[IMGCAP(1)]While putting the final touches on audit work papers and reports may feel like a huge relief, an auditor’s work isn’t finished.
As the end of any busy audit period approaches, it’s time to prepare post-audit reviews. This part of the audit process brings a host of challenges. At the top of the list is the inevitable workload crunch, as auditors try to schedule and prepare multiple presentations simultaneously for numerous clients with coinciding year-ends. Compliance requirements to communicate audit findings on a timely basis only compound those issues.
Adding fuel to the fire, there is a marketing opportunity in post-audit reviews. These rare occasions to get in front of boards of directors and audit committees are key chances to build trust and form long-term relationships with clients. Delivering an exemplary presentation at the conclusion of an audit—one that is customized, captivating and includes actionable recommendations for how the client can strengthen internal controls and business operations—can leave a lasting impression on key decision-makers.
Yet given the time crunch, auditors tend to re-use the “same old” presentation templates and structures, and may not communicate the full value their audit actually offers. Unfortunately, sticking with the status quo when presenting to the folks responsible for signing the next engagement letter could be a costly mistake for the firm.
What can auditors do to maximize the perceived value of the audit while minimizing the time it takes to prepare and deliver a meaningful post-audit review?
The following are best practices for auditors to keep in mind:
• Communicate with management and the audit committee throughout the year, not just during post-audit reviews so that “no surprises” are delivered in the board room. Also use those mid-year opportunities to ask clients what they are most concerned about. Then be sure to address those topics in the post-audit review.
• Provide benchmarking feedback whenever possible, as most clients want to know how they compare to their peers.
• Rather than just reciting the audit results, help clients apply them by discussing what they’re doing well and where they can improve.
• Remember financial presentation basics: Keep slides simple; especially when it comes to numbers, minimize text and focus on trends over details. Provide written copies of presentations beforehand so that board and audit committee members can prepare questions in advance and stay focused on the live presentation.
• Involve younger staff to spread the presentation preparation workload and bring in different perspectives. At the same time, this will promote professional development and aid in firm succession planning, paving the way for younger staff to take leadership and client-management roles in the future.
• Use technology to streamline presentation reparation and improve quality. Software tools can produce analytical summaries and high-quality graphics at the click of a button, reducing auditor involvement to annotations and formatting. With extra time to amp up their presentation content, auditors can use advanced data analytics to provide new insights about the client’s business environment and comparative performance. Software can also quickly project “what-if” scenarios to show clients the positive financial effects of auditor recommendations.
Putting these time-saving strategies into practice will help auditors improve their efficiency when creating post-audit review presentations and provide clients with more meaningful insights.
Lana Richards is a contributing writer for Sageworks, a financial information company that provides financial analysis and valuation applications to accounting firms. In addition, Richards is a writer, editor and content marketing strategist for professional services firms. She is a former accountant and has a master’s degree in accounting.
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