Kevin Deasy of Accounting Pro tells Pádraig Hoare how his company is thriving in the outsourced/contract accounting market despite the threat posed by AI and automation.
Even the most traditional of businesses can be disrupted in the technological age, according to Kevin Deasy.
The Bishopstown native fused accounting with tech in setting up Accounting Pro, which targets contractors, after extensive research on the freelance sector.
Just as software-as-a-service (SaaS) has become one of the most lucrative tech areas for developers in recent years, Mr Deasy’s system is akin to accounting-as-a-service, targeting contractors such as tradespeople, project managers, consultants, and other freelancers, as well as startups and SMEs.
“Accounting Pro is the fastest- growing and premium brand in the Irish contractor accounting market. We also provide accounting and payroll services to the SME and startup markets.
“Having former contractors on our management team, we feel we understand our market intimately and provide services that match their needs. We also leverage off our technology experience to automate and simplify the accounting experience for our clients,” he said.
Having been a contractor in several countries for many years, Mr Deasy said he garnered a lot of experience on various accounting solutions.
The accounting firms servicing the contractor market in Ireland are firms set up by accountants with their needs in mind, as opposed to contractors’ needs in mind, naccording to Mr Deasy.
“Accounting Pro thinks from the point of view of the contractor, as I was a contractor for many years. I have brought that experience to the table, and we build our solutions bearing in mind their needs.
“Also, we learned there was confusion in the market from contractors [as to] what their choices were and what the service they had signed up for was. Many really did not know what they were using or why, when they had signed up with companies,” Mr Deasy said.
A challenge for a disruptor like Accounting Pro is persuading contractors to break with tradition, Mr Deasy said.
“The traditional route to market for contractors is via recruitment agencies. They already operate with existing companies and have a close relationship with the existing players.
"It can be hard to break into the market as a result. We spend a lot of time building our brand recognition and differentiating our product from other providers in the market to win business and gain new channels to the market.”
Irish agencies and organisations set up to help firms like Accounting Pro could be doing more to assist, according to Mr Deasy.
“We have found dealing with the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland a challenge. It can be quite hard to engage, gain traction and to talk to the right people to get assistance.
For any business starting out, assistance is vital for success. Although we did not get the help we thought we deserved, we still managed to make a profit after our first year’s trading and have employed new staff in Ireland, and opened an office in the City of London, by the Bank of England building.”
Mr Deasy said breaking into markets such as the US is on the horizon for Accounting Pro.
“For the rest of 2018, we will continue to take market share in Ireland; into 2019 we will expand our UK foothold via Accounting Pro UK, using our unique contractor-driven approach, and then push into further markets farther afield. Our vision is to look at the US market and to expand there to assist the contractor market,” he said.
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation is “absolutely” a threat to the traditional financial services sector, but Accounting Pro has anticipated the changes predicted in the coming years, Mr Deasy said.
“AI and robotics is making a huge impact in financial services.
“Already JP Morgan in the US is employing robotics to process mortgage applications. It is only a matter of time before this level of tech hits accounting.
“Accounting Pro has already developed software that allows clients to enter and upload their client data and timesheets and automatically generate invoice and notifications. It also integrates with other software packages via APIs and allows secure communications with clients, and to send automated notifications to clients as part of a detailed workflow process.
“The automation component of the application is constantly being upgraded,” he said.
The firm has attracted attention from would-be investors as it expands its services, Mr Deasy said.
“We offer a whole suite of additional services — discounted healthcare offers, banking advice, pension solutions, insurance, company incorporation, FX services, and funding. We also have IT expertise - website build, search engine optimisation, system development and support.