Introducing Cirrostratus...a new smaller entrant into the marketplace

2nd Sep 2019
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Cirrostratus is a new smaller entrant into the accounting systems marketplace.  However, the company’s objectives are as big as any of the other cloud provider.

Cirrostratus (a type of cloud) Exedra (the Greek word for “platform” Ltd is a company founded by John Hemming.  Best known as the Lib Dem Member of Parliament for Birmingham, Yardley between 2005 and 2015, John Hemming has decades of experience in the tech world. He founded his first company then known as John Hemming & Co in late 1983.  He only recently resigned from the board on the completion of the sale of the company to FNS.

John Hemming was also one of the founders of JHC Securities LLP, now known as Platform Securities LLP.  This is a leading provider of value-added outsourced clearing and settlement services which has been turning over in excess of £51 million (2017 figures). The business then went into a joint venture with OMX the then Swedish stock exchange and after OMX was taken over by NASDAQ was then taken over by TD Waterhouse at which point John Hemming’s involvement ceased.

Cirrostratus Exedra Ltd itself is one of a number of companies all owned primarily by John Hemming and is supported particularly by John Hemming Trading Limited.

More recently Cirrostratus has established itself as a provider of initially free Making Tax Digital and cloud cashbook services and has got a reputation as a company capable of solving problems that other companies cannot solve.

John Hemming said, “With the sale of JHC Systems Ltd the funds I have invested in my collection of companies make them profitable even if we are initially providing services for free. Our commercial strategy is to establish a market share with a number of free and deeply discounted services. Our plan is to maintain that mixture of free and deeply discounted services for our first clients.  That means that those people who support us at an early stage by signing up can be certain that they will not face any increases beyond those linked to CPI. At a point, however, we will stop offering discounted services to new clients although we do not expect to be expensive at any stage. The point will be the one at which we find our marginal costs increasing.”

Cirrostratus’s objective go a lot further than their competitors and they have already done a large amount of development work in building the systems to enable them to hit their target.

“My vision,” said John, “is that companies will be able to manage their processes through a single integrated browser and app based interface. For a firm of accountants or even a sole trader bookkeeper, for example, they would have a cloud system that allows their clients to have accounts on that system.

The cloud system would handle letters, emails, messages (SMS and telegram not whatsapp), phone and video calls. It would enable the accountants and the client to jointly work on documents which would be stored in the clients data area of the system. From a data protection aspect it moves away from the risk of sending client data to the wrong client via email as the accountant will be working on a clients documents account which will maintain data firewalls between different clients.”

Cirrostratus accept that they have not yet managed to write all of the systems that they intend to write.

“We are a long way there, however” said John, “We have a system which allows a firm of accountants to maintain their own A+ grade security operations website on our network. Their clients can already open an account on that system, upload anti-money laundering documents into a shared storage area, click on a button that issues a request to the HMRC Agents-Api to invite them to appoint a particular firm of accountants as their agents and then accept that all without the accountant having to intervene. Additionally the system allows a video call between the agent and the client so that the agent can check the identity documents and keep a still from the video call as proof of identify for AML without the agent and client having to meet up.”

“The agent can then review all of that information before deciding whether or not to act. However, if the agent decides to act then everything is already in one place.”

Surprisingly John Hemming does not see pure MTD bridging as a long term business opportunity. “Bridging is here to stay”, he said, “but it is a fantasy for a company to believe that it can live by bridging alone. Bridging will be available as part of a range of services offered by a company. Those companies that only offer MTD Vat Bridging will have to compete with other companies that offer more services, but also include MTD Vat Bridging either at no charge or a very low charge. We have always seen the bridging offering as a route towards establishing a business relationship with a number of companies, however, it is the broader picture that will be commercially successful.

“What is important about the APIs”, he said,” is that they enable a much more efficient way of handling the relationship between an accountant and the HMRC. For example if people open an account with us they can already set up a monitoring system which sends them a weekly email telling them of the status of all of their VAT accounts whether the underlying MTD system is Sage, Xero, QB or another bridging system. That is something that would be useful for any firm of accountants.  It is available today … at no charge.”

To open a free account on the Cirrostratus Web server click here