Today is #AuditorProud day. A little known celebration, in its second year, but one close to my heart as a proud audit geek – and since being appointed to the Audit and Assurance Standards Board, some would say a ‘queen geek’.
Don’t worry, this is not going to be a complex post full of technical detail and reams of numbers, although give me some of those and I do admit to getting a little excited. This blog is all about why audit is an important profession, not only to the stability of the capital markets but to every Australian who has a superannuation account – and that’s about 100 percent of everyone reading this post. I also share some inner thoughts on being an auditor.
Historically auditors have been seen as a conservative bunch; brown cardigan, calculator, green pen (and a pocket protector inside your shirt just in case one of your pens leaks).
Much has changed. Perhaps we are still a bit conservative, but our audit judgments can change a company’s fortune, so with this in mind a little bit of caution does not go astray.
I like precision. I like reconciliations. I like a good robust discussion with really smart people. I’ve been known to do laps in a swimming pool and out of exertion (boredom?) forget my lap count. I mean who wants to do more than 30 laps. The auditor in me can’t stand not really knowing. Do I hear you saying “she is a born auditor”, yet? Roll the tapes pool-manager, the girl needs to know. Yep, the auditor speaking.
The best auditors are the ones who challenge. Audit is not a tick the box profession – that sort of compliance would bring chaos to the markets and consumer confidence. The best auditors are craftspeople of intuition and scepticsim who seek the truth and fairness in a set of accounts. This requires depth and resolve. I don’t like superficiality. I don’t like misrepresentations. Now is not a good time to ask about Tinder.
Auditors always have time to talk about analysing data. Where once we trolled through reams of paper to identify trends and more importantly outliers of trends, data and analytics transforms this function. Rather than sampling transactions data to test a snapshot of activities, we can now analyse all transactions in our selected areas and cognitive technology will allow us to build on these data and analytics advances.This allows us to quickly identify anomalies, drill down on the items that show the greatest potential of being high risk, and free up time for applying our smarts to the judgements and estimates.
This is a good thing. More than ever accounting standards require clients to make complex estimations. In the absence of certainty or authoritative data, auditors use every skill at hand to test the plausibility of relationships, reasonability of inputs and eye-ball their clients for signs of bias. I liken it to surgeons before MRIs and X-rays. You wouldn’t have any person cutting into you to cure your ailment. A skilled, experienced, trained, and well-mannered doctor takes this on. In the same way, an auditor cuts open those estimates to analyse their truth and fairness. Auditors are a steady pair of hands.
These are the important human elements of auditing. It is what attracts us to auditing. It is what makes it an intensely human profession of which I am an incredibly proud auditor.
Carolyn Ralph is an Audit Partner in KPMG’s Department of Professional Practice. She is passionate about audit quality and was recently appointed to the Auditing and Assurance Standards Board.
Share your pride in auditors using the hashtag #AuditorProud. And if you don’t understand the joke in the headline – ask an auditor.