Why You and Your Team Should Consider Remote Audit and Advisory Services Next Year

Bill Curtis, CPA | Mauldin & Jenkins, LLC

Regular internal and external audits are a standard business necessity for most financial institutions. Even when not required by regulation, an independent audit or advisory service review offers valuable business insights along with validation of the company’s financial reporting or operational processes. The benefits are unquestionable, but they do come at a price: audits cause a certain amount of disruption and inconvenience, even when planned for and executed well. Remote audits are an alternative that can make the experience an easier and more efficient one for the institution as well as the audit team.

Conducting audits remotely is a relatively new possibility thanks to modern technology. In a sense, accounting firms are already performing remote audits as so much of the communication and transfer of documentation takes place electronically. Cloud computing platforms, secure portals and other high-tech strategies have become standard business mechanisms that allow audit teams to share and receive data with clients from any location; utilizing these familiar tools to facilitate completely or almost-completely remote audits is a logical next step.
Tools such as Suralink and Linkfile allow for a seamless and secure transfer of sensitive data. Zoom video conferencing technology allows us to interview employees, view documents, as well as to conduct interviews and walkthroughs where you receive a personal touch.  

But just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. So why would a company opt to have its services performed remotely rather than by an on-site team? Turn to the usual suspects behind business innovation: time and money. Remote audits hold significant advantage over the traditional on-site method in terms of hours and overall costs, which gives them an undeniable appeal to resource-conscious business leaders. Add in the potential for a higher quality end product, and remote audits start to look very attractive indeed.

First, there’s all that wasted travel time to consider. If the audit team includes three people traveling two-and-a-half hours to get to the client’s location and back, a common situation, fifteen more hours can be devoted to actual audit work when the need for travel vanishes. That’s a lot of reclaimed production time, not to mention the reduction in direct travel expenses billed to the client.

The team will also be more efficient working in their home office environment with all its tools and comforts – multiple monitors, high-speed internet, familiar scanners and copiers and all the rest. The result is fewer hours needed to complete the work, and probably faster turnaround times for the financial statements or advisory service reports company leaders are anxious to see.

Speaking of anxiety, eliminating the stress of hosting an on-site team and avoiding the inevitable disruption associated with their presence is another nice feature of remote audits. Auditors can proceed in the optimal location (their own office) while work at the client continues as usual, with no worries about where to fit the “tourists” or how to work around them. While business leaders are quick to recognize how this benefits their own team, it’s worth noting that less travel time and a comfortable, familiar audit environment help create a better work/life balance for audit staff, which can also contribute to better quality work for the client and continuity of the audit team.

Some audits can take place entirely in the digital realm, but most will still require some on-site time and in-person consultation. By maximizing remote capabilities for completing most of the work, on-site visits can be planned well in advance and reduced significantly – often to only a few days or even a single day. This much briefer period allows for more purposeful time spent together, encouraging focused communications that strengthen mutual understanding and help build the relationship.

Comprehensive planning and clear communications are absolute necessities for an efficient audit process, wherever the work is performed. With remote audits, these key elements take on even greater importance to ensure all details are attended to and workflow can continue on schedule. There are some challenges associated with a remote audit; access to documentation, security and privacy, and fraud discussions are just a few of the obstacles auditors face in a remote environment. Companies that choose a remote audit experience must commit to making audit prep, document organization and good communication a priority (all of which enhance the speed and success of on-site audits as well).

Remote audits and advisory services are trends that are gaining traction rapidly, and it’s easy to see why their popularity is growing. To find out more about preparing for remote services or learn other strategies to increase business efficiency, please contact the audit and advisory professionals at Mauldin & Jenkins.