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Accountex live: "This is it"

14th May 2014
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AccountingWEB is relocating to East London for this year’s Accountex event on Thursday and Friday (15-16 May). Whether you can make it to Accountex or not, check this live blog regularly for live updates on all the news, talks and gossip.

* * *

IP tax is fashionable

The new CIOT president and pioneering AccountingWEB podcaster Anne Fairpo showed up at Accountex this morning to deliver a talk on IP taxation.

"I've been doing this for 20 years, but suddenly intellectual property tax is fasionable," she said.

The driver are things like R&D tax credits and the patent box. While they offer some advantages to all kinds of companies - not just those involved in the cliched image of white-coated laboratory scientists - they also introduce new levels of complexity that claimants will need to be aware of, she warned.

That would explain another Accountex phenomenon - the blossoming of boutique tax advisers specialising in this area, including RIFT Research & Development, who are appearing here for the first time.

* * *

There's one area where the UK can beat Germans - Twinfield founder

Twinfield founder and Wolters Kluwer vice president Andre Kwakernaat loves nothing better than insulting UK accountants and telling them how backward they are when it comes to practice automation.

But he’s an equal opportunities critic. “I also like to insult the Germans - they’re even worse,” he told AccountingWEB during his visit to our Accountex stand. “They still use paper invoices to process payments!”

Since his cloud accounting company was acquired by Wolters Kluwer, Kwakernaat has taken on responsibility for software development within the international corporation’s tax and accounting division.

His current pet project is a “digital shoebox” that will capture receipts and documentation via cameras and OCR and direct it to the right accounts and journals by tagging.

The tagging approach will also be key to the evolution of CCH’s ProSystem, which should make the transition to a full cloud suite by the first quarter of -2017, according to his timetable.

* * *

Everybody’s talking about cloud

“Everybody’s talking about cloud - and how you move practices online,” said Sage UK chief technology officer Stuart Lynn at Accountex. “Sage is no different.”

There were other themes emerging in different parts of the exhibition hall, but there was no denying Lynn’s observation.

Sage is often castigated for being behind the curve, but its web-based Sage One Accounts Production application (see below) was making its first public outing on screens in the developer’s VIP lounge.

Xero most notably, but also FreeAgent, Clear Books and several other vendors were at the event, touting their online wares at passers-by.

Keytime managing director James Cryne said since his firm acquired Arithmo the online application has been embraced by practices using its tax and accounts productions applications. Keytime has constructed a link between Arithmo and its accounts production program, which is then able to pass on the figures in iXBRL-tagged final accounts files to the Keytime corporation tax program for electronic submission to HMRC.

But Cryne wasn’t quite as gung-ho about the cloud as other suite suppliers at Accountax. “For us it’s more a case of managing dual cloud and desktop products. Our larger plan is to add a lot more functionality to both. Final accounts and tax will appear in Arithmo in time, but not for at least two years,” he said.

“We’re also heavily developing the desktop products. We are serious about the cloud, but not slavishly following fastion. At the moment, about every fifth person who comes to the stand is asking about cloud. It is very high up our agenda.”

* * *

Mark Lee shows off his 'Pom-Pon' stick

AccountingWEB contributor Mark Lee wowed the crowds at Accountex with his sleight of hand and top tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

Mark said accountants were like a deck of cards - you often can’t tell one from another.

He said to be remembered, referred and recommended, distinctions have to be useful, valuable and relevant.

Mark added that finding a niche or specialism is important, but you want to make sure you have an echo across the web about what you’ve said or your credibility will be damaged.

“Is it up-to-date and consistent?” he asked the crowd.

Mark finished off his presentation by taking out his ‘LinkedIn Pom Pon’ stick.

His enthusiasm for LinkedIn together with his long time love of magic has led him to coin a new acronym for his connections on Linkedin.

People On My Perpetually Online Network (‘Pom-Pon’)

* * *

Sneak peak of Sage’s new accounts production solution

Sage is offering attendees at Accountex the chance to get a sneak peak of their new accounts production solution which will launch later this year.

The ‘AP Online’ solution is a true cloud application – the first offered by Sage to accountants in practice – and will have a full beta release this summer with a launch date set for November/December.

Accountants division MD Paul Tooth told AccountingWEB that the full practice solution suite will be modular so you can pick and choose the elements you require.

“We’re offering choice. It could be cloud or desktop, or a mixture of both,” he said.

Attendees can also get a sneak peak of the new Sage 50 software which is now much stronger on data integrity and cleansing functions.

* * *

IBM 'pushes frontiers' with CFO insight

Mark Rolfe, leader of European Performance Management at IBM, shared with Accountex the results from the company's Global C-suite study.

Speaking in the CIMA theatre, Rolfe - who used to work in the gaming industry at Nintendo - looked at some of the characteristics of fast growth companies.

Challenges are increasing for businesses and things can change almost overnight now, he said. Rolfe also said big data was increasingly important.

“I’m part of IBM so I have to believe in bid data, but like it or not, it’s a reality now.”

The survey revealed 84% of respondents think big data and analytics will require a change in how they do their jobs in the coming five year. In addition 85% believe that increasing their ability to work with big data will enhance their careers.

Rolfe also said customers are now having a very direct say in the direction of companies.

This ‘customer activated’ trend means companies like IBM now watch what’s being said online and on LinkedIn.

“So few people understand what consumers want now, particularly young consumers,” he said.

* * *

Accountex freebie watch

You can judge a trade show by the quality of freebies on offer. So far, Accountex is tending towards the comestible, with miniature ice cream cones on offer at the Xero Village.

Two denim-clad ladies, Amy and Hannah, circulated around the area carrying trays of brightly coloured cupcakes to promote their KPI application and company Crunchboards. "We're the icing on Xero's cake," they trilled.

Sage also brought something sweet to the party, offering up a range of Innocent smoothies to passers by.  Coffee, sweets and biscuits were in profusion elsewhere. 

Paul Builpitt from WOW showed up at the AccountingWEB stand with a hot tip. “The ICAEW have got multi-point coloured highlighter pens. They’re going over very well with the accountants.”

But the prize for the coolest - and most useful - freebie goes to our near neighbours at the show, FreeAgent, who are giving away portable mobile PowerBanks to people who drop by their stand and leave a business card behind. The adapter has three separate connectors for older iPhones, Apple Lightning connections and a mini-USB compatible with BlackBerrys. At one point, we managed to charge three phones (every so slightly) at the same time. Thanks guys! It's a life-saver.

* * *

'This is it' for PracticePro

There's a new accountancy association on the block. After three years of research and development, PracticePro is coming to Accountex to recruit members. The group provides software and support services for ambitous practrices, and offers pricing and options based on the firm's size. For those who want to go the whole hog, the full Pro package costs £499 a month.

"There's definitely room for another association," says PracticePro's Mel Warburton. "We researched the market so we know what accountants want and need," she added. "We were here last year for a soft launch, but we've refined the package and are ready to go. This is it!" 

* * *

Some Tolley tickets may still be available

As we suspected, there was a glitch in the booking system for the Tolley MasterClass CPD series. We bumped into Tolley head of tax markets and learning solutions Chris Jones, who said he only found out yesterday that the system showing zero availability across all its Accountex talks had continued taking bookings.

Some of the tickets may have been allocated for duplicate requests. Tolley has been maintaining a list of reserves for all the seminars, so it may be worth visiting their stand when you get to the event to see if you can squeeze into any of them. If you can’t, don’t forget to ask about the giveaway codes for the new Whillans Calc app.

* * *

FreeAgent now wooing practitioners

One topic that’s going to be on everybody’s lips at Accountex this year is cloud accounting. That was the case last year as well, with lots of rival suppliers offering their online wares. But so much has happened in the intervening 12 months.

Both IRIS and Sage have had enough with upstarts luring away their core clients and have made big budget commitments to deliver cloud products for practitioners this year. So it will be worth checking their stands to see how far away those tools may be.

IRIS also made a surprise move for KashFlow last year, and has retooled it as the IRIS Cloud division. But this move also released FreeAgent from a deal under which IRIS handled the cloud bookkeeping company’s sales into the practice market. That arrangement helped FreeAgent grow phenomenally during the past few years to become the UK’s biggest provider with 30,000+ users.

FreeAgent is now targeting more growth in the practice market and will be wooing accountants with stories about the delights of connecting online in real time with clients via its accounting application.

FreeAgent chief accountant Emily Coltman will co-present a seminar on this theme with business development director Kevin McCallum. Both are engaging characters, so we look forward to hearing what they’ve got to say. Emily has written books and numerous articles on tax and accounting for SMEs and is bilingual - fluent in both English and accounting-speak.

* * *

Wednesday evening drinks with Xero

Xero is offering Pre-Accountex drinks and nibbles this evening with them and their add-on partners, at the Aloft Hotel, London (near the Excel). 

So, if you fancy a bit of socialising before the event even starts, register here

* * *

See below for more #Accountex action via Twitter

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Replies (12)

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By carnmores
16th May 2014 11:34

so sorrry i couldnt make
Am going round in circles in the Cyclades

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David Winch
By David Winch
16th May 2014 11:39

Geeky heaven
Just run into John & Rachael at Accountex. Got an unexpected morning off Court so popped in to geeky heaven. Well worth a visit!


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By Sheepy306
16th May 2014 20:36

Did you buy the t-shirt?
Shame you didn't get a chance then to listen to Zen guru John early afternoon, very enlightening!

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By jaybee661
17th May 2014 07:30


... it was great to meet the 'new' John - very tiring but great day!

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By Paul Scholes
19th May 2014 01:24

My first as a non-punter

I have to say that had it not been for the opportunity to spend a couple of mornings lending a hand on the Clear Books stand, there's no way you'd have got me to another Accountex.  

Subject to qualifications below, it's great for newbies looking to see what's about and for oldies who never allow themselves enough "4me" time to research during the year from the comfort of their desks & Google but for me most of it is just noise, plastic & hype.

An unexpected bene of being there with CBs was that I was able to use my Exhibitor's Pass like a cloak of invisibility, or light sabre, to fend off approaches from teeth with plastic bags  (never make eye contact).

Anyway, having had a good journey in on Thursday, and armed with my pass, I approached the entrance with a relatively open mind only to have it shut at the sight of the Sage & Xero stands. 

I have to accept that I am a lone voice here but the size of their marketing budgets and the square footage of their stands bear no relationship to the merits of their bookkeeping systems, ie neither is 4-5 times as good as FreeAgent nor 12-15 times as good as Clear Books, in fact with Sage, their stand reminded me of the analogy of cars with long bonnets and the men that need them.  At least Xero's was square.

People who have spent time to research, away from the huge displays and plastic goodies, can evaluate and compare systems and make an informed decision but those who are too lazy, or are scared of technology, come to these things and are Hoovered up by the hype and yo-yo chuckers (what the hell was that about?) and their money just goes to make next year's stand even bigger, by which time, even if they realise their mistake, they are too tied in to get out.

Ironically, the above gut reaction was reinforced by Xero's Gary Turner, when he Tweeted:

"It seemed on occasions that Xero was having a conference and had allowed #Accountex to have a collection of stands round the outside."

Megalomania or what?  What I saw, or rather heard, Gary was people who could shout louder than others.

Before anyone accuses me of envy, in terms of Clear Books being dominated by a Sage wall, it is anything but.  Working with CBs I see how much time, money and effort goes into enhancing and improving the software every day of the week and it hacks me off that the most expensive software I use, Xero, uses my money for plastic & yo-yos, whilst ignoring requests to fix the software, and that Sage are still able to con clients into paying for stuff they don't need.

So my Friday morning Tweet went: 

"On way to #accountex to stand with those lovely peeps from @ClearBooks, where your money pays more for the service than the marketing"

Finally, on the subject of Twitter, can someone tell Tina @BatmansBride that she's fallen asleep on her mouse, even QuickBooks are getting bored with it.


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By jaybee661
19th May 2014 06:24

@Paul Scholes

... it was a shame we couldn't catch up Paul, it would have been great to see you!

I cannot believe Gary Turner tweeted that - whilst Xero may hide behind a facade of being the best & biggest thing at the show, the reality is very different - unfortunately all we hear are continuous empty promises and unfortunately their customer service is desperately poor (a fellow accountant signed up to the partner programme online at least a couple of months ago and, to date, has heard nothing) compared to say, Clear Books and FreeAgent, who actually really, really care about their customers.

Xero may well be the 'biggest', but the best? Absolutely not. Don't get me wrong, the software is good, but, for the overall experience, it falls well short.

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By SteveThornbury
19th May 2014 10:24


Had a brilliant show and good to meet you all.

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By Sheepy306
19th May 2014 10:53

@ Paul

As always, interesting and relevant points from Paul.

Personally I was more than happy to see the bloated Sage and Xero stands, it helps give the exhibition a bit of a buzz and prestige, as well as knowing that they've spent a fortune which helps to finance the whole exhibition and ensure its success. Did I visit either of them? Not a chance. As Paul mentions, I've already done my research from home, I know what they have to offer.

It's unfortunate that by their very nature, as firms (software companies in this case) get larger, more successful and well known, that they lose that personal touch and down to earth technical expertise and flexibility to fix problems, it's virtually unavoidable. Perhaps that's why, given the choice, I tend to go for the underdog and smaller companies (VT, BTC, Moneysoft etc).

I used the conference in a combination of ways:

I attended a few of the technical seminars and picked up a few CPD pointsI visited some of the smaller exhibitors (e.g. Docusoft and Lindenhouse) to compare their products, speak with their owners/salesman in order to get a feeling for themI listened to a couple of the profit improvement firms/individuals, I extracted the information that I felt was relevant to my firm, confirmed in my mind that I am not suited to their type of practice (perhaps a reflection of my personality and relationships with my particular clients rather than a dismissal that the approach doesn't work), and discarded all of the non-relevant adviceDid a bit of general networking, nothing significantAttended Legalex to see some of the offerings on their side as it's relevant to quite a few of my clients, I wouldn't ordinarily get the time to speak to these exhibitors if I was solely researching from homeDid a bit of people watching to get a feel for what other accounting professionals were like (not sure how representative they are of the profession!)

I must confess that this was my first year of attending so I had nothing to base any pre-conceived expectations on, did I find it useful? Certainly yes, but for a variety of reasons, I always feel that if I take just 1 thing away from a seminar/event/meeting then it's been worthwhile, and that 1 thing may just be having taken the time out to sit back and think about my own practice and plan time to set aside and do something about it.

In respect of Xero........some people like to get caught up in the excitement of a (relatively) new product and will happily sign up there and then, others see through it for what the product is and the ethos of the company (or individual/s) behind it. I used Sage for years and years, not because I liked the company and certainly not because of their prices, but because it served its purpose and the competition in all honestly was not up to standard. With the introduction of alternatives to Xero, I look forward to seeing some healthy competition, I just hope the likes of ClearBooks etc don't get too big and lose their (relatively) small-firm qualities!

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Gary Turner
By garyturner
19th May 2014 11:50

Some balance

I thought Accountex was a great event, as good if not better than last year.

We invited 14 Add-on partners to join us this year (at their cost) which considerably boosted our floor space but the core Xero stand was more or less the same as last years.

@Paul - I think that is sour grapes (which you're perfectly entitled to feel) and you're being a little too cynical for the sake of competitor positioning. It's perfectly normal for exhibitors to have swag and give-aways at exhibitions and to adorn their stands with whatever they choose. I recall that the Clearbooks stand had a country hamper theme with jams and preserves on display. The more eclectic or silly the better, I say.

The overwhelming feedback I got over the two days was exceptionally positive and I believe we engaged well over 1,000 delegates over the course of the exhibition. Could we have achieved that with a small stand the size of Clearbooks? No way.

And the sentiment behind the quotation I tweeted was typical of feedback and commentary I received from a number of people, so strong and positive was atmosphere in the Xero village, reminiscent of our own conferences, so forgive me for getting caught up in the moment and blowing my own trumpet.

@Jaybee - keen to understand where you think we're missing the mark.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero


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By Paul Scholes
19th May 2014 14:48


It's a cheap shot to use my part-time consulting for CBs to accuse me of sour grapes, I am not your competitor and CBs are mature enough, and provide a more rounded product than Xero, to need any help from me on anti-marketing strategy.  

Beside which, if I was so anti Xero I would stop paying you £64 a month for my 3 clients, when I could get them at less than half that using CBs or other systems, especially as one would then have EU VAT accounting that was tax compliant.  I will move them if & when it is right for them, and not necessarily to CBs.

You & Sage are not the only businesses I complain about for being "all mouth but no trousers" and I also have no hesitation is saying to CBs that just because plastic pens, hampers & even a glass of bubbly have been the norm at these things for 30 years, sometimes natural selection will give even a sheep the power of innovation.

My lone voice concerns the unjustified inequality that results from a person, or business, using their wealth to buy the biggest trumpet available when an average one is all that's needed.

I can understand a 20 year old sales person getting carried away with their own hype & importance but, for a MD, your tweet was cheap and the one with a photo of Sage's sagging banner just goes to reinforce the image of a playground.






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By jaybee661
19th May 2014 16:10

I signed up as a Silver partner a long time ago and was promised many things, none of which I got.

I was promised a banner stand - never got it. I was promised the slides from a Xero roadshow where the screen was so tiny it was unreadable - never got them. I was promised marketing material at your London event - never got it.

I guess the biggest thing was signing up a new business as a partner - to this date I have heard nothing - this was at the beginning of April.

I decided after hearing nothing to sign up with one of your competitors who got back to me the very next day - and on their Facebook page I see clips aimed at helping people, not telling me how big their investment is, which to be fair I really couldn't care less about.

I am sorry but I must agree with Paul - that tweet is probably one of the most arrogant things I've ever heard!

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Gary Turner
By garyturner
19th May 2014 17:26

Respectfully retiring

@Paul - I'm walking away before this slagging match escalates any further. 

@jaybee - We're not perfect but that doesn't sound like us. It would be useful if you could permit me to investigate this further - if you feel like dropping me a note to [email protected] I'll do that.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero

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