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How good are Britain’s auditors? Satisfaction survey findings

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Auditing is going through convulsions. The raising of the audit threshold has taken tens of thousands of SMEs out of statutory audit; the European Parliament is considering major reforms to audit regulation; and the big firms continue to face questions about rigour and independence in cases such as Autonomy.

The board-level decision-makers who’ve already responded to this year’s FDs’ Satisfaction Survey have mixed news about the service they’re receiving: less than 40 per cent of finance directors are satisfied with the value for money from their audit. “Most SMEs are cutting staff and managing overheads and there is a perception that the auditors are not willing to share the pain, even for long-standing clients,” said one FD respondent. “It gives an impression that these firms are in an ivory tower whilst their clients are struggling in the real world.”

The restrictions on the the advice that auditors are allowed to offer audit clients is another source of frustration for finance directors – many of whom would love to make use of the trained accountant with an intimate understanding of their business in the office once a year. Yet if anything, the debate within regulatory circles is to further limit auditors’ freedom.

That said, more than 60 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the service from their audit partner. “He knows and understands the key things that concern and impact on our organisation,” one FD says. “He also brings a practical approach to dealing with any technical issues that may arise.”

Pragmatic and knowledgeable – desirable attributes for audit partners… and for their regulators? Tell us your views on audit – as well as banks, advisers and software companies, all in complete confidence.

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