Forms alliance with Acclipse.
BoxFreeIT asked BankLink’s Richard Reese, genera manager of operations, why it had formed an alliance with Acclipse, vendor of iBizz and accounting practice management software iFirm. An edited transcript is below.
An interview with Acclipse CEO Mike Chisholm about iBizz’s features and price is here.
BoxFreeIT: How did BankLink get involved?
Richard Reese: We had worked and known Mike (Chisholm, Acclipse CEO) for a very long time (Chisholm was a founder of CA Systems, accounting practice software that was sold to MYOB in 1999 and became MYOB Accountants Office).
Mike picked up the phone and said, I have this idea, this is what I want to do, are you guys able to work with me?
When Mike said it was going to be an accountant-centric solution – it would only be delivered or sold by an accountant – that really resonated with us. Our whole philosophy is allowing the accountant to control the accounting process and (Mike’s approach was) perfectly aligned with how BankLink believes accounting services should be delivered. It was a natural fit, in a way.
BoxFreeIT: But business owners like to pick software that fits their business model or industry. And the latest accounting software is much easier to use – it’s possible for the business owners to create basic reports themselves. By limiting sales to accountants aren’t you taking the choice away from the SME?
Reese: If you’ve got a business owner who doesn’t know how to do a bank reconciliation, doesn’t understand accrual accounting, cannot code expenses correctly, then the information that they produce is going to be inaccurate and wrong.
The accountant is best placed to have that conversation and ask, How involved do you want to be in the process? Our experience with 250,000 business owners and 4,500 accounting firms has shown that a big chunk of small businesses are happy to outsource to the accountant and take that advice.
A lot of businesses don’t need the level of functionality those solutions provide to get their BAS (business activity statements) or annual accounts done. The accountant can do that in-house for them and they don’t need to spend $600-$1,000 a year on an accounting solution.
BoxFreeIT: How much will iBizz cost?
Reese: $5 a month plus data costs. We’re looking to offer a fixed data price for iBizz products but it really depends on how many bank accounts a business owner has and uses to run the business. In general terms the costs for an SME are $10-15 a month for data. I’d fully expect that the total price would be under $20 a month for an SME.
BoxFreeIT: Does BankLink own a part of iBizz?
Reese: It’s not a joint venture or a financial partnership. The best term I use is an alliance. We have a vision about delivering a small business solution through accountants. We’re cooperating with Mike and we’ll enable data supply and we’ll operate it as seamlessly.
BoxFreeIT: How does iBizz work on the data side?
Reese: There will be two choices that the accountant can make. They will receive the data first and they could choose to code before they send it on to iBizz, and that will be done really efficiently through our online platform. Or the data can be sent to iBizz and the business owner can code it in and complete the accounting process.
The first method means the accountant can add value and largely complete the accounting process in coding the data.
BoxFreeIT: Where does iBizz compete?
Reese: I see it pushing up beyond BankLink’s traditional solutions into the MYOB, QuickBooks, Xero space where you have small business owners who have a greater level of sophistication and needs with the solution they’re using.
BoxFreeIT: Did you get other feedback about iBizz from other vendors?
Reese: We talk regularly to other providers in the market, I guess it’s really whether they want to work with us. Our door is open. Historically BankLink has been and we continue to be an integrator of data and general ledgers for accountants. We work with MYOB, Handisoft, ABS and Acclipse to integrate data into their systems.
BoxFreeIT: Will your decision to form an alliance with Acclipse push other vendors to using Yodlee (a BankLink competitor) or enter into direct agreements with the banks for data feeds?
Reese: It’s pretty clear why MYOB is using BankLink to power their solutions.We have 25 years of reliability, read-only data sources, we go in through the front doors and enter into commercial relationships with the institutions we receive data from and we have to comply with their security requirements.
Other players in the market have made the choice to go to other (financial data) providers. If you have a look at Xero’s front page on data feeds you can just see that they have issues with links breaking. Screen-scraping is not the perfect method.