Executives at online accounting product maker Xero acknowledged that they still have a lot of awareness work to do in the U.S. market and are hoping new and enhanced product offerings will help grow its partner base – who are primarily accounting firms -- as well as customers.

This was the main tone of the morning’s keynote and informational sessions at Xerocon, the company’s first partner conference in the U.S. held in San Francisco this week.

“We haven’t done a good job of building awareness among small businesses at large, I think we need to do more work around branding,” said Xero chief executive and co-founder Rod Drury. “We firmly believe the secret to making businesses more productive is about working with the right professional advisors and we’re very focused on getting the accountants the right tools to work with them. Right now our biggest challenge isn’t building software but transforming the [accounting] profession.”

Drury touted the company’s growth since forming in New Zealand several years ago, claiming it now has over 200,000 customers worldwide and over 7,400 accounting partners.

One of the many new offerings and enhancements announced at the Xerocon event was the ability to provision accounting feeds to online banking as well as batch payment uploads.

Bank feeds were available in New Zealand and Xero is beginning to roll out the capabilities in the U.S. market, announcing today that City National Bank in Los Angeles is working with Xero to integrate its online banking site for small-business customers with Xero's technology. When the connection is complete, the accounting workflow will be tied to real-world transaction data. 

Xero also unveiled its own payroll offering, touting a new “seamless accounting and payroll” product which is not a third-party offering, but built as a part of the accounting solution. Essentially the general ledger gets updated as users post their payroll. There is also an employee portal complete with with timesheets, paystub views, time off requests with balance numbers, and – soon to come -- mobile access to the portal.

Xero also retains its integration partnerships with payroll providers including ADP, ZenPayroll, and SurePayroll.

Other announced enhancements to Xero included the ability to create sales quotes from a dashboard; the ability to create purchase orders; they have “beefed up” what inventory items are, including tagging and tracking; improved reports creation; the ability to create an advisor profile within Xero to help firms promote themselves; self-paced online training courses to learn Xero; and a new work-in-progress dashboard in the practice management application.

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