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Accounting Excellence Awards 2022
Accounting Excellence Awards 2022

Awards highlight payments and practice software trends

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The software element of last week’s Accounting Excellence Awards captured a number of trends swirling around the industry, including the rise of payment solutions and practice efficiency tools.

15th Sep 2022
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As the dust settles on the Tobacco Dock stage following the Accounting Excellence awards, it’s worth taking a look in more detail at the vendor gongs that formed part of the occasion – and having a quick sift through the tea leaves to see if they point to any wider trends or future direction for the profession.

A panel of four judges examined the entries before whittling them down to a shortlist of five and ultimately choosing a winner. Here’s a rundown of the three software categories at the awards, including who won and why, and the broader implications for the industry as a whole.

Partnership award: Fathom

The partnership award highlights vendors going beyond the call of duty to support customers and working with accountant partners to help them and their clients grow. 

The judges felt that forecasting, reporting and analysis app Fathom stood “head and shoulders” above the other entries in the field, and highlighted Fathom’s well-articulated partnership strategy that was backed up by strong retention and customer care statistics.

“The theory matches the reality,” commented one judge. “We have relationships with 150 different software solutions, and I can honestly say that Fathom is one of the best. We don’t have to work at it, it just works.”

Fathom recently made the news after it was acquired by the fast-growing Asia-Pacific wing of the UK’s Access Group. The forecasting app market has found itself in a period of consolidation in recent months, with Futrli, Fluidly and Fathom all snapped up by larger players.

AccountingWEB’s head of insight Julian Green has been predicting and tracking a tough year for reporting and forecasting developers, as users have shown a preference for accessing these functions from within their main accounting platforms. 

As part of his work on AccountingWEB’s Insights programme, Green highlighted a “confusing demand structure” for such tools, where users want a straightforward solution so staff or clients can get better control, but also a tool that enables the user to get better visibility and that provides access to funding.

“This demand complexity makes it difficult for the specialist solutions to differentiate and add sufficient value over and above Excel or the built-in apps to build significant market share. Our latest research has Adaptive Insights, Castaway, Fathom, Float, Fluidly, Futrli and Spotlight having a collective share of 17% of this category.”

Product innovation: Karbon

For the product innovation of the year category, the judges were looking for a solution released in the past year that displayed genuine innovation, delivered value or solved issues for accountants, and was different to what’s already available on the market.

In a tightly fought race, Karbon prevailed with its My Week solution, which allows firms to organise work, tasks and email into a manageable action plan, outlining exactly what they need to do and when.

In the words of one judge, “At the moment, no one else does email triaging from within a practice management system – this is unique to them. They had a well-articulated strategy for how to solve workflow management problems, cut through the noise of modern working life and exceed their client’s expectations.”

The win comes as a bittersweet victory for Karbon, as this week its CEO Stuart McLeod, posted an internal memo on LinkedIn announcing 23% staff cuts to “provide the runway necessary to reach profitability”.

At the start of the year, many practitioners told AccountingWEB they were heading into 2022 with a menu of things they wanted to improve once they had dealt with the demands of self assessment season, with practice management and workflow efficiency tools high on the list.

Suppliers have responded to this demand with a range of new cloud-based tax and practice products. These include IRIS Elements, BTCSoftware’s cloud tools and Bright Group’s continued bolstering of AccountancyManager, while cloud-native products such as Capium and Nomisma continue to prosper.

AccountingWEB’s Green divides practice management software shoppers into three camps: “Those who want to communicate more efficiently with clients, those who wish to allocate resources more efficiently, and those who want to improve workflow automation. The current vendors have very different propositions, often with two of the three boxes ticked. The supplier who successfully ticks all the boxes and communicates that fact will gain most new clients.”

Best newcomer: Crezco

The software newcomer of the year category is for vendors that have introduced a product or solution in the past 18 months that has helped accountants be more effective in their work. To win, the product needs to demonstrate that it has made a real impact or displayed genuine in the marketplace.

In a tight field with new companies and innovations from existing vendors, open-banking-based payments platform Crezco prevailed, impressing the judges with its international network that promises to liberate small business payments from the incumbent, card-based tools.

“What they’re doing is actually new and different,” said one judge. “There are obviously other apps and software in the payments space, but Crezco is a new product solving an old problem in a different way.”

The judges also highlighted the tool’s ease of use and the fact that it consolidated a number of processes: direct debits, recurring payments, payment links and recurring invoices, among others. While other operators in the payments arena offer similar services, none are as smooth as Crezco.

After a period of comparative inactivity, 2022 has seen an explosion of activity in the payments software world. With costs on the rise and an increasingly challenging hiring market, efficiency in all things has become a watchword in accountancy, and for tech vendors, the payments space is still relatively low-hanging fruit.

Along with Crezco, we’ve seen the likes of Libeo, Pleo, Modulr, World First Comma, Airwallex, Telleroo and Nook all exhibiting at this year’s accountancy trade shows, all offering different options for businesses and accounting firms.

 

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