XRO is an information technology provider that specialises in the development and sale of integrated cloud-based accounting software for small businesses and accounting practices around the world.
XRO generates most of its operating revenues from the sale of subscription services across Australasia, the United Kingdom and to a lesser but growing extent, North America and other countries.
XRO develops and sells commercial cloud-based accounting software, covering a range of invoice processing, bank reconciliation, general ledger, payroll, tax and other services required by small businesses and accounting practices around the world. It has 2.3 million customers in over 180 countries who pay monthly subscription fees depending on the nature and number of services they require. XRO operates a partnership program with accounting firms that refer or migrate their clients onto its platform in exchange for business support, discounted platform services and marketing materials. It also provides access to some third-party services through its platform, generally mobile applications operating under revenue-sharing agreements.
‘Software as a service’ is often characterised as highly scalable with a low incremental cost to onboard and serve new customers. Companies try to maximise their customer retention and the average revenue per customer by frequently upgrading their platforms, by reducing payment friction, by offering integrated and cross-subsidised services, and by acquiring complementary customer bases to further leverage their platforms. Specifically, XRO has indicated its near-term focus is to: expand its international subscriber base with a particular emphasis on the United States and the recently entered South African and South East Asian markets; upsell existing subscribers by offering a broader range of services including those provided in partnership with complementary software providers; and automate more of its services through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies .
XRO competes directly with other domestic and multinational business software and 'software as a service' companies that are also trying to attract customers through various pricing, quality and other customer propositions. Some of its larger competitors are Sage of the United Kingdom, Microsoft and Intuit of the United States, and MYOB of Australia.
XRO has successfully established a global reputation and scalable software platform in Australia and New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom and the United States. It also sells its software services to a range of customer segments, giving it some ability to allocate more of its resources to countries and sectors with favourable demand drivers and exchange rates, and vice-versa. Going forward, it should continue to benefit from increased earnings through organic growth, expanding its product suite and geographic presence, optimising its operations and vertically integrating up the supply chain as well as undertaking complementary and value-accretive acquisitions. Its downside commercial risks could however include: a broader economic slowdown, particularly within the commercial sector that could affect the propensity of small businesses to change or migrate their accounting processes; erosion of market share and gross margins by multinational competitors with greater economies of scale and broader service offerings; loss of a key customer, supplier, distributor or employee; changes to the availability, quality and price of third-party hardware and software that cannot be passed on to customers through pricing increases; an appreciation of the NZD, should it wish to expatriate capital generated outside of New Zealand; changes to regulations, tax and accounting standards in the various countries in which it operates, therefore increasing the complexity and cost of maintaining its platform; the commercial and cyber security risks inherent with being a cloud-based software provider; the development and widespread adoption of an alternative, cost-effective technology or application by a competitor; and any inheritance of undue liabilities or commercial risks through new service offerings, as acquisitions and entrances into new markets.
2007: Xero was founded in 2006 by Rod Drury and Hamish Edwards as a New Zealand cloud-based accounting software provider. It began piloting its software in 2006 and sold its first subscription services to a limited number of small businesses, accounting firms and banks in 2007. It was listed on the New Zealand Stock Exchange (XRO.NZ) in 2007 with the proceeds used to establish sales teams in Australia and the United Kingdom. At the time, it had 100 paying subscribers in New Zealand
2009: XRO developed Australian and United Kingdom’ compliant versions of its accounting software and established offices in both countries. It undertook another equity capital raising to fund its continued expansion and grow its customer base, which reached 6,000 subscribers in 25 countries
2010: XRO saw a significant uplift in subscriber numbers after launching a partnership program with accounting practices, who were offered discounted access and other benefits in exchange for referring or migrating their clients onto the Xero platform. By the end of the year, its subscribers had increased to 17,000 in 50 countries
2014: XRO undertook three more equity capital raisings and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (XRO.AX) with the proceeds used to fund its working capital requirements, establish operations in the United States and continue to expand its international presence. By the end of the year, it had 284,000 subscribers in 165 countries
2016: XRO established its first office in Singapore as a base for expansion into South East Asia. It completed the migration of its core platform to Amazon Web Services (AWS) with the aim of lowering its hosting and security costs, increasing its global scalability, and accessing big data algorithms and machine learning technologies. By the end of the year, it had 717,000 subscribers in 180 countries
2018: Founder, Rod Drury stepped down as Chief Executive and Executive Director but remained on the Board as a non-executive Director. By the end of the year, XRO had 1.4 million subscribers in over 180 countries
2019: XRO began to move away from its former strategy of developing most of its software in-house, in favour of acquiring and partnering with third-party providers after it formed a strategic alliance with a United States' payroll software provider called Gusto, and acquired a Canadian bookkeeping and data digitisation firm called Hubdoc. It also acquired Instafile of the United Kingdom to expedite the preparation and filing of tax returns for its United Kingdom customers
2020: XRO continued to acquire adjacent businesses, which included: an Australian cloud lending platform called Waddle
XRO was first listed on the Australian Stock Exchange on 08 November 2012. It had 138.4 million shares on issue at the end of the 2018 financial year, 13% of which were owned by Rod Drury family interests, 10% by Craig Winkler’s interests, 9% by Matrix Capital and the rest by a mix of approximately 19,000 retail and institutional investors.
XRO has 8 board members who, at the end of last year, collectively owned 32.3 million shares. The board comprises of:
- Graham Smith has been the Independent Chairman since January 2017 and an Independent Director since January 2015. Graham comes from a software and accounting background, having previously been the Chief Financial Officer of Salesforce. He is also a Director of Citrix, Splunk, Mindbody and BlackLine;
- Rod Drury has been a Non-Independent, Non-Executive Director since April 2018. Rod founded the company in June 2006 and stepped down as CEO and Executive Director in April 2018;
- Craig Elliot has been an Independent Director since September 2012. Craig is the co-founder and Chief Executive officer of Pertino Networks and a Strategic Advisor to New Zealand Trade & Enterprise;
- Lee Hatton has been an Independent Director since April 2014. Lee is the Chief Executive Officer of UBank, the General Manager of Direct banking at the National Australia Bank and a Director of the NAB Venture Fund;
- Susan Peterson has been an Independent Director since February 2017. Susan is a Director of TrustPower, Vista Group International, Property for Industry, The New Zealand Merino Company and Organic Initiative;
- Bill Veghte has been an Independent Director since February 2014. Bill also serves on the boards of Turbonomic and SurveyMonkey;
- Craig Winkler has been a Non-Independent Director since May 2009. Craig is the founder of MYOB; and
- Dale Murray has been an Independent Director since April 2018. Dale also serves on the board of Sussex Place Ventures in the UK.
Steve Vamos has been the XRO Chief Executive Officer since April 2018. Steve comes from an information technology and digital media background, having previously been the Chief Executive of Microsoft Australia and Managing Director of Apple Computer Australia & New Zealand. He is currently an Independent Director of Telstra and Fletcher Building.