De Brenda Westra Opinieprijs wordt jaarlijks door Nyenrode Business Universiteit en Stichting Future Finance uitgereikt en is gericht op vernieuwende, duidelijk opiniërende, vlot geschreven, voor het accountantsberoep en –onderwijs actuele opiniestukken. Op vrijdag 2 oktober wordt deze prijs uitgereikt, vandaar dat de aankomende tijd The Accountables is omgetoverd tot Brenda’s Weken, waarbij gedurende deze weken elke dag een opinie van een van de genomineerde centraal staat. Vandaag de opinie van Tanco van Geelen. Tanco behaalde in 2020 de Master Accountancy aan Nyenrode en studeert nu in de Post-Master. Hij werkt bij de Audit & Assurance afdeling van Deloitte.
The difference between a suit and a professional
In my opinion being an auditor is one of the greatest jobs there is, requiring a combination of dedication, experience, knowledge and integrity. You get to work with people who are equally dedicated which results in interesting conversations or discussions that trigger you to be at your sharpest and to improve continuously. Although robotics, artificial intelligence and analytics take a leap and make our job more interesting and smarter, auditing will always require human contact. You are the one that communicates with the team, stakeholders and the client to perform the audit as good as possible. It is safe to say that communication is key in all phases of the audit process and should not be underestimated, especially client communication. We should put more effort in communicating with clients, listening to the problems they face and providing them with the adequate tools. This way we provide additional value to the client, achieve higher audit quality and improve audit efficiency.
We require information from the client to audit, we require answers upon questions we cannot figure out ourselves, we need to highlight errors and propose the correct alternatives. Communication enables all of this and the better the communication, the better it will benefit the quality and efficiency of the audit. For example, you can simply request a position paper regarding accounting estimates without explaining to the client the relevancy, criteria and purpose of the paper. Most likely, this will result in a position paper but not of the quality you expected. You will then have to request an improved version (maybe even multiple times), frustrating the audit process and possibly the client.
Instead, you can substantiate your request with relevancy, criteria and purpose. Sincerely listen to or ask what problems the client faces and what they require in order to generate the required position paper. Collaborate to find a solution and guide them when necessary. Doing so, you will get the client to actively participate in the audit process which will benefit both parties and you will add value to the client. You enable the client to thoroughly understand what we do, why we do it and what we expect from them. Providing the client insight in different perspectives and help them in generating the paper with the expected quality you require. Why put so much effort in substantiating your request and going in-depth? As an auditor we are dependent upon our client and thus if we receive impossible to understand documentation it surely will not benefit your audit (neither the quality nor the efficiency).
Fortunately, as an auditor we are a well-versed professional, experiencing a steep learning curve and expert in multiple skills. Unfortunately, communication, the concept of listening to what the client needs, to put our requests in the correct terms and passing on the knowledge we have, is not one of the key pillars of our education. It is a skill you willingly have to develop and put effort in, to apply your experience and knowledge to your clients’ specific situation. Of course, there will be clients less voluntary to actively participate in the audit. Every client and audit is unique and every problem has a different solution, a solution to all is non-existent and thus communication will not solve all problems. Nevertheless, it should not stop you from trying to make full use of your knowledge by sharing this with the client, helping him to improve and develop. Ultimately, this knowledge will benefit the client in understanding what we do, why we do it (from the perspective of the client it is easier to support something you understand) and what we require.
Thus, If you believe communication with your client leaves room for improvement I urge you to seize the opportunity. If you are convinced there is no room for improvement I will not bother you anymore. Just be aware of the impact you can make by listening to the client and sharing your knowledge and experience. It is an investment that requires time but potentially benefits your audit and client significantly. It is an investment that can make you go from a ‘regular suit’ in the eyes of the client that only comes to audit, in to a ‘professional’ that shows understanding, contributes and acts as a valuable partner. As Einstein already said: “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value”.
 Miller, W. (1955, May 2). Death of a Genius. LIFE Magazine.