A former executive of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Apple Inc. that focused on small business strategy and tailoring products for the local market is now the country manager of Canada for Intuit Inc.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company hired Jeff Cates to kick off 2012 as it seeks to expand its offerings internationally. It will expand into Canada by tailoring products specifically for the small business market here, and extending its mobile payments service to businesses here early this year.
Canada will be a major focus for Intuit as it seeks to expand globally, Cates says. The company has some of its strategic staff based in British Columbia, and Canada isn’t too small of a market to produce targeted products.
“Intuit does an exceptionally good job of getting feedback from customers and producing products for Canada,” Cates says. “There’s a massive opportunity to go to other countries and the Canadian group is part of this global expansion group.”
Intuit is expanding its GoPayment mobile service from the U.S. into Canada, it unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week. Using a stubby, cork-shaped card swiping attachment that plugs into a smartphone or tablet’s headphone port, Intuit allows its smaller merchant customers to accept credit card payments.
The technology is easy to use and low cost, Cates says. Intuit takes a 2.7 per cent fee from a card-swipe transaction or a 3.7 per cent fee if the credit card information is manually typed into the system.
“We expect this will attract some new customers to Intuit,” Cates says. “It’s exciting for us.”
TurboTax offers experts-on-call
As Canadians wade into tax season, Intuit is marketing a new service perk attached it its TurboTax tax preparation software. The Free Tax Advice service will allow all users access to one-on-one chats with tax experts either online or on the phone, 24/7.
“You’ve heard of software as a service, this is really bringing service to the software,” Cates says. “We think there is a large chunk of the market that doesn’t have the comfort level to do it themselves without someone to turn to and ask questions.”
Intuit will hire chartered accountants and tax accountants that have prepared hundreds of tax accounts in the past to provide the service. The tax experts will be working from home and have flexible hours, to ensure the customers around-the-clock access.
The tax advice service will be available as of Feb. 6 in Canada.
Intuit will continue to work with Mint, the personal finance Web service that launched a Canadian version in 2010, working with financial institutions and finding other ways to give users insights into their spending habits. There could be an opportunity to offer Mint’s financial visualization methods to small businesses, Cates says.
“It could provide knowledge back to small businesses to help them run their businesses better,” he says.