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kevin mccallum joins AccountancyManager

McCallum steps up to CEO as Bright gears up for growth

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Kevin McCallum has been appointed as CEO at Bright Group and faces diverse challenges, including growing an ambitious brand, launching new products in the UK and consolidating a wide range of existing tools.

23rd Aug 2022
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In a move that marks the culmination of a dramatic 18 months in Kevin McCallum’s career, the former FreeAgent executive has gone from a non-executive director role at AccountancyManager to group CEO of Bright Group. This is following the decision of Bright Group’s founder and former CEO, Paul Byrne, to move away from day-to-day operations.

The challenge inherited by McCallum is a sizeable one – moulding a diverse range of products built on different platforms into a coherent, integrated solution for accountants, and is comparable to acquisitive software houses such as Sage and IRIS.

Bright’s stable of products currently encompasses desktop payroll stalwart BrightPay, recently acquired cloud practice management tool AccountancyManager, Irish marketing-leading compliance suite Relate and cloud bookkeeping engine Surf Accounts. The group currently supports more than 7,000 accounting practices and more than 30,000 small to mid-sized businesses across Ireland and the UK. 

Formed in September 2021 following a merger between BrightPay and Relate, Bright Group continues to expand its ambitions, in part thanks to an injection of funding from accounting-friendly private equity firm Hg Capital.

Well placed to grow

Speaking to AccountingWEB following the announcement of the news, McCallum said the group is well positioned to use its marketplace credibility as a lever for growth. “We’re well placed to grow without the legacy issues faced by our competitors,” said McCallum. “We believe that with the quality of our products and our customer satisfaction scores, we have a real opportunity to forge our own path.”

The path in question leads towards a unified, integrated cloud suite solution – in McCallum’s words, “to be the answer to any question an accountant can ask from a software point of view”.

The group is a few months away from launching Surf Accounts in the UK, while the much-anticipated cloud version of payroll tool BrightPay will be available in the early part of next year.

While McCallum was silent on the idea of bringing Relate’s accounts production and tax software across the Irish Sea to the UK, the idea must seem a logical progression for a group intent on growth, along with additional cashflow forecasting tools. 

Earlier this year, AccountingWEB’s State of the Nation Accounting Software report identified a battle among the major vendors to win the hearts and minds of UK accountants. While Xero, Sage, Intuit QuickBooks and FreeAgent remain the most commonly used accounting platforms, no vendor has a dominant share in the market, leaving the door open for a savvy operator to establish a foothold.

The software pendulum swings

One area of tax McCallum was keen to touch on was the challenge faced by practitioners in the run up to the mandation of Making Tax Digital for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA) – and the support and services software vendors should be providing for their customers.

“The way of doing things now won’t scale for MTD ITSA,” he said. “A lot of clients that don’t use accountants will come looking for them when they realise what’s happening and it will be an interesting journey for a few practices.”

McCallum believes the current transformation in accounting software presents an opportunity for platforms such as Bright and other accounting engines to add more core capability within primary offerings. 

“If I look at the number of apps on my phone, that number tends to decline rather than increase,” he said. “In the accounting world, we have the ability to bring things together under one umbrella. 

“There’s a place for best-of-breed software but it feels like the pendulum has swung back towards accountants preferring their solutions from one provider,” continued McCallum. “Compare the current state of the software market to 2020 or 2021, when you had a broader range of independent businesses with smart offerings like Senta, GoProposal and AccountancyManager – all have since been acquired.”

Increased data access

McCallum also referenced the opportunity presented by increased access to business data – both for software houses and their accounting customers. 

“You can get a lot out of FreeAgent or Xero from the data they have at their disposal and we’re no different,” he said. “Payroll, practice management, accounts production, bookkeeping – all of them can be integrated into one workflow – the what, how and when of businesses, all presented via a unified set of data living in the same suite of products.”

Byrne now steps into the role of founder board director, and McCallum was quick to pay tribute to his predecessor, a chartered accountant who founded BrightPay parent company Thesaurus Software as a sideline 32 years ago. “It’s hard to overstate the importance of Paul’s role in getting Bright to where we are today,” said McCallum. “So much of what makes Bright a great business to work with is down to Paul, as is the fantastic opportunity we now have to create something very special for our existing and future customers. I’m also delighted that Paul will continue to be involved with the business on an ongoing basis.”

Replies (4)

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Tornado
By Tornado
24th Aug 2022 10:11

“The way of doing things now won’t scale for MTD ITSA,” he said. “A lot of clients that don’t use accountants will come looking for them when they realise what’s happening and it will be an interesting journey for a few practices.”

They may come looking but in many cases Accountants will not have the resources, finances or inclination to assist these millions of people with no accountancy knowledge or the funds to pay for the assistance they require, and they will be directed towards the software developers or HMRC for help.

Those that are capable of dealing with Accounting and other software are already well established and are not a particular problem. Those that have been unable to use Digital Technology for various reasons and the millions who will now be caught by the net will be a BIG problem, but not for this Accountant, as I will not be taking on that type of work.

Ironically, I think MTD is a greater opportunity for software developers than Accountants, by being able to provide full on-going support and training services to new and existing users of their software so that the millions of questions about how to use it and the legal obligations connected with correct use of the software, can be answered by developers rather than wasting the limited resources of Accountants and other professionals.

I have no legal or moral obligation, (with the prospect of little or no profit for hours of additional work), to help these millions of people suddenly overwhelmed by the complexity of MTD for ITSA. The responsibility of ensuring MTD for ITSA works correctly is not that of Accountants, but quite obviously HMRC and to a large extent, software developers.

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Replying to Tornado:
avatar
By Hugo Fair
24th Aug 2022 10:28

"Ironically, I think MTD is a greater opportunity for software developers than Accountants, by being able to provide full on-going support and training services to new and existing users of their software so that the millions of questions about how to use it and the legal obligations connected with correct use of the software ..."

Interesting. I follow the logic but software developers/suppliers don't typically have relevant PII or AML registration or ... (allowing provision of tax advice)?

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Replying to Hugo Fair:
Tornado
By Tornado
24th Aug 2022 11:13

"Interesting. I follow the logic but software developers/suppliers don't typically have relevant PII or AML registration or ... (allowing provision of tax advice)?"

Yes indeed, hence my reference to a great opportunity for them to develop this area of support.

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David Ross
By davidross
25th Aug 2022 09:38

The career path of this ambitious executive was not hard to foresee. He moves in to our beloved Accountancy Manager then sells it and moves up to take over the new 'parent'. Of course he is just that, an executive, not an owner, and I have no doubt that the shareholders of AM will thank him for helping them to cash out.

Good luck to him - I just hope he does not wreck Accountancy Manager on the way. Early signs are frightening with the change to possibly its key feature, the task manager. Why do people have to fix what is not broken?

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