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Hg Capital brings together BrightPay and Relate

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Acquisitive private equity house gives birth to new accounting-tax-payroll combine in Ireland.

29th Sep 2021
Editor in Chief AccountingWEB
Columnist
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Award-winning payroll software developer BrightPay has joined forces with Relate Software to create a new accounting and practice software suite.

The deal will establish a new multi-product software group to challenge Sage, IRIS and Xero in the UK and Ireland market. To add a little spice to the mix, the increasingly ubiquitous private equity house Hg Capital lent a helping hand to bring the two companies together. Hg, which had an existing holding in BrightPay, also owns a significant piece of the IRIS Software Group.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Hg Capital will become majority investor in the combined BrightPay/Relate business.

The founders of both software houses will remain with the merged organisation as significant shareholders and executives, with BrightPay founder Paul Byrne and Relate co-founder Ray Rogers acting as co-CEOs of the combined group.

The merger announcement published by BrightPay emphasised the complementary operational strengths and products of the two businesses.

Relate comeback

Accountants with long memories may recall Relate’s Drive practice management program, which won a string of AccountingWEB software awards during 2008-11. The company also offers a UK GAAP-compliant accounts production program, but with the advent of Making Tax Digital and rival cloud suites, the desktop Drive and Relate compliance products have dropped away in the UK market.

In the past year or two, however, Relate has opened a new international front with Surf Accounts, its own cloud accounting app.

Also based in Ireland, BrightPay has been gaining momentum in the UK and has its own collection of Payroll Software of the Year awards. The new alignment raises the prospect of a return to these shores for Relate as part of a “software champion serving payroll and accounting bureaus and SMEs across the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom”, as the official announcement put it.

When combined, BrightPay/Relate will have more than 190 employees and is planning to recruit more. Hg will also help the group invest further in new cloud innovations to deliver increased automation.

With tentacles now reaching from the Azets accounting network to IRIS, Silverfin, Access, Dext and their new BrightPay/Relate sibling, Hg Capital is playing a major role in shaping the UK accounting software scene. But taking such an acquisition heavy approach to the market creates its own risks and unanticipated consequences, for example in creating rivalries between a host of competitive payroll and practice brands including Surf Accounts and Kashflow (bookkeeping), Staffology, Earnie and IRIS (payroll), or Taxfiler, IRIS, PTP, Keytime and Relate (compliance and practice management).

Sage’s experience with multiple acquisitions in this market show that maintaining a complicated stable of practice solutions can confuse customers and dilute product focus. There’s a longstanding invitation for Hg’s tax and accounts experts to come and share their strategy roadmap to find out how they intend to manage potential overlaps and duplications.

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BrightPay/Relate will be one of the exhibitors at the AccountingWEB Live Expo in Coventry on 2-3 December. Register now to get an early sight of the new-look organisation.

AccountingWEB Live Expo takes place on 1-2 December 2021 at Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry. Registration is now open. A full content programme will be announced in early October enabling you to register for specific sessions. Please visit the AccountingWEB Live Expo website for full details and to sign up to our newsletter.

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Do you have any experience with Surf Accounts, Relate Drive and BrightPay and see any potential for them to challenge more established tax and practice software brands in the UK and Ireland? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below and we’ll put them to Hg Capital.

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