Ignition blog  /  Leverage technology  /  That’s a wrap on Xerocon Sydney 2023

LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY 8 mins 31 Aug 2023 by Kasey Clark
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Another Xerocon is in the books! Xerocon Sydney 2023 was a whirlwind of insights, innovations, and interactions, taking place at the International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney) on 23rd and 24th August.

Ignition kicked off the event with its sixth annual #IgnitionPrecon – a must-attend party on the Xerocon Sydney agenda, where the accounting community connected with colleagues, industry leaders, app partners and service providers. The event set the scene for two busy days of Xerocon activities, ranging from enlightening keynotes and breakout sessions to a bustling exhibitors' hall and Ignition’s packed live demo session.

In the exhibition hall, the Ignition team met with accountants and bookkeepers from across APAC at the Ignition booth. And at the live demo of Ignition, presented by Ignition’s Senior Partnerships Manager Ethan Cooney, it was standing room only, with around 100 people crowding around to see how the all-in-one platform for professional services empowers businesses to get paid faster and run smarter.

Want to see Ignition in action right now? Watch our instant demo.

Peter Morgan, a chartered accountant and a Key Account Manager for APAC at Ignition, was among the Xerocon delegates. Here, he highlights notable sessions and summarises key takeaways for accountants and bookkeepers in Australia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

Focusing on integrations

With over 70 apps on display at the event, for Peter Morgan, integrations were a key area of interest. “I deal with a lot of customers in my role. And part of the role, as well as helping them with Ignition, is fitting together their processes so they're more efficient,” he says. “I saw lots and lots of customers, talking about issues they've got in their businesses.”

A word from Xero’s economist

For Peter Morgan, Louise Southall, Xero's economist, set the tone of the conference with two key messages during the Xerocon opening showcase. First, she highlighted that 'productivity' would trump 'inflation' as the buzzword in economics in the next five to 10 years.

“She spoke about how everybody's trying to become more efficient. People are working from home, so the focus is on being productive despite all these new arrangements that we've got to put in place to keep and retain staff,” Peter Morgan says.

Louise Southall cited using artificial intelligence (AI) – a big theme at Xerocon – as an approach to improving productivity and getting more done with less. Peter Morgan commented that with fewer entrants to the profession, embracing offshoring, and taking advantage of automations within apps (like Ignition) was also central to this.

Her second key message addressed the escalating issue of late payments. She pointed out that it was worse for accountants and bookkeepers in Australia than it was last year and that it's twice as bad in the UK, and three times as bad in the United States. "[Ignition] solves that problem of late payment of invoices by collecting the payment at the source... We're a really good fit for that," Peter Morgan says.

A leading futurist talks AI

Futurist Mark Pesce helped demystify AI for accountants in a session that Peter Morgan found particularly valuable. “He contextualised it really well in terms of what accountants can do to learn and use AI a little bit more, so they can help their clients,” he says.

Mark Pesce broke down the differences between Chat GPT, Modicus Prime, Bing Chat, and Google Bard, explaining how each operates slightly differently and how you could adjust questions to each AI bot to get the desired answers. He also offered a word of caution to accountants and bookkeepers. “He gave some warnings around the answers they get and to understand that sometimes AI can get things wrong, but used well, it can be really good for becoming more efficient and boosting productivity.”

A surprise guest

To the astonishment of a lot of attendees, Jason Staats, a global influencer in the accounting sphere, unexpectedly appeared at an AI breakout session that Xero was producing. "His name was up on the screen… he was actually there," says Peter Morgan. Jason Staats had flown in from America to share the stage with Xero's AI expert and offer key insights.

“The one that resonated most for me is he said that AI is all a bit like the Wild West for us; we're all a bit wary of it and not sure how we use it in our business or how our clients can use it in theirs,” says Peter Morgan.

But Jason Staats suggested the way to do it is to get involved in interest groups. Try a little bit out for yourself. Stay one step ahead of your client, and then you can advise.

“If it's not us as accountants and advisors helping our clients with AI, who's it going to be?” Peter Morgan recounts.

“Who's going to step into that space and do it? Nobody is. That field is there, and we should be taking that opportunity as accountants,” he says.

An appeal to the next generation of accountants and bookkeepers

Sea Forest CEO and sustainability advocate Sam Elsom also delivered a captivating speech at Xerocon. Peter Morgan said he touched on various topics, but the overarching theme of sustainability particularly resonated with the conference's newer and younger attendees. “Certainly, everybody is now aware of the importance of climate and sustainability,” he says. “So that went down really well, especially as there was a younger demographic at Xerocon this year.”

For tomorrow’s accounting and bookkeeping professionals, sustainability is top of mind for a number of reasons. They’re looking for work with purpose and that aligns with their values. In many cases, they are deeply concerned about the environment and climate change, and prefer to work for companies that share these concerns and are actively doing something about it.

What’s more, given the shortage in the accounting industry, it’s in firms’ best interests to be environmentally responsible and sustainable to be more attractive to incoming professionals.

Go for launch: Initiatives and product announcements

Xerocon was also abuzz with several exciting announcements from Xero itself. Among the most noteworthy was the launch of Xero’s Beautiful Business Fund. “They're putting up some funding for small businesses, including accountants, to be able to do good things in their local communities,” says Peter Morgan.

Australian applicants can apply for the grant through Xero and if successful, receive $20,000 AUD, with a chance to win $50,000 AUD. “That went down really well with delegates,” he says. “I'm sure a lot of accountants will be referring their clients in for that program.”

Xero also unveiled some product updates. “I think the one that went down best was that Xero is unifying the client record, so the same client record will run across Xero HQ, [Xero Practice Manager] XPM, and Xero Tax,” says Peter Morgan. “That’s going to help customers who use those three apps to stop having to manage multiple databases and multiple instances of the same client.”

Xero has also reactivated the bank feed with American Express, a widely used payment platform for accountants and their clients. “Anybody who's using Xero is going to have a bank feed in place,” says Peter Morgan. “It’s quite a time-saver, so that went down really well as well on the product side.”

Key messages from the keynote speaker

Day two of Xerocon kicked off with a compelling keynote from Xero's CEO, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy. Peter Morgan says her address revolved around her personal journey and her vision for her role. She also encouraged the audience to tap into their superpower and leverage it to maximum impact.

“Understand what you're really good at and then go off and help your clients by doing that as much as you can with them,” says Peter Morgan. “That’s what she was getting at … so that was quite powerful.”

She also emphasised the importance of being brave when advising clients on cutting-edge topics such as AI. But she urged them to remain vigilant about customer service. “She said, ‘Be really paranoid about customer service, making sure you’re servicing your clients properly’,” he says.

Challenging the accounting model with Will Buckley

Will Buckley, Xero's country manager for Australia, shared some critical insights on the challenges facing the accounting profession in attracting young talent. Offshoring is one approach to mitigating the shortage of accountants, but Will Buckley emphasised the necessity of training onshore personnel in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

He challenged the traditional accounting model where you join a firm and aspire to become a partner, encouraging the accounting profession, including professional bodies, to question this approach.

“He showed a video of a firm in Australia that has broken the model,” Peter Morgan says. “All of the accountants were in a very flat structure. They were all bringing in their individual skill set, and as a team, they were servicing their client base really well. The profits and compensation were shared equitably, and there was no top-down partnership manager, processes, and structures.”

Will Buckley underscored the need to redefine accounting to make it more appealing to the younger generation. Rather than identifying as accountants or bookkeepers, he suggested embracing the role of 'financial storytellers' and relationship builders. “We do a lot more than just crunching the numbers,” says Peter Morgan. “So that resonated from Will’s talk.”

Buckley encouraged a new perspective on individual skills and contributions: “He said, ‘Think global but go deep in a technical area. Think global but go deep in a specific industry. Develop a niche. And then think locally – having done those two things – and get involved in your local community’,” recounts Peter Morgan.

Where to from here?

Xerocon offered a wealth of insights, and for Peter Morgan, much of what Will Buckley spoke about rings true: thinking globally; getting good in a tech area; getting good in a specific industry; thinking locally as far as how you can service your community. “That's key, because if we all do that, then small businesses across Australia are going to benefit,” says Peter Morgan. “Because people are going to be skilled up and able to apply their knowledge and expertise in their local areas, and their local communities will benefit.”

Also, warns Peter Morgan, don't necessarily join a firm that’s stuck in the old ways, where you can be working for five or 10 years before you even get to manager and then another five years before you get to partner. “Soon you'll be 40-odd, and you’ll have missed all the fun,” he says.

Finally, learn how Ignition can help your practice bring some of the key messages and learnings from Xerocon to life. From eliminating late payments with upfront payments to boosting productivity through automation, Ignition is walking the Xerocon talk. Want to find out more about Ignition? Watch our instant demo.

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Kasey Clark
Kasey Clark


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Published 31 Aug 2023 Last updated 19 Mar 2024