QuickBooks Unveils Products to Break Down Barriers to Small Business Finance

At this year's annual QuickBooks Connect conference, Intuit unveiled a host of smart financial services powered by years of data aimed at arming customers with new and easy-to-use tools to better manage their business finances. From loan applications that already know the applicant, to natural-language querying and commands, QuickBooks is leveraging big data and machine learning while keeping its focus on small business and self-employed customers.

Every business is looking for ways to turn data into actionable insights in order to gain a competitive edge. At this year's QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, Intuit presented new functionalities that bring the power of enterprise data analytics to every QuickBooks customer.

First, QuickBooks users now have access to a new financing source, QuickBooks Capital, which offers short-term financing to a large, underserved segment of small businesses. In fact, 70 percent of new businesses say they need funding, but only 23 percent get the funding they need, according to Rania Succar,VP of QuickBooks Capital.

QuickBooks Capital is powered by a breakthrough credit model built on more than 26 billion data points in the QuickBooks ecosystem. It allows businesses as young as six months to use their own data to qualify for loans. And because the data is already within QuickBooks, loan applications can be processed within minutes, with funding delivered within a day or two.

To-date, 60 percent of QuickBooks Capital customers would likely not have been approved elsewhere, and 46 percent are applying for a loan for the first time.

Finding Accounting and Tax Pros

Another novel use of data highlighted at the show is the QuickBooks Find-A-ProAdvisor platform, a service from QuickBooks that matches small businesses and self-employed individuals with professional accountants and bookkeepers. This is a very important service, as 89 percent of SMBs say they are more successful when they work with an accountant, according to Rich Preece, global leader of Intuit's Accountant Segment.

Last year, more than 1 million SMBs sought accounting help from the more than half-million accountants using QuickBooks Accountant, Preece said. The platform averages 1,000 referral connections a day, using data points from both the accountant and SMB to create the best match.

Sales Tax, Simplified

Powered by a combination of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), another new feature of QuickBooks is sales tax automation, as a result of a recent acquisition of Exactor. By analyzing a business's ship-from and ship-to addresses, combined with the type of item shipped, QuickBooks now generates the correct sales tax for virtually any item shipped in the US and across the globe.

"When users have to make a decision that makes them uncomfortable, we're going to find ways to make them more confident and take that work off their plate," said Alex Chriss, SVP and Chief Product Officer, Small Business, ‎Intuit. "For example, automatic sales tax calculation doesn't sound sexy, but when you sell a product that has sales tax associated with it, you have a problem, since that calculation is mind-numbingly difficult," he added.

By calculating sales tax and enabling quarterly tax e-filing, QuickBooks eliminates a big hurdle for retail and online business owners, aiding expansion into new markets.

New Voice Assistant

Enhancing user experience within QuickBooks has also become a priority for the product teams. Since users of every generation are turning to their mobile devices rather than laptops, the introduction of a new voice assistant for QuickBooks is a welcome addition for many.

Cassie Divine, VP of QuickBooks Self-Employed, gave a demonstration of QuickBooks Assistant at QuickBooks Connect, using natural language queries such as "show me October revenue," and demonstrating contextual capabilities by asking follow-on questions like, "How does that compare to last month?" Divine also demonstrated that users can ask for reports to be emailed, say to an accounting professional, purely through voice commands.

Showing off the AI built into the assistant, text bubbles with typical follow-up questions appeared on the screen of Divine's smartphone after each query. Currently available on iOS and Android, the voice assistant will soon be available for browser-based QuickBooks users, as well.

Speeding Time to Payment

Even the most successful small businesses say getting paid on time is a challenge. By offering simplified integration with merchant accounts, QuickBooks wants to change that picture. "Only eight percent of invoices are sent electronically, and only two percent are payment-enabled," said Jimena Almendares, VP of QuickBooks Payments. "Pay-enabled invoices get paid 2.9 times faster, and 40 percent of Apple Pay invoices are paid the same day," she explained, while demonstrating a simplified sign-up for merchant accounts. By leveraging the data QuickBooks has on-file for customers, Intuit has reduced onboarding a merchant account from a five-step, 33-click process that often took 48 hours -- resulting in a low, 20 percent submit rate -- to a one-step, one-click, one-minute process with a 70 percent submit rate, according to Almendares.

Do Business in Gmail

With more than a billion users, Gmail and the Google Apps suite are thoroughly entrenched in the business world. QuickBooks Connect attendees learned how a new Gmail add-on widget for invoicing lets small business customers invoice their clients directly from Gmail, enabling business owners to create and send invoices without having to exit the Gmail application.

A Smarter Approach to Finances

All the announcements and demonstrations at QuickBooks Connect followed a central theme, which Sasan Goodarzi, Executive Vice President and General Manager of QuickBooks at Intuit, described as enabling smart connections, smart decisions, and smart money for QuickBooks customers. The company is embracing the rapid pace of technology evolution powered by big data and machine learning, while retaining its customer-first business focus it's had for many decades.

"As we shift from doing data entry to being proactive, applications will shift to leveraging available data to provide proactive insights, enabling business owners to avoid mistakes in the first place," Chriss said. "With proactive technology and machine learning, QuickBooks is democratizing financial management, to help the Uber driver and the florist - from the self-employed to the small business owner. That can change their world."