Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Necessary Evil? Facing It Off With Clients

I’ve worked for an auditing firm for 8 years and, honestly speaking, there are really times when I asked myself if it was worth it. I mean just think about it, if the government / regulators do not require companies to have their financial statements audited, will we (auditors) still exist?

If companies know that they can just present their unaudited financial statements and get fresh capital from here and from other countries, will we still have a job called “audit”?

If companies can self-regulate themselves and always present accurate, fairly presented financial statements, what are we going to audit in the first place? I know, this last question is rhetoric, unrealistic at best and downright impossible at its worst. But that puts to mind the question in my title, are we, as auditors, just necessary evil?

Now why did I think of that? Oh I don’t know.

Must be the fact that some of my clients always have this look in their faces when they see us during the start of our audit, as if they couldn’t believe we’re there again. Some just blurt out “oh no, is it audit season again?” Or some just flat out try to avoid us during the audit (one of the assistants even filed a leave for the whole two weeks we were on site just to avoid us, sshhheeeesssh).

During my first audit season, one of my teammates discovered an error in the accounting of our client. The error was discussed at length and was rectified. You’d think they appreciated that? Noooooooo. Now why did I know that? Because the next time I went in and ask for a certain document, one of them said “now why are you asking for that? Are you going to look for an error again?” Good thing I was still a neophyte then or I could have told him what to do with that document.

Or what about those clients who want to leave everything to you and just sign off the approval when you give it to them? And then you get blamed if there was a mistake in the financial statements.

There are still more such instances but these are the ones that are the most memorable to me and sometimes make me feel like a fly on the wall.

On the other hand (so that you won’t say I’m trying to frighten you), in fairness, there are really clients who are really appreciative of what we do for them. I won’t exactly say they welcome us with open arms but they’re very cooperative, patiently answering all our questions and going the extra mile to provide us what we need during the audit.

Then there are those clients who make it a point to seek you out for your opinion on a certain accounting matter. True, this will make you rack your brains for the answer but hey, the fact that they thought of your opinion first is a testament to the fact that they think you have something valuable to offer right? Otherwise they won’t go through the trouble asking you.

Then there are those clients who will really go out of their way to give us the space, the time / schedule and the personnel whenever we need them. These are the clients who welcome us with open arms during the audit season. But don’t try to kid yourself there are a lot of clients like this. They’re really quite few. So if you’re assigned to one such as these, lucky you and appreciate your time there.

So what are we really? A necessary evil, something that they can’t do without (although a lot would love to), or an integral part of the business and the business world? Are we here just to piss off our clients or to help them out or to stay neutral? Up till now I still don’t have the answer. What about you, what do you think?


  1. The exact reason that I left working for a national firm and went into public practice myself. My clients are all owner-managed companies who need my help. (Think of being the controller for a few hundred companies). They all appreciate what my firm does and I get to work on helping their business succeed.

  2. Thanks for the comment Anonymous. I'm into a public practice myself (albeit a small one) and the clients seem to be more appreciative of what we do. There are some who still think like we're the necessary evil but over-all, I can say it's better.

  3. We're conscripted in the noble battle of defending capitalism against the unscruplous hordes of scam artists and communists, that's what auditors are.