Estudio de caso: De qué manera Rehmann, una de las 50 mayores empresas de Estados Unidos, esta procurando alcanzar la auditoría del futuro

Rehmann is a top 50 firm (#38 on the 2018 Accounting Today list) with 24 offices across Michigan, Ohio, and Florida. Its firm-wide assurance department requests thousands of (primarily bank) confirmations every year. Initially, Rehmann rolled out the Confirmation platform to only a few offices, but once the faster confirmation replies and overall time savings became evident, use of Confirmation quickly expanded throughout the company and is now a tool that the entire assurance department, more than 200 auditors, relies on daily.

Brent Pruim, Analista estratégico de Rehmann

Brent Pruim, now a Strategic Analyst with Rehmann, started with the company as an auditor himself, managing audits and preparing tax returns. Today, he’s the tech liaison for his department, the leader of the information technology general controls team, and a member of his department’s IT subcommittee. In his current role, Pruim is responsible for leading the charge to ensure Rehmann is identifying the audit of the future. Pruim often speaks at industry events — for organizations like AICPA, the MICPA (Michigan), GFOA, AGA, MTA, and more — about this exact topic; about how technology is changing and will change the audit and tax industries. Day-to-day, he makes sure Rehmann is taking advantage of the efficiencies offered by emerging tech in the industry, including how Confirmation fits into his charge of leading the company toward the future. 

Reemplazar la incertidumbre con seguridad 

Pruim’s audit experience includes both public- and private-sector audits, security being an equal concern between the two. “Our clients are very busy people — they want to make sure the data they share with us is secure, but don’t want to spend a lot of time managing the risks that come with sharing this type of information,” he says. “With paper confirmations, we would request that clients complete a confirmation form using a MS Word or Excel document, then print, sign, and send it back to us. That’s a very time-consuming process and certainly not the most secure way to share confidential information.”

Since instituting Confirmation, these transactions have become much easier and far more secure. Pruim explained, “It’s helped us organize a very routine part of our audit process. We have been able to streamline that process and stop chasing paper. Confirmation gives us and our clients a great level of comfort that we no longer have confidential information on pieces of paper floating around in the mail.”

“Confirmation gives us and our clients a great level of comfort that we no longer have confidential information on pieces of paper floating around in the mail.” 

Brent Pruim,  Rehmann Strategic Analyst

Pruim and his IT team use various security measures when evaluating partnerships, so to have his and Rehmann’s seal of approval on the security of Confirmation speaks volumes. Security comes in many forms. The status of each confirmation is now always at the ready, eliminating uncertainties that come along with the paper process. No more wondering about the mail delivery time, or who mailed what and when. Two-way communication via Confirmation relieves this concern. As Pruim puts it, “With Confirmation, you can utilize notifications, and if you’re questioning whether something is coming in or being processed at any point, you can simply check — it’s all at your fingertips.” 

Pruim continued, “Before using Confirmation we could be chasing down paper confirmations for weeks. We would call the financial institution, and they might say they never received anything, meaning you have to contact the client and inconvenience them to sign a new confirmation so you can mail it out. Avoiding issues and uncertainties like this can end up saving us several hours over the course of a single engagement.” Simply put, there were no warm fuzzy feelings before. Now, the answers are all one click away for Rehmann’s audit teams.

Better Communication Has Its Benefits 

Pruim capacita a los colaboradores sobre cómo usar Confirmation y asiste a los clientes cuando es necesario. Con el tiempo, Pruim ha logrado obtener varios beneficios clave, tanto para sus colegas de Rehmann como para los clientes de la empresa.

Mejores relaciones con los clientes
Pruim stresses the importance of the initial communication with a client — letting them know they’ll be receiving emailed confirmation-related requests from Confirmation, what that means, and from there, firm-to-client communication through Confirmation becomes a very self-sustaining process.

Y eso es bueno para las relaciones de Rehmann con los clientes, señala Pruim. “Cuando les explicamos que usamos esta tecnología para facilitar las tareas y para que sean más seguras, lo entienden de inmediato. Pulsan un botón en su correo electrónico, lo que nos autoriza a confirmar las cuentas con un solo clic. En mi opinión, eso es lo que mejora más la experiencia del cliente: no tenemos que volver a hablar con ellos y pedirles más cosas”.

“Los clientes nos autorizan con un solo clic. Eso es lo que mejora más la experiencia del cliente: no tenemos que volver a hablar con ellos y pedirles más cosas”.

Brent Pruim,  Rehmann Strategic Analyst

Mejores notas de auditoría
Otro gran beneficio de usar Confirmation es que si aparece un saldo inesperado, el equipo de Pruim puede reconfirmar, sin costo alguno y de inmediato. “Además, la persona que confirma suele responder rápido. Esa interacción con la persona que hace la confirmación y el hecho de poder hacerle preguntas sobre las dudas que tenemos es una gran función”, agrega Pruim. Esta comunicación recíproca tiene como resultado un registro de auditoría del proceso que es fácil de seguir y puede repetirse. La comunicación clara facilita los negocios y el proceso de confirmaciones de auditorías no es la excepción.

Ease of Use Leads to More Opportunities

Para sus colegas del departamento de control de Rehmann, Pruim no tiene que hacer mucho por los nuevos usuarios de Confirmation, más allá de brindarles las credenciales de inicio de sesión y una descripción general de la interfaz. “El sistema funciona perfectamente y es muy intuitivo. La mayoría de nuestros colaboradores y clientes aprenden a usar el sistema con una capacitación que dura solo entre 5 y 10 minutos. Trabajamos con muchos formularios durante toda la auditoría y usar esta tecnología para confirmar las cuentas nos da la sensación de que seguimos el proceso de confirmación correctamente y con la documentación adecuada”, dice Pruim.

Inspirado por la facilidad de adopción del sistema en todo el equipo de auditoría, Confirmation le brindó la oportunidad al equipo de Pruim de que viera nuevas formas de usar la tecnología para aumentar la eficiencia. “Nos preparamos para que el ingreso de las confirmaciones y las descargas por lotes para cada cliente sean una tarea combinada más que administrativa. Confirmation nos permitirá usar el tiempo de otra manera. Por ejemplo, si un colaborador tiene un día sin asignación en la oficina, en noviembre o diciembre puede solicitar las autorizaciones para todas las auditorías futuras de toda la oficina e iniciar esas confirmaciones por adelantado. Esto permite que la tarea de confirmar las cuentas se complete antes de que iniciemos el trabajo de campo de la auditoría. Además, poder depender del personal administrativo para llevar a cabo estas tareas deja tiempo libre a nuestros colaboradores para que lo usen mejor en servicios de valor agregado para nuestros clientes”. Muchos otros usuarios de Confirmation empezaron a ver los beneficios de centralizar las confirmaciones de la misma manera.

Results by the Numbers

Al usar Confirmation, Rehmann aumentó su total anual de confirmaciones de activos, pasivos y garantías completadas de un 13 % a un 20 % o, incluso, más por año. Estos son los números:

Confirmaciones completadas
2016: 1763
2017: 2195
2018: 2904

2016: 219
2017: 248
2018: 316

2016: 10
2017: 18
2018: 39

Para 2018, las confirmaciones de activos aumentaron más de un 32 %, en comparación con 2017. Esto significa que las certezas para la empresa y sus clientes aumentan y que el departamento de control trabaja con más claridad y precisión que nunca antes, y que esa precisión crece día a día.

While there are no hard numbers to report, Pruim says ample time is being saved. He notes, “The response time for a confirmation is extremely fast — we’ll have some within 24 hours, and that’s where the real time savings comes from. There’s a lot less back and forth. We complete thousands of confirmations per year, so if we’re saving an hour on each one, that’s huge. For clients with 20, sometimes more than 30, accounts, we’re taking what’s essentially a decentralized, time-consuming process and putting it into a very centralized structured process. For those larger accounts, it’s amazing how much time you can save.”

Efficiency is a timeless key to doing business effectively, and Pruim already has his eye on how the audit business could evolve to become even more efficient in the future.

La auditoría del futuro

With his expertise in and exposure to technology advancements within the accounting profession, and the application of those advancements within Rehmann, Pruim is a great resource to provide perspective on what the audit of the future could look like.

Aunque Pruim admite que, probablemente, no habrá robots de auditoría que hagan el trabajo de campo en un futuro cercano, sí ve cambios emocionantes en el horizonte. ¿Su primera observación? La tecnología en la profesión no es una moda pasajera, no se irá a ninguna parte. “Hay muchas dudas en nuestra profesión con respecto a adoptar las tecnologías y herramientas que están surgiendo, pero cuando hablo con nuestros directores y ejecutivos, ellos están abiertos y entienden qué es lo que viene. Apoyan y aceptan el cambio. El cambio viene rápido y nuestra profesión debe estar preparada para eso”, agrega.

As for Pruim’s perspective on what will define the audit of the future in a single word, it’s data. The second word? Advisory-driven. But going paperless is still a big first step for many firms and clients alike. “At Rehmann we’re essentially paperless, but industry-wide we’re still in a pivotal spot. While we’re not rolling out with paper binders to do audits, we’re still scanning audit support. We still receive a significant amount of paper from clients. In fact, now that we can confirm via paper through Confirmation, I expect the percentage of our overall confirmations that run through Confirmation, currently around 75 percent, to increase even more,” Pruim predicts.

What else does Pruim see when looking ahead? Here’s a few things he has top of mind.

  • Data-driven processes: We’ll spend a lot more time analyzing data.
  • Volume of data: The more data we obtain through cloud-based accounting application connectors, and utilizing the blockchain to verify the transactions, the more fluidly we can audit, while providing valuable insight to our clients by utilizing these tools.
  • In 10 to 15 years: The jury is still out, but the concept of continuous audits could become a reality, which could make the audit process more ongoing, more advisory-based, and more seamless than it is now.

When we asked Pruim if “busy season” could ever become a thing of the past, he noted that different industry sectors have different busy seasons now (public vs. private, for example), and that while those spikes could smooth out a bit if the audit process does in fact become more constant, he doubts they will fade entirely.

Only time will tell what the audit of the future holds, but with the steps Rehmann is putting in place, the firm will surely benefit as an early adopter.