Posts Tagged “Big 4”

At Audit International, we know when people hear buzzwords like ‘data analytics’, ‘artificial intelligence’ and ‘machine learning’, it can be intimidating. Many people don’t fully understand such concepts, but in truth, you don’t need to. You just need to get comfortable with them. And you probably already are: familiar services like Netflix or Spotify use artificial intelligence to understand your preferences and make subsequent suggestions based on that knowledge. The level of consumers’ expectations is continually increasing, and the successful companies are those that are advancing with technology. The same is true for businesses and their expectations. In audit, the revolution is underway and the sections that follow highlight the key drivers for this change.

Improve the audit experience –

The volume of data available to auditors is astounding, but in most cases, this data is simply not being used. If this were happening in any other industry, there would be questions to answer. Data analytics can improve the audit experience in several ways, for both the audit team and for the client.

Improve audit quality-

During the planning phase of the audit, audit teams must shift their focus away from the old mindset of “what could go wrong?” Through analytics, we can turn our attention from what could go wrong to what has gone wrong. Auditors have access to the client’s complete financial data for the period under audit – if they focus on analysing and understanding the data, they could identify an unexpected transaction or trend in the process. During the execution phase, auditors should also build on the knowledge gained in planning to truly understand the business in question and focus their attention on higher risk transactions. Finally, auditors should move away from a ‘random sample’ approach and, instead, focus on the transactions that appear unusual based on their knowledge of the client, business or industry. These are just a few areas where improvements in audit quality can be achieved using data analytics.

Improve efficiency-

In the examples above, the use of data analytics in planning will identify what has gone wrong and any associated unusual transactions. In execution, these transactions will be tested as part of the audit sample. It could also cover some requirements under auditing standards concerning journal entry testing, as the journal entries will likely be the data that highlighted what went wrong in the first place. Again, this is just one example of efficiencies gained without even considering the hours saved by automating processes like creation of lead schedules and population of work papers.

Post-pandemic world-

The world will be a very different place in years to come. Firms with the ability to perform in-depth analysis using data analytics undoubtedly have a significant advantage over those that do not, given the efficiencies they can gain and the potential reduction of physical evidence required from clients, among other things. Due to the changes we have all had to endure, auditors may also have additional procedures to perform (e.g. roll-back procedures where they were unable to attend stock counts at year-end due to the COVID-19 closures of businesses). Such procedures have the potential to be automated, saving even more time and effort for audit teams.

Improve engagement-

Rather than spend time performing mundane tasks such as testing large randomised samples, data analytics allows audit teams to jump into the unusual transactions. This will make the job more interesting to auditors and cultivate a curious and questioning mindset, which will, in turn, lead to improved scepticism and audit quality.

Improve client experience-

This might happen in two ways. First, the time saved by the client’s staff (who, in theory, will have fewer samples for which to provide support) and second, through the value the audit adds to the business. As an example, consider an audit team performing data analysis on the payroll for their client. As payroll is a standardised process, the audit team has an expectation around the number of debits and credits they would see posted to the respective payroll accounts each month. As part of their analysis, however, they find an inconsistent pattern. This can be queried as part of the audit and the client will be better able to understand a payroll problem, which they were previously oblivious to.

Client expectations-

Given the level of data analysis that occurs daily in the life of anyone using a smartphone, a consistent, high quality is understandably expected in people’s professional lives, too. Audit clients, like all consumers, want more. They want a better and faster audit. They want an audit that requires minimal interference with the day-to-day running of their business, without compromising the quality of the auditor’s work. With troves of data now available to auditors, such expectations are not entirely unreasonable. Audit firms have access to vast amounts of financial and related data – in some instances, millions of lines of information – that, if analysed robustly and adequately, would improve their processes, their clients’ experience, and the quality of their audit files.

Aspirations of professionals-

Audit professionals can often struggle with work-life balance, as we here at Audit International know. Though most firms are getting on top of remote working, the hours in busy season are long. In a time of continuous connectivity, the time frame around ‘busy season’ is also becoming blurred. Through the use of technology, we will one day make auditing a ‘nine to five’ job. Many will scoff at that idea and, although we do not expect this to happen in the next five years, or even ten years, it is possible. By automating mundane tasks and continuously upskilling our graduates, we can transform how an audit team completes work. There will be more scope to complete work before clients’ financial year-ends, thus moving much of the audit out of the traditional ‘busy season’. Machines can complete specific tasks overnight so that auditors could arrive at their desk, ready to work on a pre-populated work paper that needs to be analysed by a person with the right knowledge. With appropriate engagement by all parties (i.e. audit teams, senior management, and audit clients), we could significantly reduce the hours spent on audit engagements and give this time back to auditors. Along with attracting high-calibre graduates, we will retain high-quality auditors in the industry while also avoiding mental fatigue and burnout, which will again lead to better quality audits.

Graduate recruitment-

Graduates joining firms in recent years have particular expectations of the working world. They want job satisfaction, flexible hours, remote working, and an engaging role that will challenge them. Professional services firms have to compete for the very best graduates, and no longer just against each other – a host of technology-enabled businesses are attracting talent on an unprecedented scale by meeting the needs listed above. Technology, and data analytics, in particular, can offer the solution to the graduate recruitment challenge – by making the work more efficient and automating mundane and repetitive tasks, graduates can instead focus on analysis. Time and time again, when we talk to candidates, we always hear that if they find their work challenging and interesting, they will feel more engaged.

Challenges-

This move towards technology is not without its risks to the profession. Automating basic tasks removes the opportunity for graduates to form a deep understanding of these sections of the audit file. The onus is therefore on the current cohort of Chartered Accountants to take the reins, both to drive technology advancement forward and also provide practical, on-the-job coaching to ensure that this knowledge is not lost for the generations that follow.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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Transit systems. Healthcare facilities. Financial services firms. What do they all have in common? Organizations within these sectors — and essentially all industries, for that matter — have been hit by ransomware, a type of malware where cybercriminals demand a ransom payment to unlock access to your private and confidential systems and files.

While many cybersecurity risks exist, ransomware is often one of the more pressing challenges. Not only can it bring operations to a screeching halt, but it can also cause issues like data leaks and reputational damage. A global survey by cybersecurity software company Sophos finds that 66% of surveyed organizations suffered ransomware attacks in 2021. “It took on average one month to recover from the damage and disruption,” Sophos adds.

Given the severity of ransomware risk, internal auditors should aim to help their organizations reduce these threats, along with overall cybersecurity risks. How? As Audit International will examine in this article, internal audit departments can take steps such as conducting IT/cybersecurity audits and using technology like internal audit management software to improve internal controls and collaboration.

Review IT practices and controls :
Even though internal auditors generally aren’t responsible for choosing cybersecurity software and establishing employee training to recognize ransomware risks, they can still provide assurance over IT practices and controls, such as with an IT audit.

When IT teams conduct phishing tests to see whether employees are tricked by email scams that can cause ransomware issues, internal auditors are then able to review those results and ensure that the organization is meeting a sufficient standard to prevent social engineering. If the results demonstrate gaps in employee preparedness on ransomware risk or other cybersecurity risks, then internal auditors would likely want to communicate that risk to other stakeholders, like boards and senior management.

Internal audit leaders might also review remote work policies to ensure that IT teams are appropriately managing these with ransomware risk in mind, rather than just focusing on the functionality of work-from-home environments. While internal auditors often rely on guidance from IT leaders, they can still audit areas like access logs to ensure that only approved devices, with the appropriate threat intelligence and data protection technologies, are connecting to their networks.

Align key stakeholders :
Improving ransomware protection also means internal auditors need to align key stakeholders, rather than just collaborating with IT. That means pulling together information from multiple departments to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Internal auditors should check with finance teams to see how they’re accounting for the potential costs of a ransomware attack, and then ensure that other key stakeholders, like boards and senior management, understand and agree with this approach. Otherwise, issues like not having a sufficient budget to recover from a ransomware attack may arise.

“Regardless of their size or revenue, organizations should assume they will be targeted with ransomware, and they should examine their prevention, detection, mitigation, response, and recovery measures,” notes Zachary Ginsburg, research director for the Gartner Audit and Risk practice, in a Gartner press release.

Leverage internal audit management software :
Internal auditors can mitigate ransomware risk by leveraging internal audit management software. Many technologies are designed to assist with cybersecurity risk management, but from an audit perspective, internal audit management software is important for gaining assurance.

Overall, internal audit teams have an opportunity to make a significant impact when it comes to ransomware risk management. Planning ahead and focusing on internal alignment can go a long way toward reducing ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity risks.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Have you ever had one of those days where you were determined to write that audit report? So you block off the time on your calendar, go into your office, shut the door, remove any and all distractions and breathe. Because now is the time to take all of those thoughts and perfect phrases running wild in your head and put them on paper. You sit down at your desk ready to make it happen. And you come up with nothing.

You decide to invite a colleague in to assist. Because after all, two heads are better than one. The two of you discuss the issues thoroughly, but nothing seems to sound right.

Writing objective observations takes time, skill, and tact. And if you’re like any other auditor, the audit issues sound wonderful in your head. But by the time you formulate the right words, reach for your pencil and place it on paper, that wonderful wording has become a distant memory. It’s worse if you’re in a group setting because you now become frustrated as the group begins asking you to repeat what you said. Unable to remember words uttered only seconds prior, it is only then that you realize how old you truly are.

If you’ve ever faced this situation, do not fear. There are several tools and techniques you can use to speed up and improve your report writing. But first, we must address the five big problems with writing reports:

1. We think faster than we write
2. Our million dollar thoughts come at the wrong time
3. We believe in writer’s block
4. We look for perfection in the first paragraph
5. We don’t understand and/or appreciate the writing process

5 Problems with audit report writing
We think faster than we write
We’ve all been there. Browsing through our cabinets trying to make a mental grocery list. Then you reach the point where there are too many items to remember. You decide to write a list. You reach for your paper and before the pen touches the pad, you’ve already forgotten the five items you wanted to write.

Our brains are fascinating. I can remember where I was in the summer of 1989, but I cannot remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. It is that forgetfulness that can derail your report writing.

Our million dollar thoughts come at the wrong time
Worse yet is when you have this wonderful idea, but then realize that it is 5:00 o’clock and you are stuck in traffic. There is no way you can capture that great thought without causing a pile up. So you try other techniques. You turn off the radio and repeat whatever it is over and over. You hope to continue this until you get home, or at least until you get to a stopping point. Of course something interrupts your thought and you forget what you were trying to remember.

We believe in writer’s block
Some people believe that writer’s block is a thing. I’m here to tell you, it is not. At least in the context of business writing or internal audit reports. Wikipedia define writer’s block as follows:

“Writer’s block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work or experiences a creative slowdown. This loss of ability to write and produce new work is not a result of commitment problems or lack of writing skills. The condition ranges from difficulty in coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce a work for years. Writer’s block is not solely measured by time passing without writing. It is measured by time passing without productivity in the task at hand.”

As you can see, writer’s block is a primary concern for creative writers. Our audit reports are, or should be, factually based non fiction. We are taking a series of facts, placing some logic and order to those facts, and providing management with a conclusion. What we are not doing, is creating new characters or developing plots and story lines. We know the beginning, middle and end of the story. Therefore, we know what to say. The problem is how do we say it so that it has the best impact given within the culture of the organization.

We look for perfection in the first paragraph
Because audit report writing is simpler than creative writing, we believe that we should be able to sit down and create the perfect prose in minutes. After all, we know the beginning, middle and end of the story. When we finally put pen to paper, our initial draft is usually not good. We then become frustrated. But I believe that frustration is because we don’t understand the writing process.

We don’t understand and/or appreciate the writing process
All the magic happens in the editing. Any writer will tell you this. Ernest Hemingway famously once said that “The first draft of anything is ****” (insert a very bad word here). As someone who has had articles published, I can tell you this is true. I can recall the first time I sent something to an editor. I thought it was an okay piece. But what came back was a magnificent manuscript. I fined tuned it a little and the result was something we were all pleased with. The writing process does not require perfection at the start. Your initial goal is to get something on the page. After that, trust the process and let the magic happen in editing.

3 tools you can use
Google voice typing
Because our brains seem to signal our mouths to speak faster than our hands can write, voice typing is the perfect shortcut to getting those wonderful words out of your head and on paper. For those unfamiliar with voice typing, you talk, it types. It’s as simple as that. Well, sort of.

The best free voice typing tool I’ve found is through Google. Log in to your account. Then, access Google Docs and open a document. Go to Tools, then Voice Typing (or you can press Ctlr+Shift+S).

You will see a microphone that may say Click to Speak. Click it, talk to it, and watch the magic happen. You will need to learn certain commands like period, comma and new paragraph. But other than that, if you speak clearly, it will recognize most speaking voices and words.

Your Cell Phone voice recorder
If barking out commands to your computer isn’t your thing, you’re in luck. There’s another option. If you’re like me, your cell phone is probably within arms reach. Grab your phone and go to your favorite app store. Search for a voice recorder. You should see several. Download one that piques your interest.

You can now record yourself talking about the audit issues. Now you will never miss that wonderfully worded paragraph that would sound great in an audit report. Once recorded, you can listen to the recording and pull out the impactful paragraphs.

Transcription
If you truly believe the recording represents your best work ever, you can have it transcribed. Yes, you heard me, transcribed. It’s not as bad or as expensive as you think. Before I get into that, I must say that I am not being paid by nor am I endorsing these specific products. there are several transcription services that I have used. Some use live transcribers while others use automated engines.

Summary

Writing audit reports can be a daunting task. But it has to be done. Nowadays we have a lot of tools that can help streamline the process. Many of the biggest issues start with us. Writer’s block is only as real as we allow it to be. Sit down and put something on paper. Use some electronic tools to get your words on paper. Almost any words will do. Afterall, the magic happens in the editing.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Audit International were in awe to hear this revolutionary news from the billionaire founder of the outdoor fashion brand Patagonia. He has announced just yesterday he is giving away his company to a charitable trust.

Yvon Chouinard said any profit not reinvested in running the business would go to fighting climate change.

The label has amassed a cult following due to sustainability moves like guaranteeing its clothes for life and offering reasonably priced repairs.

The brand’s website now states: “Earth is now our only shareholder.”

Mr Chouinard has always said he “never wanted to be a businessman”.

A rock climbing fanatic, he started out as making metal climbing spikes for himself and his friends to wedge into rocks, before moving into clothing and eventually creating a hugely successful sportswear brand with a cult following.
Founded in 1973, Patagonia’s sales were worth around $1.5bn this year, while Mr Chouinard’s net worth is thought to be $1.2bn.

He claimed that profits to be donated to climate causes will amount to around $100m (£87m) a year, depending on the health of the company.

“Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” the entrepreneur said of his decision to give up ownership.
The Californian firm was already donating 1% of its annual sales to grassroots activists and committed to sustainable practices. But in an open letter to customers, the apparently reluctant businessman said he wanted to do more.

Mr Chouinard said he had initially considered selling Patagonia and donating the money to charity, or taking the company public. But he said both options would have meant giving up control of the business and putting its values at risk.

Instead, the Chouinard family has transferred all ownership to two new entities. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, led by the family, remains the company’s controlling shareholder but will only own 2% of its total stock, Mr Chouinard said.

It will guide the philanthropy of the Holdfast Collective, a US charity “dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis” which now owns all of the non-voting stock – some 98% of the company.

“Each year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,” Mr Chouinard said.
Patagonia combines high-end outdoor fashion with its own brand of environmental and social activism. It’s a heady combination that certainly appeals to a loyal, if predominantly well-heeled following.

Part of the attraction comes from the fact that its environmentally conscious stance isn’t new. It was preaching eco-awareness years before sustainable fashion became fashionable.

But it’s still pretty hard to save the planet, if your business depends on selling stuff, however many recycled or renewable products you use.

By ringfencing future profits for environmental causes, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has done his best to square that circle.

But he is also clearly trying to ensure that Patagonia brand is future-proofed and can never fall into the hands of the kind of companies he has accused of greenwashing in the past.

It’s nice to bring a good news story to you readers, and it will be interesting to see if any other climate conscious companies will follow suit. The bar has well and truly been set.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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Audit International are aware that public sector organizations face a variety of risks, ranging from cyber threats to budget constraints to compliance concerns. While internal audit teams in the government sector might not be responsible for solving all those risks, they need to make sure that they are following through with relevant risk management protocols.

Therefore, it is essential that internal audit teams are conducting internal audit risk assessments to figure out what these risks look like.

“Risk-based auditing ensures that the internal audit activity is focusing its efforts on providing assurance and advisory services related to the organization’s top risks… This requires internal auditors to have a working knowledge of basic concepts, frameworks, tools, and techniques related to risk and risk management,” explains the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).

In this article, we’ll examine five tips to help public sector internal auditors build better risk-based audit plans. These include:

1) Define your goals
Before you get too bogged down in the specifics of running an internal audit risk assessment, take a step back and consider what you’re trying to accomplish. Doing so includes finding internal alignment within your audit team and with other stakeholders.

As Baker Tilly advises, internal audit teams “should meet with the various stakeholder groups – management, the audit committee, and the governing body – to explain the process, set expectations for the results and listen to any desired outcomes, as a means of adapting the approach or identifying other activities where internal audit can add value.”

2) Organize your data
Conducting an internal audit risk assessment also requires strong data practices. But before you can get to a place where you are using data analytics to identify key risks, public sector organizations often need to organize their data first.

Information might be held in a variety of systems that makes analysis inefficient, if not ineffective. Tools like TeamMate+ use a data exchange API framework to pull together data from different sources, such as governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, giving you a complete picture of what’s happening within your organization.

3) Get agile
If you go through an entire risk-based audit without getting any feedback along the way, then it’s easy to get off track. For one, risks might have changed from the time the audit started to when it eventually wraps up. And when you present to stakeholder leaders at the end of the risk assessment, it can be tough to then incorporate their feedback into your internal controls and assurance processes.

Engaging in agile auditing can help. By breaking an internal audit risk assessment down into more manageable chunks — where different risk areas go from the planning to presentation stages in short sprints — public sector internal auditors may have an easier time adapting to change and incorporating feedback.

4) Go dynamic
Agile auditing creates a dynamic internal audit risk assessment. Instead of approaching these assessments as an annual occurrence, you can review public sector risks on more of an ongoing basis.

That means collaborating with other departments throughout the year to keep up with emerging risks, which is where good data-sharing practices also come in handy. Dynamic or continuous risk assessments can also result in more frequent reporting so that you can keep everyone in the loop and get their timely feedback. Having a strong internal audit risk assessment tool like TeamMate that can help you simplify risk scoring and create efficient audit reports makes a big difference.

5) Keep up with public sector requirements
Lastly, working in internal audit in the government sector means staying on top of general risks like cybersecurity and financial concerns, along with meeting specific public policy guidelines and regulations. Public sector internal auditors often turn to sources like Wolters Kluwer, which provides resources like webinars and other Expert Insights so you can learn what you need to do to strengthen internal audit as a government organization.

Following these five tips can go a long way toward creating a strong internal audit risk assessment and a better audit process overall. Even if it seems like your organization doesn’t face many risks, conducting a risk-based audit can help you stay on top of any changes to your risk level. Rather than being caught off guard, building a reliable internal audit risk assessment plan can help your organization control risk, however that takes shape.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Audit International have been following this news closely for the past few months and we are all interested to see what will unfold for the Big4 giant over the next few months and perhaps years. Just this week, the EY bosses have approved the radical split in largest shake-up of Big Four accountants in decades, with the Big4 Auditor planning to create ‘two distinct, multidisciplinary organizations’ amid regulatory pressure.

Bosses at EY have agreed to push ahead with a split of its audit and consulting arms in the biggest shake-up of a Big Four accounting giant in decades.

The firm said on Thursday that it will ballot its partners on a plan to separate the 312,000-strong business into “two distinct, multidisciplinary organizations” following a strategic review.

EY’s partners will vote on the proposal in the coming months, with the process set to conclude in early 2023, the firm said.

The voting rules will vary by country, but in the UK, the firm will require 75pc of its partners to back the plan if it is to be ratified.

Hywel Ball, EY’s UK chairman, said: “The needs of our clients, people and stakeholders are changing and I’m proud that we are reviewing the shape of our business in the UK and globally so that EY is well positioned to build on its success into the future.

“We believe the creation of two strong, independent businesses would help us to better meet the needs of our clients; create compelling careers for our people; and serve the public interest by providing greater choice in the market and a global response to regulatory concerns.”

The plan could see EY publicly list its advisory division or sell a partial stake in the 312,000-strong firm in a move that would result in bumper payouts for partners, similar to Goldman Sachs’ flotation in 1999 and Accenture’s in 2001.

However, Mr. Ball said no decisions have been made about how the split might occur.

EY is proposing the split amid severe pressure from regulators worldwide over concerns around conflicts of interest at the Big Four firms.

EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC have been heavily rebuked by regulators in the UK and US over a perceived lack of independence in their auditing divisions because of the fees they also earn from advisory work.

In the UK, the Big Four have already been forced to start ringfencing their audit and consulting arms in a bid to reduce conflicts of interest following major corporate collapses such as Carillion and BHS.

The Financial Reporting Council has given the firms a deadline of 2024 to operationally split their audit arms from the rest of their advisory businesses.

A decision on the split at EY has been held up for months due to disagreements over how billions of dollars of liabilities should be split and regulatory issues in certain countries, including China.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that senior staff at EY were seeking to defect to rival firms in a sign of growing internal strife over its proposed break-up.

KPMG and PwC are among firms that have seen a significant increase in the number of applications from senior managers, directors and even new partners at EY in recent months.

In July, EY held a briefing on the proposed split for its UK partners at the five-star Royal Lancaster hotel near Hyde Park in west London.

Mr. Ball said views expressed in that meeting showed that partners were “proud” that EY was the first Big Four firm to try and split, adding: “We’ll redefine the profession in the coming years.”

Deloitte, KPMG and PwC have said they have no plans to engineer a similar split of their advisory and audit arms.

Separately, Deloitte posted record revenues on the back of a boom in tech consulting last year.

The firm reported revenues of $59.3bn (£51.5bn), a jump of nearly 20pc on the previous year.

Whatever happens with the split, Audit International will be following this story very closely and bringing you the latest updates on it.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Audit International recently came across a very interesting article, on improving Internal control systems, in the Wall Street Journal, and thought we’d share it with you.

Increasing business complexity and regulatory requirements are driving continual change to the risk environments for many organizations, and historical approaches to risk and controls may not be suited for the current atmosphere of digital transformation, persistent change, and uncertainty. As the business landscape continues to evolve, the risk of accounting and reporting misstatements rises, often due to the inability to respond to internal and external circumstances and adapt quickly to business changes.

Developing an internal controls framework with upgraded operating models, advanced technology integration, and new processes to monitor, implement, maintain, and optimize a risk and reporting structure can position an internal control program to stay ahead of risk and increase value. First, we will explore some of the internal and external factors driving challenges beyond traditional remediation and restatements in accounting and reporting, including considerations receiving attention from the SEC and AICPA. These critical change drivers, along with internal controls and automation opportunities, inform a new risk and controls framework empowered by more proactive and data-driven solutions.

External Factors Driving Remediation and Restatements

Remediation and restatement drivers include external challenges such as new accounting rules; the SEC and regulatory guidance; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. Some of these external drivers were highlighted at the recent AICPA conference and featured prominently in recent SEC comments—including SEC reporting and rulemaking, ESG matters, auditor independence, and digital assets.1 2

Data quality and the importance of modernized reporting supported by new technology were prominent features at the AICPA conference, with an emphasis that organizations evaluate their standards, processes, and technologies to create accurate and easily accessible reports. In addition, responding to market demand for ESG information was a key theme throughout the conference and SEC comments. ESG is the universe of topics that reflect areas of performance management around the impacts and dependencies of the business on society and the environment. It is a dynamic and interactive process that will likely have far-reaching implications for an organization, and the overlap between sustainability and financial reporting is inherent. Still, given the scope and possible market share of ESG activities and resulting data volume, multiple possibilities of future regulatory requirements may cause uncertainty around developing a new reporting framework that can mitigate remediation and restatements and optimize the controls environment.

Internal Controls and Automation Opportunities

Understanding both the external and internal drivers to risk and reporting structures helps inform the structure of a new internal control program to be more resilient, efficient, and agile through a changing risk profile. In addition, developing the new program using a change framework that identifies what to monitor, implement, maintain, and optimize in the controls program implementation may further enable a more resilient and efficient framework.

In addition to the external challenges to remediation, addressing internal challenges and opportunities is also necessary when developing the new control program. Disruptions from new technology and digital transformation are potential examples of prevailing internal challenges that may lead to restatements and remediation. However, the digital transformation also enables opportunities with automation, enhanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and data-driven solutions for the evolving risk and controls landscape and reporting lifecycle.

Automation Opportunities Across the Reporting Lifecycle

Process automation—includes manual, repetitive, rules-based processes and enables transaction automation, dynamic data manipulation, and streamlined communication. Examples include report generation, data reconciliation, and trend tracking.
Shared services process automation—includes processes with multiple interactions across different systems that enable process synergies. Examples include payroll, onboarding, education and training, and IT functions such as infrastructure, directories, and file management.
Outsourcing process automation—can be built for outsourcing contracts using robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. Examples include reconciliations, claims processing, inventory processing, production support, and network monitoring.
Developing a New Internal Controls Program

This five-step guide to developing a new internal controls framework can be considered to help address the external and internal challenges and utilize automation and data-driven solutions to move a control program forward and reduce the chances of accounting and reporting remediation throughout the transformation.

Conduct dynamic risk assessment and scoping updates that are periodically refreshed to remain agile, identify fraud risk considerations, and create a communication plan.
Develop internal control program methodologies, update operating models, and ascertain control owners and operators, including areas to automate.
Introduce technology to help automate and monitor the control environment and obtain electronic evidence with data and analytics.
Establish automated control methodology, develop a digital testing approach to control automation, and evaluate and update protocols for data security and cybersecurity.
Lead with the process, data, and user experience, all enabled by advanced analytics, data visuals, automation, and intelligent technology integrated within the framework.
Potential Benefits of an Updated Control Framework

Using remediation and restatement drivers to create a modernized controls framework may offer benefits beyond mitigation of risks in controls reporting. Developing a framework for a changing risk profile built on a foundation of new technology elevates the quality of reporting by increasing transparency and visibility into business processes with meaningful insights into managing risks. These deeper insights allow the function to refocus efforts and move away from point-in-time solutions to address issues continuously with more transparent monitoring and visualization capabilities.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Audit International have put together a brief guide to strategic audit planning and resourcing.

Managing your audit requires strategic planning whilst ensuring that all internal resources are appropriate and effectively deployed.

Strategic audit planning
An audit needs assessment (ANA) exercise should be undertaken to inform the development of the organisation’s internal audit strategy (IAS). This ANA should be regularly updated and the IAS amended as necessary to reflect the changing assurance needs of the organisation.

The ANA should be updated at least annually but, increasingly, organisations are seeking to achieve more organic strategies that evolve more frequently to reflect the increased speed of change which many are experiencing – particularly fuelled by technology and competition. This requires continuous monitoring of the internal and external environment, and frequent and meaningful dialogue with both senior management and the audit committee.

The ANA represents a critical ingredient in the provision of an adequate, relevant and timely internal audit. It should be used to direct internal audit resources to those aspects of the organisation that represent the greatest risk to the achievement of its objectives, and where internal audit can aid management of those risks.

The ANA process should include:
-Review of the organisation’s risk register / board assurance framework
-Review of performance management data
-Review of previous audit opinions and progress on actions
-Review of other second and third line sources of assurance
-External major incidents/risks and other factors such as industry issues
-Planned organisational changes or major projects
-Reports from regulators
-Discussion with senior management, audit committee and external audit

All of the above should be considered in the context of organisational risk appetite, current risk exposure and acceptance of risks.

In organisations which have moved their risk management arrangements on to reflect the board assurance framework, this is a useful tool in the ANA process. This approach starts with strategic objectives, the risks to achieving those objectives, and then typically the ‘three lines of defence’ within the organisation which aim to manage risk to within appetite.

The first line of defence is the internal control environment recognising the policies, procedures and processes put in place by management. The second line of defence is management’s own monitoring and risk assurance processes including those escalated up through the governance framework. The third line of defence is independent assurance, providing a position statement for internal audit within organisations.

When considering the focus of the organisation’s IAS, the board assurance framework can help internal audit identify where it can provide assistance in its ‘consulting’ role surrounding business critical risk exposure beyond risk appetite. It can also help identify where ‘independent’ assurance will add most value by focusing upon those controls which the organisation believes are managing business critical risks within risk appetite.

The IAS should prioritise reviews over a particular timeline. The timing of reviews will be driven by a number of factors such as:
-Priority for each area of coverage, in terms of the level of risk exposure and risk appetite
management or audit committee concerns regarding a particular area.
-Degree of stability in respect of systems, staff and other organisational change
-Time since last audit and audit outcomes
-When specific risks are considered likely to materialise and impact
The audit resources necessary to deliver individual assignments will be driven by a number of factors such as:

System complexity:
-Factors such as number of locations, transactions and frequency
-The assurance which can be brought forward from previous audits
-The envisaged scope and objectives of the proposed audit

The IAS and the annual plan (year 1) within it will normally be subject to audit committee review and approval, with changes in subsequent years approved as appropriate in accordance with agreed protocol.

Resource management
Few managers have a blank cheque when it comes to budgets. Internal audit is no different.

Internal audit will typically adopt a medium timeline for strategic planning purposes allowing the chief audit executive (CAE) to balance assurance needs and resources within a defined budget envelope to provide reasonable assurance to audit committee and senior management. Short term or specific skills gaps can be bridged through recruitment, training or co-sourcing.

Where the budget of the department is insufficient to meet the assurance needs of the audit committee and senior management, the CAE will need to raise such concerns and explain the impact of such limitations upon the assurance they are able to provide. The audit committee can direct a review of resources and approve as required to meet its needs.

In determining and managing the resource need:
-Identify the number of individuals, skills mix and specialist skills necessary to deliver the approved IAS
-Analyse your current resources against this need to identify resource shortfalls and skills gaps based upon realistic target -Utilisation / efficiency levels
-Allocate audits based upon skills and experience to in-house team members
-Identify how resource shortfalls will be met – recruitment, out-source or co-source
-Ensure that planned audits are delivered in accordance with the approved budgets to identify and take timely action in -Respect of any deviation to keep delivery of the audit plan on-track

When managing co-sourced or out-sourced relationships to support the audit plan:
-Tender for specialist work suitably balancing cost and quality considerations
-Ensure robust and clear contracts are in place with: requirements, pricing, confidentiality, data security, ownership of -Intellectual copyright and working papers, dispute resolution, and exit terms
-Establish clear operating procedures and approval processes within a service level agreement to ensure that each assignment is delivered in accordance with expectation

IT solutions may enable more efficient and effective internal auditing. However, this will be dependent upon a number of factors such as the size of the audit plan, size of the respective team, geographical spread and degree of standardisation or repetition within the audit plan.

Increasingly, internal audit is utilising a risk based approach to audit strategy, rather than simply providing coverage of the audit universe on a set cycle. Some of the value within traditional IT solutions can be limited and not justify their cost. Therefore as with any system acquisition you should undertake a detailed needs analysis and review the product offering to determine if it will meet those needs and provide value for money.

Likewise with increased functionality within common office IT products, there is the ability to utilise existing software to automate elements of the audit documentation and facilitate analysis of large volumes of data if it can be extracted in a common format from the organisations core management information systems.

Knowledge management
The internal audit function must develop the skills, experience and knowledge within its team members. Importantly it must also ensure that as team members change, their knowledge is retained as far as possible or transferred to other team members. Effective audit management systems, notice periods, team working and knowledge sharing practices will assist in minimising associated key person risks.

The following techniques may assist in acquiring and developing in-house skills:

-Structured appraisal and performance management
-Informed training programmes at both a team and individual level
-In-house training programmes to deliver common training needs
-Procure external training for specific specialist training needs
mentoring programmes
-Joint delivery of reviews with co-sourced providers to facilitate knowledge transfer
effective knowledge management systems.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Today, Audit International are hoping to clear up a few of the most common Internal audit myths. Let us know if there are any we have overlooked, and we bet we can debunk those ones too.

Myth: There is little creativity in internal auditing
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Internal auditors are called on to do a hard job, that much is true. That job can be operationally challenging, “dry” in content (which is subjective), and seemingly “behind the scenes”. However, as Workiva states, IAs are increasingly using brand power and social media to better communicate what they do and its centrality to business operations.
• “For instance, a team I used to work on rebranded from “Internal Audit” to “Risk Advisory and Assurance.” It helped answer questions about what we do and provided clarity to the types of services we provided”.
If internal audits are seen to be working in the shadows, the time is now to dispel those rumours of bean-counting and step into the fore!

Myth: IAs are the business police
Stinnett Associates describes how they go about amending this viewpoint perfectly, by urging internal auditors to focus on “process improvement” as the real essence and philosophy of the role, rather than letting stakeholders confer amongst themselves that IAs are only in it to stifle business, innovation, creative thought or operational independence.
Owning this new narrative is super important: IAs are integral to business success, and vital elements in non-auditors doing even better in their roles thanks to IA’s fastidious attention to regulatory and ethical performance.

Myth: Aren’t internal auditors just accountants by another name?
While accounting provides some critical skills needed to be a successful internal auditor, the industry draws from a wide range of backgrounds and skills, from tech and IT to engineering.
The real skills needed – diligence, a high regard for quality services, fastidiousness, great communication and creative thinking – means that people from a wide variety of backgrounds with training can enjoy a career in internal audit.

Myth: Internal audits are the same as external audits
No, they are not the same. While some parts of the day-to-day job of an internal and external auditor are parallel – both evaluate controls, report to seniors, and work with audit programmes – the outcomes and flexibility of internal auditing drastically differs.
As Moss Adams in their presentation titled Busting the Myths Surrounding Internal Audit states, “(IA) focuses on future events by evaluating controls to help the organisation accomplish its goals and objectives” rather than just meeting “materiality thresholds”.
By offering a service more “broad in scope” than external auditors, IAs provide direct, measurable business outcomes and improvements.

Myth: Internal audit is a lonely job
While “independence” of an IA’s role is a prerequisite, the truth of the matter is internal auditors straddle every department in an enterprise.
As mentioned above, the job is focused entirely on improvements, working closely with internal controls (which is a separate but often conflated field) to mitigate fraud and perfect business outcomes. This means that IA professionals get to work with their own team and every department in a company.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
• Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
• US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
• info@audit-international.com”

After the rollout of the vaccine and the end of lockdown restrictions, businesses are picking up and hiring into their Internal Audit departments and many candidates seem curious to take the next step in their audit careers.

COVID-19 has quickened audit firms’ adaption toward new ways of operating. Shifting to a remote and flexible working schedule by audit firms and the companies adds a new challenge already faced in adapting the audit to a tech-evolving corporate world and placing new demands on audit professionals. However, new ways of working will bring important benefits as well as posing challenges that have to be addressed.

Traditionally, firms have emphasized personal integrity and professional skepticism in audit professionals, and these attributes will undoubtedly remain vital. But in the new and fast-developing environment, auditors will also need to develop even deeper knowledge of business, a powerful curiosity about technologies and an agile mindset that embraces disruption.

This demonstrates the motivation of both candidates to find a new role and clients to hire into the Internal Audit profession. These figures have also likely been positively affected by the relative ease in which most interviews are now being conducted by video call rather than in-person. While auditors still retain their independence within organizations, they are nonetheless now expected to take a more collaborative, forward-looking approach to Risk Management and Governance. As a result, Internal Audit is increasingly seen as a value-add function rather than a cost center.

In order to achieve the expectation of audit objectives in hybrid environment, it is necessary for the auditor to plan well in advance with the following recommendatory steps.

-Gain an understanding of client business either through documented SOPs, policies to understand its Operations, Compliance and Financial area

-Being adept with trending technologies

-Being able to use the latest audit tools and techniques

-Adapting to the need for agility

-Being able to address regulatory compliance in a changing landscape

-Interdisciplinary approach to audit

-Effective communication skills at all business levels

-Ability to understand emerging technologies

-Ability to predict future challenges

-Ability to take a business-centric approach

-Ability to plan and execute, keeping the big picture in mind

-Ability to integrate adaptability into the audit design

-Ability to increase focus on key risk areas to improve assurance

-Ability to use process mining to analyze data

-Decide on the language to be used for the interview and ensure everyone involved speaks that language.

The auditors need to be more practical and realistic for carrying out audit involving Information Technology as a tool rather than as a barrier.

 

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following: 

 Calling  

  • Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
  • US 001 917 508 5615

 E-mail:

  • info@audit-international.com”