Intuit’s CEO doesn’t want to help you do your taxes. He wants to do them for you—and it’s a multibillion-dollar strategic move

February 2, 2023, 1:00 PM UTC
Potrait of Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi.
Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi is joining the big-data gold rush.
Courtesy of Intuit

Sharp-eyed football fans—very sharp-eyed—may have noticed something a bit different in recent weeks. As usual, TurboTax has been carpet-bombing TV coverage of the NFL postseason with commercials. But this year, the on-screen acknowledgment reserved for a game’s biggest sponsors doesn’t just say “TurboTax.” It says “Intuit TurboTax,” and the “Intuit” is slightly larger than you’ve seen before.

Don’t yawn.  

That tiny tweak betokens a multibillion-dollar strategic decision by Intuit. The details are strikingly new, but in the big picture, it isn’t new at all. Intuit has thrived for 40 years as an independent pure-play specialized software company—the only survivor from the era of Flexidraw and VisiCalc—by continually reinventing itself. CEO Sasan Goodarzi is leading Intuit’s fourth major reinvention.

It includes two significant acquisitions: the Credit Karma consumer finance company (bought for $8.1 billion in 2020) and the Mailchimp email marketing company ($12 billion, 2021). Combining those companies with Intuit’s TurboTax tax prep business, QuickBooks accounting business, and Mint personal financial management business ought to create a mutually reinforcing, A.I.-driven offering for individuals and small businesses that no competitor can match. 

At least, that’s what Goodarzi and Intuit’s board fervently believe. It’s also why TurboTax has become Intuit TurboTax. “When there’s an understanding of Mailchimp, QuickBooks, and TurboTax being connected to the Intuit brand and/or to the other brands, trust goes up, and consideration goes up,” Goodarzi says. 

Wall Street is on board. Of the 28 analysts following the company, 23 rate it “buy” or “overweight.” Though the stock has sunk over the past year in tandem with most other tech stocks, it has clobbered the Nasdaq and S&P 500 over the past three, five, 10, 20, and 30 years.

Goodarzi, 54, was born in Tehran and came to the U.S. at age 9. After stints at Honeywell and Invensys, he joined Intuit in 2004, holding managerial positions in all major parts of the business. In announcing Goodarzi’s promotion to CEO, his highly successful predecessor, Brad Smith, told Fortune, “Sasan is better prepared to be CEO than I was 11 years ago.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Intuit was performing excellently when you became CEO four years ago, but you’ve taken it in a new direction. How come?

The shift we declared four years ago was from a tax and accounting platform to a truly global financial platform that can power your prosperity on a daily basis. We wanted to help consumers make ends meet, get out of debt, and save money. We wanted small businesses to be able to grow their customers, manage their customers, and manage their cash flow. Accounting is just about compliance, and doing your taxes is just about a refund. We weren’t solving the vast end-to-end problems. We had a lot of customers, but we were getting a very small wallet share because we were only solving a very small slice of the problem.

So you made two of the biggest acquisitions in Intuit’s history. Why those two? What did they bring you?

With Credit Karma, it’s about the data. It has 129 million members, is one of the largest fintech platforms, is a highly trusted brand, and has one of the highest Net Promoter Scores we’ve ever seen—in the 70s, which is unheard of. What we got was a data platform. We see over $8 trillion of debt, over 55,000 tax and financial attributes per customer. So now we can actually create a consumer platform where it’s not just about taxes. 

It was the same logic for Mailchimp. If you look at all the investments we made in QuickBooks, it was to help you make an estimate, invoice, get paid, and do your payroll—very, very important stuff. What we didn’t have was the ability to help clients get customers, which is the No. 1 customer problem small businesses have. So with Mailchimp, we’re creating one platform where small businesses in one place can grow their business and run their business all on our platform. 

That was the main reason to buy them. It would have taken us five to 10 years at a minimum to replicate what they have, and we would have been five to 10 years behind. So it was a leap forward.

What’s an example of what you can offer now that you couldn’t offer before?

A small business connects to part of the QuickBooks platform. Because you connect to your bank account, we see all of your income and all your expenses. If you send a customer an invoice, we’ll see that customer’s creditworthiness. Is it paying its invoices? When? How many employees do you have? How many hours do they work? Are you paying your vendors on time? Are your vendors delivering their service on time?

Then add Mailchimp. It brings customer lists, and QuickBooks brings all the purchasing data. So we get 360 data.

With that, we now do things like instant deposits. If you send me an invoice, because we see all the creditworthiness of you, your customers, and your vendors, there’s a button you can push that gets you paid immediately versus waiting 75 days. Our machine learning capability crunches the numbers and says, present that button. If we don’t see the capability, we don’t present that. 

Another example is same-day payroll. In the past, the money would leave your bank account 14 days before it landed in mine; 14 days is a huge cash flow impact when you’re a small business. Now, that money leaves your account and lands in mine the same day. That’s because of all our data and the A.I. investments we’ve made that allow us to do things we would never be able to do before.

So it’s important customers know that all these brands are connected, right?

One of the things we’ve learned, and we have data and evidence behind this, is when there’s an understanding of Mailchimp, QuickBooks, TurboTax being connected to the Intuit brand and/or to the other brands, trust goes up, and consideration goes up. So if at the end of the TurboTax experience, we help you get early access to your refund by putting your money on Credit Karma Money, this year you’ll see “Intuit” over “TurboTax” and “Credit Karma” for the first time. It’s subtle, but now you know it’s one company. We’re investing in connecting the brands because we’re not a house of brands. It’s one company

You’ve made a major commitment to A.I. How are you using it?

With A.I., we believe the things we’ll be able to do for customers are night-and-day different. The shift it’s helping us make is from a company that builds a platform so customers can do the work—manage their business, grow their customers, manage their cash flow, do their taxes—to a company where A.I. allows us to do everything for you. 

For example, we now have a cash flow planner on the QuickBooks platform. We will indicate when you may run out of cash and then indicate things you need to do, like get paid for your work, get more customers, take out capital, buy more or less inventory. A.I. is helping shift to a platform that at least will indicate what should be done, and you do it via a button. We think that’s revolutionary.

What’s your stance on crypto?

Our focus is on leveraging blockchain and decentralized technologies, which we are investing in. We have a lot of conviction that blockchain and decentralized technologies will allow us to move money instantly. If I can instantly get you money in your savings account, get you your refund, or eliminate all the middle people to get you your cash quickly, blockchain will accelerate it. We’ll enable currencies, but we’re not in love with currencies because it’s just currency. That’s not the game changer. The technology is.

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