Controllers Council recently held a roundtable on Audits without Anxiety, sponsored by BILL.

BILL is a leading financial operations platform for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). As a champion of SMBs, BILL automates the future of finance so businesses can thrive.

Our expert panelists were Christine Gu, SVP & CAO at Clarify Health Solutions, and Joe Turkewitz, Audit & Attest Practice Leader at Citrin Cooperman.

Christine Gu is SVP finance and chief accounting officer for Clarify Health Solutions. Christine is an active CPA with more than 20 years of F&A experience. Prior roles included VP of Finance, Chief Accounting Officer, Corporate Controller, and Public Accounting career at KPMG. Christine’s experience includes both private and public firms from startups to public ready and managed multiple IPOs and SPACs. She earned a BA in accounting from San Francisco State University.

Joe Turkowitz is audit and attest, otherwise ANA, and a national practice leader and audit partner for Citrin Cooperman, a top 17 CPA tax audit and technology firm based in New York City. Joe has significant experience working with SEC accelerated filers of SOX compliance and their public violence. Joe is a licensed CPA in New York and earned a BBA accounting from Hofstra University. He’s a member of AICPA and its dynamic audit solution advisory and change management group.

Following are key takeaways to this discussion. If you are interested in learning more, view the full webinar archive video here.

What are the most common types of information or documentation internal and external auditors typically request?

Joe: We generally request are trial balance and general ledger transaction level detail. That general ledger or subsidiary ledger details especially important that we maintain a minimum level of data quality, meaning specific fields and structure in a usable electronic format. This ultimately will reduce the burden later on. Then there’s information that we request to understand the organization, like significant contracts, credit facilities, leases, organizational documents, items like of that nature, and then narratives and flow charts for internal controls and any testing that the organization might do internally. This helps auditors to baseline the organization and then ultimately design further audit procedures. From there, balance sheet accounts with reconciliations and account analyses and significant fluctuations in any accounts, we would generally ask for explanations. Then your typical type of items, like accounts receivable, having cash remittance advice or inventory purchases with vendor invoices and receiving documents. This is just validating the transactions that are ultimately recorded by the organization. And then one that is usually a little bit more difficult and a heavier lift.

From your experience, what areas of audit preparation do finance teams often overlook?

Christine: From my perspective, it really depends on the maturity level of the accounting team.

For example, for a public company, the accounting team probably is more accustomed to the financial audit because they come, the auditor comes to perform the review on a quarterly basis and then do the annual audit. It feels like the auditor never kind of, get off your hair, that kind of thing. So, in a way, it becomes more familiar with the audit requests, the audit cadence. For an accounting team that’s within the public company environment tend to be more prepared and probably less stress causing.

However, on the other hand, for private company or startup companies, finance team, either they’re fairly under resources or they are not very accustomed to the odd cadence because this only takes place once a year, so I would say typically things that got overlooked is data integrity.

Joe: Experience plays a key part, and that’s when specialists are needed. When we sort of get outside the finance team and involve others that are in other departments that aren’t necessarily as involved with the day-to-day of the audit process or really understand the importance of some of the timelines that are associated, such as IT, valuation, those areas, finance teams should really stay close to those areas and bring in the other departments or other specialists early in the process. I like to think of it as having like a kickoff meeting where you bring in the financial audit team, the finance teams, management specialists, and the auditor specialists to have a kickoff so that everyone understands the type of information that is needed, requests, timelines, and deliverables.

How can finance teams collaborate and work more effectively with internal and external auditors throughout the audit process?

Christine: I would say to collaborate more effectively is basically communication. Establish an open communication channel with the auditor and providing timely access to the information that’s been requested by the auditor and being proactive. Then the other thing I would also like to share is that I typically face the audit into different stage. I call it like pre -audit planning and then during the audit testing and then also finalizing financial statements.

Joe: Collaboration is the buzzword in lots of things that we do, but let’s remember that we’re all human at the end of the day. So, let’s just talk and keep those open lines of communication is extremely important. Proper project management is key too, such as daily check-ins and open items meetings, making sure everyone understands.

How has technology, especially automation, impacted the audit process in recent years?

Joe: Technology has had a significant impact on the audit process and will continue to have a significant impact on the audit process in future years. So when I think about this, I think about three sort of key areas that have been impacted: data acquisition, data analysis and anomaly detection, and verification of audit evidence.

Christine: From a corporate standpoint, I think we also want to try to do as much automation as we can and reduce intensive or repetitive tasks for our team. In particular, I would say account reconciliation is one of the areas where we try to implement technology to reduce the necessary need to perform a manual reconciliation.

How will technology, including automation and AI, impact audit in the future?

Joe: The impact of AI and things like natural language processing tools such as ChatGBT is an evolving area in terms of the impacts of the audit. What we can certainly say is that technology will continue to have a significant impact on the audit process and that the pace of adoption of technology and continued impact will only ever be more rapid than it is today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter. So, the concept used to be that to try to create the perfect balance of audit efficiency and effectiveness, almost like a seesaw. Technology today and tomorrow now allows auditors to achieve greater degrees of both efficiency and effectiveness simultaneously without having to sacrifice one for the other.

Post-audit, what steps should finance teams take address findings and improve future audits?

To view answers to this question and the complete webcast panel, download here.


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