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‘It’s a great example of the power of the ecosystem’: Intuit’s new QuickBooks card reader is about more than taking payments

  • Intuit recently launched a creatively-designed card reader for SMBs.
  • It's all part of ecosystem building aimed at helping small businesses with all their financial needs.
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‘It’s a great example of the power of the ecosystem’: Intuit’s new QuickBooks card reader is about more than taking payments

QuickBooks recently introduced QuickBooks Card Reader, a new mobile payments device designed for today’s small business owners. Integrated with the QuickBooks Mobile app, QuickBooks Card Reader connects to the QuickBooks platform, enabling cross-functional capabilities like instant deposit for eligible transactions and the built-in accounting of QuickBooks.

The introduction of the card reader comes as Intuit's QuickBooks ecosystem is growing around a new business banking product.

QuickBooks Cash, the firm's business bank account, has been generally available for one year. Launched in beta 18 months ago, the Intuit team working on Cash has been releasing new features as it builds a fully functioning bank account. In May, the firm announced it had reached $100 million in deposits.

"It's been an extraordinary year of learning and progress," said Rania Succar, senior vice president, QuickBooks Money Platform. "The team has been releasing new experiences almost every other week. It's been just a crazy fast pace. And we're seeing higher adoption and usage and just more customer engagement as a result."

Succar says that in addition to expanding functionality, she and her team are focused on QuickBooks Cash's differentiation: helping SMBs manage cash flow. It does that by integrating money management across QuickBooks products. The firm's Cash Flow Planner provides an end-to-end view of a business’s finances. A dashboard indicates how much money is coming into the business and how much money is going out, forecasting a business’s cash flow over the next 90 days. It also proactively alerts business owners when a cash flow crunch might arise. "In one place, you get paid, pay others, access capital, and you manage your money," she said.

As Intuit continues to build out Cash, the next step for the firm is to automate banking and payment functions. An early example of how this could work is around taxes. Intuit customers use the firm's Invoice software to send more than a trillion dollars worth of invoices each year. Many also use Intuit's Sales Tax software as part of their integration with Invoices. The firm's dalliance with autonomous finance could use its sales tax engine to calculate and collect sales tax, and then automatically route that into a sales tax savings envelope inside Cash. "So SMBs don't have to worry at all about remembering how much they need for sales tax and setting it aside -- it'll automatically be set aside for them if they're using our payments, invoicing and banking offerings together," said Succar.

Taking that a step further, Intuit can move beyond just providing alerts on negative cash flow events. If it sees that a firm's cash flow is going to dip in two weeks, it could offer an SMB three choices: get the invoice paid early and give a discount to encourage that, draw down its line of credit, or not take an owner's draw in a particular month. But the integrations with accounting, payments, payroll, invoice, taxes, and banking mean that Intuit can move beyond alerts and actually do these things for its customers.

"We've got the planner capabilities and all the transactions in QuickBooks, so we understand the history -- our ability to predict the future is going to come from the fact that we see all this. We have models in the cash flow planner, for example, that predict when an invoice is going to be paid, because we have 400 million invoices sent a year and we know the behavior of different types of payers. We can determine when that looks like it's going to be paid back," she said.

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The remaining pieces of the autonomous finance puzzle include lending. Intuit can do cash flow underwriting for all the small businesses in the QuickBooks ecosystem, enabling it to lend more broadly than firms focused just on merchant cash advances. The other thing necessary to automate SMB finances is a robust money in, money out system, which Intuit has with its small business payroll solution. Intuit is the largest small business payroll solution in the U.S., processing $115 billion of employee wages a year.

"You combine the invoicing strength and all the components of money, and that empowers you to do something like autonomous finance. That is where we are headed with our bank account," she said.

This is also where the new card reader comes in. To build an integrated money management system, SMBs need help pulling in all the different payment solutions they use from different players. For that, they're used to working in spreadsheets to understand their cash flow.

The firm's new card reader is part of Intuit's push to help its clients manage money across all channels. Intuit is bullish on the opportunity. "As we do this, we'll see a very much larger share of total transaction volume for small businesses come through the QuickBooks platform either for money in applications or the money out applications," Succar said.

To build the new card reader, the firm turned to its in-house talent. Beginning four years ago, when QuickBooks Capital was launched, the company started building up and expanding a team to take on core payments and banking. Intuit brought together its design community to collaborate on the new card reader. The firm hasn't developed a lot of hardware before. So, it partnered with Box Clever, an industrial design shop that focuses on tangible objects and holistic brand experiences.

Along with Intuit's design leadership team, the project asked what mattered most to small businesses, looking for the pain points in the current card reader experience. It also looked for ways to amplify the QuickBooks brand and create an aesthetic design.

Intuit saw that typical card reader interaction doesn't provide any information or confirmation on the card reader itself. That leaves the payer uncertain about the transaction. On the merchant side, many shopkeepers hand over their phones or their devices to their customers. That's especially awkward in a contactless world.

The card reader uses an LED display and is priced at $49.

Looking ahead, Succar is focused on two 'massive' opportunities. The first is to continue to lean into Intuit's existing customer base of 7 million small businesses globally. To date, most of the firm's fintech developments have been designed for its U.S. customers. There's a big opportunity to expand its fintech offerings internationally.

But Intuit's ambitions extend beyond existing clients. For SMBs that aren't connected to the QuickBooks ecosystem, the firm's new banking and payments solutions can provide an interesting first foothold.

"You'll see us with some headlines out there in the coming months where we will be leaning into this population as well, taking what we have to a much broader customer set," Succar said.

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