by Tracey Miller-Segarra

Wayne Harding, one of the founding visionaries and most vocal supporters of CPA2Biz, has left the Web portal after two years to become chief executive in the United States for accounting software newcomer AccTrak21.

In his new post, Harding will be responsible for the strategy and market development of AccTrak21, an online midrange accounting software product, which originated overseas in Australia and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Harding, who began with AccTrak21 on Oct. 1, said that his departure as senior director of channel development for CPA2Biz was amicable and did not indicate any dissatisfaction with his job or the product.

"I’m not disgruntled and I wasn’t looking for another job, but this was right up my alley and I would have been a fool not to take it," Harding said. "I actually hate to leave the boat now because it’s starting to cruise."

Harding said that he would continue to consult two days per month for CPA2Biz and will remain a spokesman for the organization. He also will serve in a lead role on a new CPA Advisory Council for CPA2Biz, but that day-to-day duties have been passed on to Steve Winters, a CPA from Austin, Texas.

Despite the high-level departures of other CPA2Biz executives over the past year - including chief information officer Mike Harnish, and vice president of sales and marketing Bill Reeb - the failed contract negotiations in May with the state societies and controversy over American Institute of CPAs president Barry Melancon’s stock holdings in the for-profit company (which he ultimately donated to charity), Harding said that the portal is just in the throes of normal growing pains, while emphasizing that deals with Nationwide Financial, and a payroll product unveiled by new partner Rivio are helping it gain traction in the marketplace.

"Have there been disappointments at CPA2Biz? Of course," Harding acknowledged. "There was a lot of rah-rah at the beginning and some directions have changed and the market has changed. We had to go along with what the market said and what founding dollars have said, but I think the vision is still there. It’s just that the business model has changed a bit, with less emphasis on business solutions."

While Harding said that the site is "starting to turn the corner" and has many able people on board to steer it in the right direction without his day-to-day guidance, others say that his loss will be keenly felt.

"It’s a real shame that he is leaving because he’s the chief proselytizer and advocate for CPA2Biz," said J. Clarke Price, Ohio State Society president and chairman of Shared Services LLC, which rejected a contract with the site in May. "As a member of the Colorado Society and the AICPA Council, it gave him a platform to talk about CPA2Biz and its vision, which extended beyond the typical salesman hype. He brought a tremendous credibility, and I don’t know that there is someone else there who’s going to be able to step into that kind of role."

"They will miss Wayne, for sure, but who wouldn’t?" asked Buffalo, N.Y.-based CPA and technology consultant Jim Metzler. But CPA2Biz has built their infrastructure, and seems to be moving along on the mission they have."

Harding said that AccTrak21 began wooing him shortly after the AICPA’s tech conference in June, although he already had met with the company when they were exploring partnership opportunities with CPA2Biz that ultimately never came to fruition.

CPA technology guru Gary Boomer, who wrote a white paper for AccTrak21, played the matchmaker role, suggesting the company contact Harding. Once he learned more about that the company and their vision, and then visited their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Harding was convinced that it was the right job for him.

"We’ve got a good product, a good company, desire and resources to commit to the U.S. market and no penetration right now - the only way we can go is up," Harding said. There was also no existing program or pricing to worry about or cannibalization or angering an existing channel.

Harding will develop his business plan for the company’s U.S. rollout over the next two months.

"In seeking someone to head up our U.S. efforts, we made the decision to go all out to get Wayne Harding, a person with outstanding credentials, experience and reputation in the industry," said AccTrak21 chief executive and founder Tim Loving. "We are delighted Wayne is joining us, and believe he is uniquely qualified to assist us to grow our distribution network in the U.S., and further develop the AccTrak21 brand."

Prior to joining CPA2Biz, Harding was head of CPA Channel Development for Great Plains (now Microsoft/Great Plains) for 11 years. Before GP, Harding was the president of his own CPA firm, which emphasized accounting software for microcomputers. Other past employment includes KPMG and Deloitte & Touche. He’s also the past president of the Colorado Society of CPAs and sits on various technology-related committees for the AICPA.

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