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How do you rate your Internal Auditor?

An article in the May 2014 CFO magazine stated that in a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers that 34% of the CFO's polled said their auditors were doing a good job. However the broader C-suite (55%) said these auditors brought no "significant" value. Do your auditors bring value to you and your broader C-Suite? Do you actually discuss the issue or do they just file under "mandatory expense"?

Answers

Anonymous
(Consulting CFO and Business Operations Advisor) |

When I hired a big 4 firm (not naming names), I would have ranked them as a cost / liability center. I won't go back except for an S-1. In one case my CEO defended me in front of the board because the firm had both extorted money from us (literally), overcharged us for work by a factor of 5x, and dropped the audit, refusing to complete it until we brought our attorney to bear (thanks, Cooley!). The board never met a *single* person from the audit team, and only knew that they were getting robbed. This was a *very* bad situation. The board would have likely had me removed had the CEO not put his rep on the line for me.

The "big regionals" however have been *fantastic*. Process improvement; board education; risk analysis....the list goes on. Out here there are many: Mohler Nixon; Sensiba San Filippo; Frank Rimerman. These latter guys have brought real value.

When working internationally, I have found that at certain big 4 firms there are good partners, smart and experienced....but you need to work with the partners on an advisory basis. Don't try to let them implement. If you're GE and have infinite budget, you might survive. Any smaller, you'll end up in actual trouble. International "my auditor won't get back to me" trouble is not what you want to hear. For actual work, stick with locals on both ends.

Note: the above stated issue cost us well in excess of $200K (~6% of revenue at the time); cost 4/5 of our employees their option plan (so $100Ks of potential earnings evaporated) *and* landed us in court in a foreign jurisdiction for two separate violations. On top of that it delayed a funding round, risking a down-round situation. After that fiasco, I would have fired me...and I didn't even choose the firm (inherited).

I don't want to "cast aspersions from behind a veil." But, for obvious reasons I'm Anon...however Wayne knows who I am if you've got questions.

Cheers,

Anon

Anonymous
(Finance Director / Controller) |

Wayne - are we talking internal or external audit team?

For external, we've had a very good experience with our auditors, who are a smaller local firm, so I do agree with Anonymous that the small to mid-sized local firms bring better value than a Big 4 firm. In both price and working relationship.

Once a company becomes listed and/or has broad international operations a large firm is needed to handle what will be a more complex engagement. Enter the Big 4.

Unfortunately the staff are, well, staff and you will be paying top $$ to train them.

The managers are usually very good to work with.

The partners can be political sharks, though I hate to generalize.

Once hired, they will work quickly to ingratiate themselves with the highest level of management they can gain access to.

If an error occurs and it is on BOTH of your watches, they will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat and behave as if it is their fiduciary duty.

And they will find a way to make more money as part of the process.

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