Should CPA’s work more remotely?

Jennifer Wilson of Convergence Coaching recently published an article in the Journal of Accountancy advocating that auditors should do more work remotely.

Her key points were:

  1. We have the technology.
  2. Its more time and cost efficient.
  3. Some client’s audit locations are less than ideal.
  4. Firms (CPA) can gain staffing flexibility.
  5. Many of your clients will be relieved.
  6. You can still follow audit standards and produce a quality audit without taking everyone on your audit team on-site for the entire audit.
  7. Your relationship will remain strong.
  8. You won’t have to reduce your fees.
  9. You don’t have to do this all at once.
  10. Your competitors are already doing this.[1]

As one who believes in high levels of client contact for my CFO practice, this logic is a justification and is not in the client’s best interest. Many CPAs are poor at client interaction and as a result fail to build relationships with the client personnel that allow those clients to view the CPA as a valuable resource rather than a fact-checker.

Ms. Wilson argues that “your on-site team doesn’t achieve much face time anyway.” “Your engagement partner can still visit the client on-site during the audit period, to meet, go to lunch, or otherwise discuss findings.” “What if remote auditing caused your relationship managers to be more intentional about their face-time touch with each client.”  “What if it even drove them to meet with their clients several times a year, outside the service cycle, which is something most clients want anyway.” [2]

She is correct that clients want and need more contact, however I fail to see how limiting client contact will raise up the next generation for CPA client managers. If you view your audit staff as simply technicians, and don’t view client contact as a benefit to the client, Ms. Wilson makes an economically compelling argument.

Fraud detection would rely on electronic testing procedures and bypass interaction with client personnel who might be uncomfortable with client practices and disclose that to the auditor. In my short time as an internal auditor, I “discovered” a fraudulent billing practice at a subsidiary.  In truth, the local personnel did not see their actions as fraudulent and openly shared the practice with me.  That would not have occurred if I haven’t been doing down and dirty document testing at the subsidiary.

I hope that others in the accounting profession will agree with me that the idea of remote auditing will lead to another embarrassing fraud case that will cause the profession to “re-think” their position.



[1] “Why are we still auditing on-site”, Jennifer Wilson, Convergence Coaching LLC, on  December 4, 2017

[2] “Why are we still auditing on-site”, Jennifer Wilson, Convergence Coaching LLC, on  December 4, 2017

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