How can we bring a more valuable audit experience to our clients?Across the world, EY is looking to deliver audits of the highest possible quality, and the launch of new audit platforms and methodologies enables our teams to come even better prepared. Nout van Es, Assurance Services Partner, on how innovative platforms contribute to sustainable audit quality: “Our investment in our tools is about making an EY audit even more quality-conscious, agile, efficient and relevant.”
“Making our audit quality sustainable can’t be seen in isolation and isn’t just only about quality, either. The Sustainable Audit Quality program launched by the firm focuses on continuous improvement of the quality of our audits, while also taking on board the tone at the top, talent, quality support and monitoring.
These, coupled with simplification of our audit methodology, transformation and technological innovation, add up to the critical success factors underlying sustainable audit quality.”
In 2015, EY launched or further developed three platforms to help audit teams pull this off: Canvas, Helix and Atlas. Canvas, EY’s state-of-the art global online audit platform, is part of the simplification success factor. Van Es explains:
“We’re talking about optimization of audit processes here, about making them as simple and as seamless as possible.”
”This is the perfect platform for managing projects, which is precisely what an audit is. It has become much easier to define the work, break down who does what and have the documentation with the reviewer in good time. This has allowed us to make major improvements to the quality of our audits.”
“Canvas has made communication easier and better, between ourselves and with our clients, as we can flag issues earlier and take away some of the pressures on clients. No more last-minute issues that demand immediate solutions. What’s more, it has simplified and accelerated a lot of administrative tasks, leaving us with more time to address the actual audit process. Canvas was fully implemented in the Netherlands in 2015 and we now use the platform for all our files, and to record all our audit work.”
Early flagging of risks
Helix, EY’s new suite of data analytics for analyzing larger populations of audit-relevant data, provides greater insight into clients’ financial actions. “It helps us to understand them better,” Van Es says.
“Traditional audits would see us look for what might go wrong at a client which could result in errors in their annual accounts. Helix enables us to investigate what has gone wrong or what’s going wrong right this minute.”
That said, data analysis alone does not get EY to the root of a problem, van Es warns. “It flags potential deviations. Spotting these helps us learn from them and gain a better idea of what might happen in the future. This innovative suite helps us look back and forward, allows us to spot risks sooner and identify and address any real problems, as well as their causes.
Our audits have become much more powerful as a result, as we’ve greatly reduced the risk of missing things. And that’s made us more relevant to our clients, as our audits are adding even more value.”
EY’s research has also undergone a metamorphosis. “EY Atlas, our new research platform, provides faster, better and even more relevant research results than our previous system,” Van Es notes. “And it stores all our knowledge, including external laws and regulations, making Atlas a real knowledge base.”
Canvas and Atlas are about to be integrated, much to Van Es’s delight: “Linking the two platforms should help us work even more efficiently.
If we’re running an audit, say, it’s easy to quickly import the relevant work program from Atlas into Canvas, as it’s available on file straight away. That’s one action less, and the auditor can be sure they have the latest version of the work program in their files.”
Strength in global power
Being part of a global organization has major advantages, Van Es points out. “On our own, we would never have been able to afford the massive spend to develop these innovative platforms – this really proves the benefits of being a global firm. Of course, we’ve adapted the platforms to the situation in the Netherlands – a great example of ‘strengthen global, empower local’. Another advantage is that our global network and organizational set-up help us come up with global solutions – and fast. So we can act quickly and implement processes effectively.”
The new approach is creating happy clients. “Clients often tell us that we’ve become more relevant,” Van Es reports. “Our clients also innovate and analyze their own data to keep close control – and we help them do that.
We’re even receiving requests to come and audit more frequently, as clients see audit as a key mechanism to help improve their own control environments. It’s a win-win, really, as we can then use the analyses carried out by our clients themselves.”
Trust and confidence
“At the end of the day, what matters is that we strengthen the trust that clients place in the work we do. That’s our legacy,” Van Es says.
“We need innovation to continue to gain and bolster this trust. Or to put it another way: we need to innovate and add relevance so as not to become irrelevant. That’s why we’re constantly innovating in our audit approach and in the way we train people and recruit certain types of people – it’s all part of achieving sustainable audit quality.
Our files should be top-notch – and not just for our clients, but for society at large. Sustainable audit quality means offering quality, and being and remaining reliable, for both clients and stakeholders. And we can only achieve this through an integrated approach and through innovative platforms and tools.”