Base at two of the UK’s largest accounting firms said having auditors more frequently in the office would not necessarily improve audit quality.
The comments of senior executives at Deloitte and BDO follow KPMG told UK audit staff they will be expected back in the long term up to four days a week in offices and at client premises.
Working in teams in the same place was “essential to ensure that we work together more effectively, deliver high-quality audits, and continue to develop our technical and personal skills”, said Cath Burnet, KPMG’s UK Audit Officer, in a email to her 6,000 staff. in November.
But competitors do not agree that spending large amounts of time in the office is necessary to ensure good quality audits.
“I do not see it that way [being as] simply like ‘physical equals better’, ”said Paul Eagland, managing partner at BDO, the UK’s fifth largest accounting firm.
“Some things are still done better face to face, but it’s not a whole week’s work, is it? It is a well-timed progress meeting with the client, ”he said.
Eagland’s views were endorsed by Paul Stephenson, UK’s managing partner for audit and insurance at Deloitte, who said: “While there are elements of an audit that will take place in person, we do not believe quality is affected by auditors working flexibly and we have been working very effectively in a remote area for more than a year now. ”
“The audit of each entity will be different. “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and that is why we want individual teams, in consultation with the companies they audit, to work out the arrangements that will work best for each personal and professional situation.” he said.
Both Deloitte and BDO have teams and individuals allowed to decide how often to come to the office or attend client sites.
Providing more flexibility than competitors will help attract staff, Eagland said. “Smart people can often work out what. . . right rather than us saying ‘it’s two days this or four days that’, ”he said.
Auditors at PwC, the UK’s largest accounting firm, are expected to spend two to three days a week in offices or at customer sites after the pandemic.
Hemione Hudson, PwC’s UK head of audit, said working in the same place as colleagues helps judgment, teamwork and learning, but that much of the work can be done remotely while maintaining quality.
Auditors relied on technologies such as drones and CCTV to help with physical verifications such as inventory counts while working remotely. However, some senior auditors are concerned that errors or violations may be more difficult to spot if they are not physically present.
Only 24 percent of companies wanted their auditors to return to work primarily on-site, according to a survey by Source Global Research.
It found that 59 per cent of companies believed that flexible work had improved audits and the vast majority said their auditor had done a good job of adapting to telework.
KPMG did not say when it would ask auditors to come to offices and client premises four days a week, but it did instruct them to attend a minimum of two days. Some auditors have only attended occasionally so far this year.