We caught up with Ben Richmond, the US Country Manager who is responsible for Xero’s growth in the region. Ben joined Xero in New Zealand in 2013 where he led the country’s national growth and spearheaded Xero’s global agriculture strategy. He moved to Denver in 2017, where he previously served as Vice President of Business Growth on the Xero America’s leadership team.
Xero was founded in 2006 in New Zealand and today is one of the most well-known cloud-based accounting platforms, used by millions worldwide and active in 180 countries.
How Did Xero Respond To Covid-19?
Ben Richmond: When covid-19 struck, our first thought was ‘how do we support people’ – and this includes individual customers, businesses, bookkeepers and accountants.
To put it into context of the US market, you have a strict tax deadline for April 17th, which was around the start of covid-19.
The average bookkeeper and accountant was being inundated from their clients and Xero was helping to assist them. We made courtesy calls to partners to see how they were getting on, showing them the ropes with Slack and Zoom, so they could contact their clients and get their taxes in order – whilst also trying to make sense of the minefield of US government assistance that was being offered.
“2020 is the new 2025 – it has accelerated the adoption of cloud products and people have had to get used to using things like Slack and Zoom”
In addition to fostering closer relationships with bookkeepers and accountants, we made a number of strategic partnerships, including with Microsoft who built a covid-19 centre, allowing customers to easily find educational videos and webinars, get inspiration from the small business community and find tools that will help their businesses. Xero was also a launch partner for the new Shopify POS Pro. Xero and A2X work seamlessly with Shopify to help retailers grow their business and make finances and accounting simpler.
Partnerships like this really allowed us to meet the needs of our small business clients, particularly in this challenging economic environment caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Xero is very useful in the way that it offers access to their daily cash flow and gives SMEs real-time insights into their financials.
Do You Recall Any Interesting Moments Whilst Working at Xero?
Ben Richmond: I spent the first 4 years of my time with Xero working in New Zealand and I remember having to spell out Xero to people (it wasn’t with a ‘Z’!) and trying to explain what the cloud was.
When I got to the US and moved to Denver in 2017, the potential market size and scale was very exciting. My first presentation was in Alabama and you can imagine me standing there in front of a large room of executives with the thickest Kiwi accent – it was like something out of a movie.
I also had to get a chequebook when I got to the US because that was the only way to get paid.
Reflecting on my career with Xero, I pay respect to the start-up and entrepreneur community of New Zealand. With a population of 4 million people, we have a good testing ground to see if a product will be adopted and if something works well there, it has global potential – and Xero is a great case study for that.
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Were There Any Turning Points Whilst Working at Xero?
Ben Richmond: Xero was always exciting, emerging as a fast-growing and home-grown business from New Zealand. I remember hearing about friends and family using the platform and it was great to be involved with the company.
When I came to the US, I got an indication of the scale of the business and its full potential. There was a moment where I thought ‘this could be huge and change the accounting profession’ and today it is a household name.
There were also some changes in government policy and global trends such as Making Tax Digital in the UK and the growth of open banking – and we have been in a great position for both of these developments.
What Plans Does Xero Have for Growth?
Ben Richmond: We recently announced our office Toronto as a new global product and technology hub, with a key emphasis on building our AI and machine learning teams. The Toronto hub is a strategic commitment to our expansion in North America, we’re continuing to set North American roots, create jobs and lean into Toronto’s vast pool of tech talent.
We remain very much a growth company and its been incredible to see the rapid adoption of cloud technology over the last few months in the US. We are now in 180 countries and being competitive in the UK and North America is key for us.