Date posted: 24/09/2020 5 min read

Running the numbers remotely – how COVID changed audit

The coronavirus pandemic triggered rapid changes to the audit industry, with remote audits now the rule.

In Brief

  • The lack of face-to-face contact during the pandemic has created some minor inefficiencies for auditors.
  • It can be more challenging to learn about a client’s business when auditors are not on-site.
  • Video calls, electronic signing of documents and other technologies are being used to bridge some of the gaps during COVID-19.

By Fiona Smith

Not even a pandemic can stop the half-year audit. Prevented from visiting clients, auditors are piloting drones through warehouses during stocktake, sharing data on portals and collaborating through video.

Melbourne-based Glenn Carmody CA, managing partner, Assurance, for EY Oceania, says the virus triggered the biggest and fastest changes to audit he had experienced in his 31-year career.

“It was really just the speed of having to go remote. That was the biggest challenge for us,” he says. Fortunately, EY already had technology in place.

EY’s audit teams use an electronic platform, EY Canvas, for the audit process. It also has an online portal for securely sharing information with clients and was transitioning to using Microsoft Teams before the coronavirus lockdowns.

Carmody says the lack of face-to-face contact has created some minor inefficiencies: it can take a little longer to get someone to respond than it does when you can walk to their desk.

The hardest nuts to crack were stocktake audits, but a solution was found in drones or in asking clients to use their iPad cameras to show what they are counting.

“We will continue to develop ways of efficiently and effectively doing stocktakes,” he says.

The experience will also “speed up” investment in technology and data analytics, predicts Carmody.

Glenn Carmody CAPicture: Glenn Carmody CA.

Video chats are COVID-19’s new normal

Rachael Fawkes CA, Audit & Assurance senior manager at Grant Thornton in Melbourne, says it can be more challenging to learn about a client’s business when auditors are not on-site, because there are fewer incidental conversations.

“But that’s just meant we’ve had to schedule more specific calls with the client,” she says, adding that efficient audits depend on building good relationships with clients.

Team members usually feed off each others’ energy when they are corralled together in a room for an audit. Fawkes says regular video chats during COVID have brought the team together.

Post-COVID, the usual two-week stint at a client’s site may be replaced by a hybrid model of one week on-site, with the rest of the audit performed elsewhere, she says.

“I think the fundamentals of an audit aren’t going to change, but I think the where and the when might change.”

“I think the fundamentals of an audit aren’t going to change, but I think the where and the when might change.”
Rachael Fawkes CA, Grant Thornton

The pandemic has made more co-operative relationships

Steve Grivas CAPicture: Steve Grivas CA

Steve Grivas CA, Audit & Assurance partner at HLB Mann Judd in Sydney says he is getting more “face time” over video with clients during COVID than he was when he could see them in person.

“I think the relationship, to a certain degree, is getting stronger,” he says.

He has noticed that auditors are speaking to clients more frequently at non-audit time as well and getting a better understanding of what is happening in the business at all times of the year.

Grivas says clients and auditors have become more co-operative, sticking to a schedule of information flow during the pandemic and that discipline may continue.

“I think that expectation of delivery is probably a lot clearer,” he says.

He says that technologies that allow electronic signing have also become more widely used during the pandemic.

#AuditorProud celebrates our difference makers

This year #AuditorProud Day gives a nod to #AuditInAction. Faced with the havoc on businesses large and small caused by the COVID-19 shutdown, the profession has demonstrated resilience, adaptability, responsiveness and creativity.

Join us in celebrating #AuditorProud day by sharing your stories of how you have responded to the ‘new normal’ during the coronavirus pandemic and helped client and the further business community using the hashtags below.



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