by John M. Covaleski

New York - As part of the coming out party for its Professional Accounting Solutions group, Intuit Inc. has created a new “accountant relations” function and filled it with an executive who formerly served at payroll services company ADP, as well as 7 Up and PepsiCo.

As Intuit’s newest vice president and general manager, Brad Smith, 39, is responsible both for the company’s dealings with accounting professionals and with making it easier for those professionals to work with the company’s products and services.

He reports to Intuit senior vice president Dan Manack, who has been general manager of Professional Accounting Solutions since Intuit created that unit last summer as the umbrella organization for all of its accounting-industry-focused operations, which include Quicken and QuickBooks accounting software, several tax preparation products, and payroll programs.

Smith should have his hands full, as Intuit estimates that some 225,000 to 250,000 accounting professionals work with Intuit offerings.

The total is up from the 187,000 accounting professionals that Intuit estimated it served upon announcing PAS last year. Smith explained that the company underestimated the number last year: “As we have been growing our relationships with accountants, we have gotten more in touch with just how big and important that group is, and have gotten better at counting them.”

Smith’s appointment is part of a summer-long coming out party for PAS, in which Intuit founder and chief executive Scott Cook made personal appearances at the New York and California state CPA society business shows, to detail plans for Intuit’s more intensive focus on the accounting profession. Intuit announced Smith’s appointment at the New York show in mid-July.

Smith has ambitious plans to gather input from accounting professionals, which Intuit will use in setting strategies. “The whole idea is to look at how Intuit can help accountants in serving their clients and in managing their practices more effectively,” he said.

Smith plans to increase Intuit’s contact with accounting professionals by:

● Refining the advisory councils that represent professionals in its Pro Advisor, QuickBooks consultant, and payroll programs;

● Enhancing the PAS program’s “ProConnection” Web site (http://accountant.Intuit.com/proconnection); and,

● Meeting face to face with practitioners.

“We want to sit down and ask them about what we do and how we can do it better,” Smith explained. At the recent New York State CPA show, both Smith and Cook had dinner with a gathering of about 18 accounting professionals.

“I was really surprised that they would find the time to do this,” said one of the dinner guests, Ginger Sacha, of Computerized Accounting Training, a QuickBooks consultant in Philadelphia.

Smith expects to be more personally active with accountants than Manack has been during his year in that job. “Dan has very extensive responsibilities, and to the extent that he could make calls on accountants, he did. I will be freer to focus on this, so I will be more involved in putting programs together to get their information to us,” Smith said.

Rich Walker, the director of Intuit’s accounting service group - and the company person who has been most active with accountants - now reports to Smith.

Smith plans to focus a lot of energy on getting accountants’ input to help Intuit design products and services. It recently released several new offerings for accountants, and more are planned for release very soon.

Recent Intuit releases include a financial statement reporter for use with the accountants’ edition of QuickBooks, and vertical editions of QuickBooks for three key industries serviced by accountants - health care, contractors and nonprofits.

The financial statement report integrates with both the accountant and non-accountant editions of QuickBooks. That may be a harbinger of integration across several Intuit product lines in future products.

Cook, while speaking at the California CPA show, said that design work on the newest products was based largely on input that Intuit, through the PAS group, gathered from accounting professionals over the past year. He also promised future innovation based on accountant feedback, noting that Intuit customer surveys find that QuickBooks users’ satisfaction generally increases when accountants help them with projects.

“We have to do things that are right for accountants. We will spend more attention on them,” Cook said.

After his California speech, Cook elaborated on PAS’s development. “We’ve had something to build over the past year. We changed, but the customer could not see it because we were building.”

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