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FreeAgent banks subscriber surge

21st Mar 2019
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FreeAgent roadshow

It’s been almost a year since FreeAgent was reeled into the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, and the move has proved a boon for the accounting software developer’s subscriber numbers.

Hot on the heels of the company’s Practice of the Future roadshow in Manchester last week, FreeAgent revealed to AccountingWEB that it had broken through the 80,000 active quarterly subscriber mark. The increase shows a marked rise since the last reported figures of 52,000 in 2017 and 32,000 in 2013.

While the figures have some way to go to match the worldwide millions touted by QuickBooks, Xero and Sage, as pointed out by industry commentator Richard Sergeant subscriber numbers are a game of scale: the bigger you are in cloud software, the greater the “network effect” that will accelerate the take-up of your product.

Kevin McCallum, FreeAgent’s chief commercial officer, said: “We’re delighted to reach this milestone and have more than 80,000 active monthly customers using FreeAgent.

“With the imminent introduction of Making Tax Digital for VAT, we’re looking forward to spreading our message even further and help more businesses to manage their finances better, relax about tax and work more effectively with their accountants.”

Banking partnership

The 2018 acquisition by the RBS Group gave FreeAgent access to more than one million business banking customers, although the Software Excellence award-winning tool has been available for free to existing RBS/NatWest clients since January 2017 through a previous tie-up between the two. According to the vendor, more than 10,000 customers have signed up via the banking partnership.

Speaking to several accountants at FreeAgent Practice of the Future roadshow, one point of concern was that the bank’s representatives were endorsing FreeAgent to businesses where it was not always appropriate and that accountants could potentially be left to pick up the pieces following unsuccessful implementations.

However, an RBS representative told AccountingWEB that their staff were ‘product agnostic’ when it came to accounting software, and were trained to know which solutions worked for which business.

One interesting aspect of the deal that still remains unclear is how the partnership is affected by the business banking space, and whether the tie-up has benefited the RBS Group and hurt other banks and fintech providers.

MTD: The final hurdle

At the Manchester event, FreeAgent also outlined its Making Tax Digital for VAT filing product, a solution its owners are touting to small businesses as a cost-effective way to solve the MTD problem.

The firm completed its first batch of VAT return submissions under the new digital tax regime back in February, and hundreds of FreeAgent’s small business customers have now successfully filed through the MTD pilot.

At the roadshow accountants echoed the frustration felt by AccountingWEB readers at the inability of the government’s Agent Services Account (ASA) to show whether clients have opted into the new VAT filing regime.

Addressing these concerns, FreeAgent advised those dealing with MTD migration to leave plenty of time for the message to sink in, and on a practical level to make sure all migrating clients have an email address to approve authority.

Replies (2)

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By David Gordon FCCA
21st Mar 2019 12:49

"However, an RBS representative told AccountingWEB that their staff were ‘product agnostic’ when it came to accounting software, and were trained to know which solutions worked for which business."

Really? So I with the thousands of my colleagues, with decades of client accounting experience, stewing our brains over the search for client relevant software, need only ask an RBS employee, who mostly knows SFA about business day-to-day accounting needs, for an expert opinion. The Oracle at Delphi springs to mind.

Is RBS prepared to give my client a signed letter -no caveats- that in its collective opinion the software recommended by its employee will work trouble-free for my client's business?
Has RBS taken advice from its PI insurer?
I suspect not.

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By GHarr497688
22nd Mar 2019 18:04

I have multiple clients expecting me how to tell them how to use these multiple cloud based products when I don’t even understand exactly how they work . I’ve done as suggested and written to Hmrc and get no reply .Are you getting this problem ?

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