Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

No Accounting for Tech ep13: FreeAgent CEO Roan Lavery

On this week’s podcast FreeAgent CEO Roan Lavery tells AccountingWEB tech editor Tom Herbert about his part in the company’s growth from a side project into a major player in the cloud accounting industry and where he believes the vendor’s future direction lies.

4th Apr 2023
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

From co-founding FreeAgent with two fellow tech enthusiasts in 2007 to its acquisition by the NatWest Group in 2018 and continual growth, Lavery has been part of the FreeAgent journey from day one.

For 15 years he led the planning and delivery of FreeAgent’s desktop and mobile apps as chief product officer, and in 2021 ascended to the role of CEO following Ed Molyneux’s decision to step back from the limelight.

For Lavery, while the accounting software landscape has changed dramatically in the decade and a half since FreeAgent came into being, what has also shifted is people's attitudes towards the tools they use.

“There was a lot of scepticism from the accountancy industry in the early part [of cloud accounting], and part of that was people thinking that maybe this thing wouldn't catch on or concerns about the cloud in terms of things like security or performance,” he said.

“There was also a little bit of fear and trepidation that software would come along and effectively replace accountants. We've certainly not seen that at all … and personally, I don't think will come to pass. But what I think you're starting to see now is the accountancy industry and small businesses learn what the benefits of using products like FreeAgent are, while at the same time having the benefit of having a trusted adviser.”

Inevitably, the discussion turned to the government’s recent decision to postpone mandatory filing for Making Tax Digital for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA) for a further two years until April 2026, and also raising the minimum income reporting level increased to £50,000 (with those earning more than £30,000 mandated to join the scheme in 2027).

With FreeAgent’s focus on small and micro businesses, the company had geared up to prepare its customers for MTD ITSA in 2014, including launching a specific tool for the smaller end of the landlord market. So what impact has the re-scoping had on the company’s plans?

“Obviously for us, it was a little bit of a blow,” said Lavery. “We put in a huge amount of effort working with HMRC and got recognition for our quarterly filing of MTD.” However, Lavery remains philosophical about the move, stating that it wasn’t a fundamental change to FreeAgent’s strategy as a business. 

“Because we've always served a slightly broader range of businesses and because our product does a lot more than simple tax filing, it was really just a case of us of maybe pushing out some of our plans as opposed to some like fundamental change in our strategy.”

In terms of FreeAgent’s future, Lavery indicated a willingness to expand the vendor’s reach into providing for larger businesses.

“The product's been around for 16 years now,” said Lavery. “It's a much more capable and powerful product than it ever was back in those early days. So I think it's natural that the product is able to be used by a slightly larger customer set.”

“It doesn't mean that we're turning our back on where the heritage of the company and our customer base is,” he continued. “We've just got to make sure we [don’t] make it too complicated for the original customer base, trying to balance the needs of keeping it really easy and simple but maybe providing that power that slightly larger companies needsand some of the richer feature sets.”

Background reading for the podcast:

Podcast written and hosted by Tom Herbert and produced by Will Cole.

Replies (0)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.