Remote Auditing – What can’t you audit remotely?

In his blog our CEO shares personal insights from a career in accounting and tech

I recently contacted several customers to discuss how their transition to remote auditing has gone.

Without exception, every firm has been surprised by how their teams and clients have embraced the challenge. All of them cited relief that investments in technology and diligent disaster recovery planning had been in place.

Two of these customers also very kindly offered to run a webinar session to share with others how they perform audits remotely. This remote auditing masterclass will run on 1st April at 3pm GMT (with a version also being planned for our Asia-pacific audience soon).

Firms shared with me the following key areas where their teams are heavily leveraging technology to maintain effective delivery of audit services:

  1. Client collaboration – to get the information needed from clients to perform audits. Transparency and project management functionality has been key.
  2. Exploratory analytics – to analyse and visualize client data so teams can answer their own questions and obtain breakdowns without repeatedly contacting the client.
  3. Sampling automation – to running sample selections across balance sheet areas or transaction classes and submit the selected items to client contacts to request support.
  4. Management override of control – to analyse whole ledgers and subject 100% of transactions to routines to identify high-risk transactions for testing.
  5. Client reporting – to produce insightful outputs to showcase the value of audit services. Even more important when services are performed remotely.

In fact, firms have shared that they don’t expect audit work to ever involve as much on-site time again. Firms are now confident of performing audits remotely and clients are seeing this approach work.

So, the question then becomes what can’t be audited remotely. Very few areas spring to mind in a more normal environment than the current world we live in. Physical observation of inventory counting procedures, or physical verification of property, plant and equipment might be 2 examples. I’m not sold that drones are more than a gimmick answer to these areas.

For group auditors, certain procedures around the work of component auditors might need greater creativity when currently you can’t fly senior staff around the world. But nothing which should be insurmountable or shouldn’t be tackled anyway to reduce environmental impact.

One of the outcomes of the Coronavirus pandemic is going to be a significant shift in how the accounting profession delivers services such as audits in the future. The legacy default position of an on-site presence – critical so the client can “see” the work being done – is now exposed as being very dated.

This will fundamentally shift the business model of accounting firms, changing recruitment strategies both in terms of where people are situated and who is recruited.

Elements of the crazy world we currently live in will be hard to unwind. Remote auditing might become one of those aspects which becomes far more business as usual.


A big thank you to Richard Williams of Beever and Struthers (part of HLB) and Rachel Sanders of Duncan & Toplis (part of Kreston) for agreeing to share their experiences of remote auditing. Join us on 1st April at 3pm GMT, or post event on demand, for our remote auditing masterclass.

Mark Edmondson

Inflo President & CEO