Mike Williams is Director of Finance, Europe, at Intuit QuickBooks. He leads Intuit’s European financial operations and is responsible for pursuing the cloud accounting market and growing the business. He played a key role in relocating the UK’s headquarters from Maidenhead to central London in 2014 and also helped steer the development of new operations in France as the company continues to expand across Europe. Here he talks to Finance Monthly about his role, business looking forward into 2016, and the digital future of the finance world
The role of Director of Finance is well positioned to drive cultural change within a company. What goals did you arrive with as Director of Finance at Intuit QuickBooks?
While QuickBooks is the global leader, we are not number one in the UK market, so that is a goal I’ve been focused on since day one. We know we cannot have the same mentality and approach here that we do in the United States, where we have 90 per cent market share, so we’ve tried to build up a culture around acting like a challenger and being creative, when it comes to the competition.
What were some of your major achievements in this area in 2015?
We have had exponential growth in the past few years and just last year have gotten to a point where we are growing faster than the competition. This is a huge accomplishment for the team and puts us on the trajectory we want. Part of this success stems from the big bets we made last year to increase brand awareness, such as sponsoring a Premier League football team, Aston Villa, or running a nationwide advertising campaign.
QuickBooks Online Accountant offers access to real-time figures. Are you finding more and more that clients are doing business 24/7 and need this instant service? Is this the direction you see accounting software going in?
Absolutely, more and more small businesses are starting to manage their finances in the cloud to enable them to conduct back office work, such as bookkeeping and accounting on the move. A recent study found that 37% of small business owners are already adapting to the cloud, a figure that is set to rise to 78% by 2020.
Getting a complete overview of the company finances at the touch of a button not only simplifies the process by eliminating paperwork, but it also enables businesses to make fast and informed business decisions based on real-time data. By automating data uploads and being able to access real-time information on the move, small businesses are able to ditch some of the traditional time-heavy tasks such as receipt processing and invoice tallying and concentrate on doing what they love – starting, running and growing their businesses.
Intuit was already the most-used accounting software in the USA before the company moved into Europe. Was the marketing plan the same for both or were things adapted differently for the European marketplace?
We knew we had to take a completely different approach here with our marketing, given all the cultural differences and the fact that we were entering a new market and starting from scratch in terms of recognition. We’ve worked hard to educate small businesses and accountants not only about us, but also about the benefits of online accounting and how it can help them save time and grow their businesses. We’re really proud at the progress we’ve made in such a short time here – the UK is now one of the key markets for the company overall.
QuickBooks UK currently has various offers available online for percentages off the sale price or the product. Has this method helped the company enter the UK marketplace?
We always consider pricing as part of our marketing mix and the ‘four Ps’. For us, having the best product is always the most important focus and place is essential in making sure we show up where our customers are. We have a great marketing team that is always creating really compelling promotions and then the last piece we look at is price.
How do you reassure clients about the security of your product? Is this still a large concern for them, do you find?
Safeguarding the privacy and security of our customers’ data is our top priority. For over thirty years, we have been continually innovating and implementing the most advanced technologies and techniques to ensure the safety and privacy of our customers’ information. We deeply value the trust they place in us and we are committed to providing them with a safe and secure experience.
We try to regularly communicate about the efforts we take to continuously monitor our products and services, as well as the work we do with the Government and industry-leading cyber-security firms, in order to identify and stay one step ahead of any emerging threats. This gives our customers the peace of mind and confidence they need to not see it as a concern.
Looking into 2016, what do you anticipate for your role and for the company?
We’re still working on building our presence in the UK and continuing to serve the needs of small businesses and accountants across the country. We’re also really starting to ramp up our efforts in France, so that will be a big area of focus for me.
All of this effort is only worthwhile if we have a strong product, so we’re excited for all of the new innovations to our QuickBooks offering that we’ll be rolling out. We will be adding new features and functionalities to the core product, as well as continuing to improve our mobile capabilities and adding great third party app integrations. The work any of us do at the company is in service to our overall mission of improving our customers’ lives, so profoundly they can’t imagine going back to the old way, and that’s really what drives me.