead, our inboxes and diaries are full of zoom catch ups. This isn’t to say that success has dwindled. Flexibility of working from home has helped many businesses to grow rapidly. In fact at IFX we have enjoyed our ten best months of company sales, but there is no denying the way in which we work within our teams has shifted. So how can you set up your sales teams to maximise its chances of success?

 

Adapting To The Times

For many businesses operating during these unprecedented times the shift towards the work from home culture has seen its benefits. Speed is key in the fintech industry and video calls on top of isolated working has greatly improved our time efficiency allowing us to do more for our clients in the long run. Equally, with the workforce being spread around the country and in some cases even globally, came the need for further rigorous checks and processes to ensure the high standards set in the office environment are still being met.

Despite this I would argue that this made us better sales people, and in turn a more successful and thriving sales team.

Post-pandemic success is grounded in not just the talent of your employees but also how you choose to structure your teams. For me, the old adage ‘People Buy People’ remains the most relevant factor for developing a slick sales team. At the end of the day, the technical stuff can be learnt over time but the proficient people skills needed in client facing roles is more innate.

When evaluating team skills, individuals who demonstrate determination and the ability to keep smiling through adversity are a vital asset, especially in the fast paced fintech industry.

Having worked in numerous team leader roles within the sales industry,  I know the difference that a collegiate and supportive team can make to successfully securing deals. The key is to have people at your disposal who are going to pitch in to help others, in turn making the team more robust. In the post-pandemic world, this will remain the key quality to look for and embed as a core value across the business.

 

Fostering A Successful Culture 

Whilst the team structure and core skills are an important part of the team set up, good management and personal development structure is crucial to success. At IFX, our sales leadership team all have client portfolios and are regularly signing and navigating deals. It’s through giving my team practical experience and regular client interaction that we can gain far better market insight than through managing team activity or KPIs alone.

More discipline is also required when working at home to retain the sales focus whilst navigating domestic distractions. As such, maintaining your employee motivation and focus is something each business should work on. A difficult feat without the physical presence of your team and one balanced on knowing your employees and their individual needs. But little things go a long way, so incentives and perks such as company socials, bonuses or simply a free breakfast can work wonders to motivate others. Another tip is to set  attainable goals and regular check-ins with your team to keep motivation on track to reach peak productivity.

 

Looking Forward

Team dynamics will continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing and rapidly evolving landscape, the secret to success will remain the same.

Something to look forward to in the next couple of years as a movement,  is the greater adoption of smarter contracts and embedded FinTech, which of course as businesses and as a team we will have to adapt to.

Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice to others is to get the basics right.  A leading-edge solution fails to achieve greatness if it isn’t backed with competent sales/relationship managers and attentive operational support. Traditional ingredients for success such as reputation and trustworthiness are built over time, often through word of mouth, but building a competent team who can make your clients happy is essential to that mix

 

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