Accountants can now offer FreeAgent for free to existing RBS/NatWest clients, which the company is touting as a neat way to solve the MTD problem.
“It’s not quite a point of singularity,” according to Kevin McCallum, FreeAgent’s chief commercial officer, “but there’s a convergence”. He was referring to FreeAgent’s latest announcement on offering free licences to existing RBS/NatWest business banking clients.
Accountants can now, via their FreeAgent dashboard, add any new customer that’s an RBS/NatWest business account holder for free. It’s the latest development arising from FreeAgent’s recent acquisition by the RBS Group, which already sees the banking giant offering FreeAgent software free of charge to all its small business customers.
“We are now in the position where we can offer our accountants exactly the same offer,” said Nick Longden, FreeAgent’s VP of sales. “It gives accountants a nice solution to their customers who were looking for a solution to their MTD problem. The fact that it’s free of charge is a bonus.”
Both McCallum and Longden stressed that the free licenses will offer the full range of FreeAgent services, with bank feed as standard. While the ability to wheel out MTD-ready software for free is also an eye-catching development for accountants.
More broadly, the initiative is striking because it ties together market-warping trends like MTD, open banking and cloud accounting. Hence McCallum’s quip about singularity and convergence. He was keen to avoid any insinuation that FreeAgent was not operationally indedependent.
“FreeAgent was been acquired by the largest business bank in the UK - okay, that’s great. It gives us access to resources, assets and investment money. But it’s not as simple as 'RBS wanted to buy a business with licence revenue and sell more licences'. It’s more nuanced than that.”
The big banks, according to McCallum, aren’t immune to the effects of digitisation and the migration to online. A big bank can’t necessarily turn on a sixpence and adapt its services overnight. An arrangement like FreeAgent and RBS’s, then, is unique, he said.
“These days, it’s about the different levels of value you can demonstrate to a customer by offering a better journey and more access to the right information, data, tools and services.
“FreeAgent is unique, being a part of but operationally independent of the bank. None of our competitors are in a position to be bought by a major bank. We have this opportunity to do things differently.”