BDO Celebrates #AuditorProud Day By Looking Back and Dispelling Myths
The answer is simple when we are asked what the driving force for an international audit and consulting firm with offices in more than 160 territories is: People.
No matter the influx and influence of new technologies that BDO has integrated in the five years since the first #AuditorProud day, people remain at the core of how we ensure audit quality.
The skill, knowledge, and professional and sound judgement of our auditors is perhaps even more important today than it has ever been before. Not just for us as a firm, but also for our clients.
A common myth or misconception about auditors and audits is that it is a necessity more than an opportunity. A function performed by a profession of number-crunchers that spend day after day peering over stacks of paper at computer screens filled with excel spreadsheets. Audits can help you realise your business’ full potential and futureproof operations in the face of rapid changes.
Furthermore, audits play a pivotal role in the investment ecosystem. They inspire confidence in your business’ health and potential, giving better access to the funding that can help you grow.
To celebrate the fifth #AuditorProud day, and its theme of casting a look five years back and ahead, I want to take the opportunity to look at some of the common myths surrounding our profession. A look that encompasses some of the biggest changes and trends that have defined our profession through the last five years – and will continue to do so in the coming five.
Myth #1: Every day is the same as the last
In popular culture, auditors suffer a fate worse than even librarians. They, at least, have films and TV-series named after them and get to go on excursions to save precious documents. Joking aside, there is an idea that we spend much of our day chained to our desks.
In today’s global, 24/7 marketplace, nothing could be further from the truth. New technologies and changing business processes require increasingly fast response times and close interaction between auditors and their clients. We spend a great deal of our time advising clients on new technologies such as blockchain, big data analytics, emerging economic developments, and identifying how they create new opportunities both for our clients and internally. BDO’s global reach and network of industry experts also provide excellent opportunities for developing skills, mentoring and secondment to other markets.
The international and rapidly developing aspects of our jobs have defined the last five years and will continue to be a force for a long time to come.
Myth #2: It’s all about the numbers
Staying with the most common misconceptions, we often hear that people believe that auditing is all about numbers. Auditors do strive to help our clients by providing objective advice based on the best possible data. However, I think a better way of summarising the work of a modern auditor lies in four pillars that we employ in every client interaction:
1) Evaluate the facts
2) Seek the truth
3) Stand firm (together with our clients) in the face of adversity
4) Bring clients the right answers through the right services
Furthermore, modern auditors are trained in and skilled at speaking the language of the businesses we serve. Keen insight and understanding of clients’ business model and needs, both now and in the future, are critical to delivering the best possible service. Today, companies and organisations increasingly look to auditors for business insights. Being able to answer questions that only a valued, trusted outside partner can answer is a vital skill – as is helping interpret complex, changing rules and regulations that may affect their business.
Myth #3: Auditors are reticent to change
We are as affected by the rapid pace of technological change as any other industry or profession. Gone are the ‘good old days’ where clients would dump a carrier bag of receipts on an auditor’s table and come back two weeks later for their audit. You’ll likely not find a single auditor longing for those bygone days.
In the last five years, a slew of new technologies and techniques have changed many components of the auditor work process and client interactions.
AI and machine learning are deployed in even everyday tasks. Manual, repetitive tasks are handed over to robotic process automation, and other disruptive, new technologies such as drones are also being deployed in innovative ways. These technologies are not just creating internal changes but also leading to new services and solutions that we can offer our clients. For both parties, the changes lead to more time to focus on value-add and innovation. Personally, this has contributed to making the last five years one of the most interesting and exciting times in my career to date.
I hasten to say that while I believe that AI, machine learning and other technologies will continue to change our industry, that is not the same as saying that auditors are becoming replaced by machines. Not even AI can offer the integrity, judgement, scepticism, and courage of a professional auditor.
Myth #4: Auditing is not a people-first industry
Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the late nights of cross-checking and validating business reports are done for our clients, who are, naturally, people. The personal bond between auditor and client must be built on trust. A trust that cannot arise without interaction and understanding.
Our clients are passionate about their vision and their business, and so are we. When passionate people work together, discussions are a positive, but only if both parties know how to interact and find common ground. At BDO, we are focused on human interaction and wellbeing both internally with staff and externally with our clients. The ‘soft’ (a misnomer in my book) skills required of a modern auditor continues to become more important and plays a substantial role in our training and skill-development efforts.
Myth #5: Auditing is one-size-fits-all
Experience in accounting, incisive thinking, strong communication skills, industry insight and expertise, qualified computer coder and technology wizard. The wish list for today’s perfect auditor is diverse. Of course, no-one can truly encompass all of the skills above to the highest degree. In just the five last years, we have seen a growth of specialisation that I believe is beneficial for both auditors and our clients.
Finding your interests and strengths in a professional field is a journey. With all these substantial changes underway in the profession, I am looking forward to hearing what a new auditor starting out in the industry today will tell me about their journey on the 10th anniversary of #AuditorProud day.