'The most rewarding part ... is building relationships'
Choosing audit and assurance: I was attracted to audit and assurance by the thought of working with clients in a variety of industries and having the opportunity to go out into the field and meet with clients. One month I might be working with an insurance company, another month a bank. It was an opportunity to see those industries and build relationships with those people. To me, the most rewarding part of my job is building relationships with clients. When I'm able to really help those clients resolve an issue, solve a problem, and achieve their mission as a business or an organization, that's rewarding to me.
Ensuring the highest-quality audits: I work primarily with four groups of clients: local governments, nonprofit organizations, condominium and homeowners associations, and employee benefit plans. There are two big issues today for CPAs to ensure their audits are of the highest quality. The first issue I see is the proliferation of audit and accounting standards. Some big standards have come out recently that change how things are presented and how they work. Just staying on top of all the new standards and pronouncements that are coming out can be challenging. The second issue is the level of specialization needed today to maintain quality. As we sometimes say at our firm, dabbling is dangerous. If you're not really familiar with an industry, it's less likely that you'll have the highest-quality audit as opposed to a firm or practitioner who is really immersed in that industry.
Dealing with bumps in the road: If you've built a relationship with a client, that really sets the table for you in terms of delivering bad news during an audit. Nobody likes surprises, so I deliver the news to the appropriate people prior to doing anything in front of a board or a committee. Whether with the accounting team or executives, discuss the details of the issue and always allow them the opportunity to consider, respond, or make additional arrangements. Then, to extent that it's possible, the CPA and the management team can be on the same page when delivering that news to the public, governing body, etc.
Auditing during the COVID-19 pandemic: Remote auditing has become an important topic in the profession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our firm has audited clients virtually for many years, and having the right technology and processes in place has been important for us in maintaining our commitment to quality. As a profession, we have the same obligations to comply with standards and deliver value to our clients whether our people are working from home or on-site. I have no doubt that the short-term disruption resulting from this pandemic will lead to long-term changes in how audits are conducted.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.