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Dext CEO Adrian Blair at the 2021 Accounting Excellence Awards ceremony
Adrian Blair_Accounting Excellence Awards

Changing of the guard at Xero and Dext

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​The beginning of December saw two major executive changes at leading cloud accounting developers Xero and Dext.

10th Dec 2021
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In the midst of AccountingWEB Live Expo, former Xero UK managing director Gary Turner posted on LinkedIn: “My last day at Xero today. Grateful to the team for making me look good all these years… A warm welcome & best wishes to Alexander von Schirmeister from tomorrow.”

The occasion was marked by a LinkedIn post from James Ashford, co-founder of Go Proposal, by Sage featuring a convincing pastiche video of Turner’s last day at Xero.

Following the LinkedIn trail from Turner’s post, we find that the new Xero CEO is an Isead MBA holder with a pan-European outlook and a track record that includes a 10-year stint at eBay. During his time with the online auction house, von Schirmeister was chief marketing officer for eBay Europe and general manager of 10+ countries including Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Sweden.

Confirming the obvious conclusion that the New Zealand-based developer has its sights on small business customers in Europe, von Schirmeister described his role as “driving Xero’s next phase of growth in our UK & EMEA regions, leading our teams to improve the lives of small businesses, their advisors and communities”.

Xero chief customer officer Rachael Powell commented, “Coming from a fintech firm and with his experience at eBay, Alex has a good understanding of small business finance, as well as a huge depth of leadership experience.”

Perhaps aware of recent sensitivities among UK accountants about how Xero has been treating them, she added: “This presents us with a great opportunity as we find more ways to support the accounting community in the years ahead.

“Alex is excited to get out and about in the new year to connect with accountants across the country. He’s keen to meet and chat with as many partners as possible to ensure we are as connected as possible to the community and fully understand their needs.”

Adrian Blair leaves Dext

At around the same time, rumours started circulating that Dext chief executive officer Adrian Blair is on his way out the door too. While still listed at Companies House as a director, Blair was reported to have left suddenly last week.

Dext chairman Steve Rowley is taking over the executive reins and in-house managers will pick up the slack as the hunt gets underway for Blair’s successor.

The last time AccountingWEB encountered Blair was at the Accounting Excellence Awards ceremony in October. During a short speech, he reflected on what he had learned in a recent online chat with Apple founder Steve Wozniak, who told him: “You have to feel the brains of the people who are hearing your words.” Wozniak’s fee for the webinar was said to be £75,000.

Blair also talked about the tech challenges of facing accountants who are seeing “people who flog software go straight to your clients and trying to get small businesses to replace their accountants with artificial intelligence”.

Dext is not like that, he told the audience, “We want to make you more powerful and have impact.”

The former Just Eats chief operating officer joined the company formerly known as Receipt Bank a couple of years after it had accepted $50m from Insight Venture Partners. During his two-plus years with the company, he saw the ever-acquisitive private equity group Hg Capital take a £12.6m stake and oversaw Receipt Bank’s rebranding to Dext. The name fused “dexterity with next”, signalling its ambition to take the accounting profession to the next level, he explained.

A few weeks afterwards, the original Receipt Bank founders resigned.

With formal comments in short supply about the situation at Dext, some observers took to LinkedIn for clues and turned up a recruitment post for Blair’s side-hustle at online executive development community Circl on the same day as Turner’s post. “Is he spending more of his time there?” pondered one accounting ecosystem watcher.

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