Scott Cook, along with Tom Proulx, founded Intuit Inc., the company best known for the personal finance software Quicken. Intuit was one of the first companies to develop user–friendly programs with manuals written in "plain English," and revolutionized online bill–paying and home banking. Intuit has also developed web sites for various financial services through which individual and business customers can maintain their finances and file taxes.
Cook was born in Glendale, California, in 1952. He obtained his Bachelor of Art's degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Southern California and then received his MBA from Harvard University. He was on the board of directors for Broderbund Software from 1993-1997. He is currently on the board for the Asia Foundation, and the Intuit Scholarship Foundation, as well as the online bookseller Amazon.com, which he joined in 1997, and the online auction site, eBay since June 1998. He is also a member of the Young Presidents Organization, an international association of corporate executives dedicated to promoting education, as well as of the board of visitors of the Harvard Business School foundation. In the fall of 2000, Procter & Gamble appointed Cook to that company's board of directors. Cook is married and has three children. In October 2000, his personal worth was estimated to be $1.2 billion.
Cook began his career at Proctor & Gamble, a huge manufacturer of household products, where he worked as a brand manager and in other marketing positions. He then went to Bain & Company, a corporate strategy consulting firm, where he managed consulting assignments in the banking and technology areas. After watching his wife tediously write out bills one day, Cook figured that there must be a way to use technology to streamline the process. With the marketing savvy he had picked up at Proctor & Gamble and his knowledge of banking and technology, he set out to find a solution. Teaming up with Tom Proulx, a computer programming student still in college at Stanford University, he began work on a new software program that would allow users to organize their finances by computer.
Although about 20 different accounting products had already been introduced for home computers, they took longer to use than doing everything by hand, and they were expensive. Moonlighting while still at his consulting job, Cook fine–tuned his idea, getting feedback from potential customers by conducting surveys and initiating product tests. He discovered that customers did want software for organizing their personal finances, but it had to be easy to use.
Cook and Proulx formed the company Intuit, Inc. in 1983, named as a shorthand version of the word "intuitive," which indicated that their products would be just that. Cook was named president, chief executive officer (CEO), and chairman of the board for the new firm. Intuit released the first version of Quicken software in 1984. The program cut in half the time it took the average person to pay bills and balance checkbooks.
Cook strengthened Intuit with his excellent marketing skills. It was one of the first firms to actively seek market input for software. Intuit hired product developers to watch consumers—not product testers—use the products in the "real world" of their own homes (this was called the "follow–me–home" program). The company was also a leader in writing simple–to–read software manuals at a time when technical jargon was rampant.
After launching Quicken, Intuit later offered a similar accounting program for small businesses, called QuickBooks, which it introduced in 1992. Intuit also merged with Chipsoft, maker of TurboTax, in 1993, which allowed users to prepare their own income tax returns on their home computers. Soon, Intuit was the leading manufacturer of personal financial software.
Quicken took a couple of years to fully catch on, but Cook relied on an old technique to sell his new product. Intuit was the first to run television commercials for directly ordering the new product from the company. Cook also placed advertisements in magazines such as PC Magazine and Byte, raising revenues to $33 million by 1990. With sales soaring, Cook decided that Intuit needed savvy business people to help lead its growth. Instead of recruiting consultants, he sought venture capitalists to invest in the firm and join the board. "You get a lot of attention from people when you have a few million bucks of theirs," Cook noted in Fortune. Four such venture capitalists then joined Intuit, purchasing 20 percent of the company. In 1994, Cook stepped down as president and CEO of Intuit but remained chairman of the board.
By 1995, Intuit and software giant Microsoft were flirting with a merger. Quicken held 70 percent of the personal financial software market in mid–1995, whereas Microsoft Money, the number two package, had only 22 percent. Cook's vision was to expand into electronic banking, allowing customers to access their accounts 24 hours a day. However, he found out that banks were interested in teaming with Intuit with or without Microsoft, and then the antitrust division of the Justice Department blocked the merger, which would have led to a potentially lengthy trial. Microsoft bowed out and paid Intuit $46.3 million to end the deal.
Chronology: Scott Cook
1983: Cofounded Intuit Inc.
1983: Began serving as Intuit president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board.
1984: Shipped first release of Quicken software.
1995: Intuit and Microsoft called off expected merger.
1997: Intuit introduced online bazaar of financial services.
1998: Opened Online Financial Exchange.
1998: Became chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board.
2000: Appointed to the board of directors of Proctor & Gamble.
2001: Announced plans to expand Intuit's services to mid–sized businesses.
Intuit had been offering Quicken users the option of paying bills electronically since 1990, after forging a deal with CheckFree, but fewer than 10 percent of the customers used the service. In 1994 the company purchased National Payment Clearinghouse (renamed Intuit Services Corporation) as part of its plan to spearhead its own electronic banking service and later teamed with various institutions to let consumers do their banking online. As of July 1995, 17 banks in addition to Smith–Barney and American Express had joined Intuit's program to offer online banking to Quicken users, allowing people to pay their bills online without writing checks, to transfer money, and to keep track of balances. BankNow was a joint venture with the online service provider America Online (AOL).
Though Intuit's online banking operation failed and was sold to CheckFree in September of 1996, Cook continued to pioneer home banking with the introduction in 1998 of Open Financial Exchange (OFX), a computer language that became the technical standard in online banking. Microsoft and CheckFree became partners in the venture, which connects home financial software users with their bank computer systems, allowing them to pay bills and make investments. In 1997, Cook also made plans to branch out from software to institute an online variety of financial services on the web. "Just like booksellers and CD stores, Intuit would get a cut of every product sold through its site," explained Kourosh Karimkhany of Reuters Business Report. "But Intuit's line of work would be much more lucrative: the commission on a $500,000 life insurance policy is much bigger than the cut on a $10 paperback." Cook told Karimkhany, "We believe there's a huge business opportunity in providing the marketplace where buyers can meet sellers of financial services."
Intuit continued to expand its business with its purchase of 19 percent of the search engine Excite and its establishment of a financial news site, CNNfn, within the CNN web site. In August of 1998, Cook stepped down from his duties as chairman of the board to become chairman of the Executive Committee.
With Cook as chairman of the Executive Committee, William D. Campbell was promoted from CEO to chairman of the board, and William C. Harris was promoted from executive vice president to CEO. Cook continued to remain active in the firm on a full–time basis and, together with Harris and Campbell, began to develop and execute an Internet strategy that would transform Intuit from a packaged software firm into a company that offered Web–based financial services and information.
In 1998, Intuit introduced quicken.com, a web site that offered a range of consumer and business services. By the end of 1999, quicken.com allowed users to view and pay certain bills, look at investment portfolios from TD Waterhouse Group Inc., and see their Discover Card transactions. A five–year agreement with America Online gave AOL subscribers the opportunity to receive and pay their bills from one location. Intuit also developed Web TurboTax, an Internet–based version of Intuit's tax preparation software that let taxpayers prepare and file all federal and state income tax returns over the Internet. Other related sites, developed with different partners, offered quotes on mortgages, life insurance, and auto insurance, referring users to a variety of insurance providers. However, not all Cook's ideas have been completely successful: Quicken Insurance, a venture into Internet–based insurance, was a wash and was sold off to InsWeb in November 2000. In late 1999, Intuit purchased mortgage lender Rock Financial Corp. for $370 million. The acquisition enabled Intuit to actually provide loans and mortgages instead of simply referring customers to other lenders.
With its QuickBooks software dominating the small business market, Intuit began developing Web interactive services for small business owners. QuickBooks 2000 included software that enabled small businesses to build their own web site to give customers and suppliers easy access to company information as well as to manage company finances through the Internet. The company also set up a small business portal on the Web. In 2001, Cook announced that Intuit would soon be offering new services tailored to mid–size businesses.
Wall Street took note of Intuit's Internet strategy, boosting its stock price more than 80 percent in 1999. Intuit's leaders realized that the Web would impact Intuit's business model, and they took steps to make the company a leader in developing Web–based services. Harris stepped down as Intuit's CEO in September 1999, with chairman Campbell taking on the role of CEO as well. Cook continued to serve as chairman of the Executive Committee.
By 2001, Quicken accounted for less than 15 percent of Intuit's revenue, and Cook was increasingly focused on Web–based financial services. According to Cook, "the great thing about the Internet is it allows your vision to grow." Recognizing that the largest revenue sources lie in small–business services, Intuit has sought to automate critical systems like payroll, buying, selling, and managing information and customers on the Web. For example, QuickBooks 2001's electronic invoicing feature was designed to allow users to pay invoices instantly when they arrive by email. Cook was already envisioning a time in the near future when it would be possible to pay invoices seamlessly from a bank account. And in an interview published in early 2001, Cook noted: "Ultimately, you'll be able to put your finances on autopilot."
Social and Economic Impact
In 1983 approximately 100,000 people used the personal computer to track their finances; less than 20 years later, Intuit is providing its services to almost 25 million customers. The company employs nearly 6,000 people in 13 states and four countries.
Intuit's introduction of Quicken, TurboTax, Quick-Books, and other software revolutionized the way people manage their personal finances. These products have helped millions of users streamline their home and office bookkeeping and made it much easier for people to do their own taxes. Its OFX program may revolutionize the way banking services are conducted in the future. After all, it took 15 years for consumers to get comfortable with automatic tellers machines.
With Intuit's entry into online financial services, the company's goal is to be a "middleman" offering a broad array of product choices. Quicken.com will enable consumers to apply for loans and mortgages and get quotes on health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, and home insurance online, making it possible to shop around for these services at all hours. Previously, calls and visits to sales offices had to be done during office hours—precisely when most people were on the job themselves. By opening up this area of commerce to online shoppers, Intuit has become a major player in a new era of convenience and flexibility.
Sources of Information
Contact at: Intuit, Inc.
2535 Garcia Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Business Phone: (650) 994–6000
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