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, 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.
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.
Pruim 先生培训同事使用 Confirmation，并在必要时协助客户。在此过程中，Pruim 先生为 Rehmann 事务所的同事和公司客户发现了几项关键优势。
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.
Pruim 说，这对 Rehmann 的客户关系来说是件好事。 “一旦我们解释说我们正在利用这项技术让事情变得更简单、更安全，他们马上就明白了。他们在电子邮件中点击一个按钮——只需点击一下即可授权我们函证账户。在我看来，这最能提升客户体验——我们不需要总是去找客户提出请求。”
Brent Pruim, Rehmann Strategic Analyst
使用 Confirmation 的另一项重要优势是，当出现意外余额时，Pruim 先生的团队能够立即重新函证，而且不需要任何成本。“被询证人通常也会很快回应。与被询证人可以进行互动，你还可以询问他们有关不确定性的问题，这是一个很好的功能，”Pruim 先生分享说。这种双向沟通的结果是审计流程易于理解并且可以再次执行。清晰的沟通让商业经营更加容易，审计函证过程也不例外。
对于他在 Rehmann 事务所鉴证部门的同事，Pruim 先生除了为新的 Confirmation 用户提供登录凭证、简要介绍界面之外， 不需要为他们做太多工作。“该系统无缝运行，用户界面非常友好。我们的大多数员工和客户只需要短短的 5 到 10 分钟的培训就能学会使用该系统。我们在整个审计过程中要用到许多表格，使用这种技术来函证账户，让我们感觉到我们用适当的文档记录恰当地执行了函证程序，”Pruim 先生说。
受到整个审计团队对新系统顺利接受的鼓舞，Confirmation 向 Pruim 先生的团队呈现了一个机遇让他们探究如何利用技术提高效率。“我们准备把为每个客户做的询证函输入和批量下载，在更大程度上做成一种集中式的办公室行政任务。Confirmation 让我们真正能够以不同的方式利用时间。例如，如果一位办公室同事在 11 月或 12 月有一天空闲时间，他们可以请求获取整个办公室即将进行的所有审计的授权，并提前启动这些函证工作。这让我们可以在开始现场审计工作之前完成函证账户的任务。此外，能够依靠办公室行政人员来完成这项任务，可以让我们的同事腾出时间，更好地为客户提供增值服务。”许多其他 Confirmation 用户已经开始看到以这种方式集中函证的好处。
通过使用 Confirmation，Rehmann 事务所每年完成的资产、负债和证券询证函总数增加了 13％ 到 20％ 或更多。看一下这些数字：
2018 年与 2017 年相比，资产询证函增加了 32％ 以上。这意味着事务所及其客户对此的确定性正在上升，而鉴证部门的工作比以往任何时候都更加清晰和准确——而且这种准确性正在日益提高。
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.
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.
虽然 Pruim 先生承认短期内不太可能有审计机器人出来执行现场工作，但他的确看到了令人兴奋的变化。他的第一个发现？这个行业中，技术的运用不是一时的流行，而是将一直持续下去。“在我们这个行业，人们在接受新兴技术和工具时会很犹豫，但当我与我们的领导层和负责人交谈时，他们非常开放，了解即将发生的事情。他们支持并拥抱这种变化。变化来的很快，我们的行业需要做好准备，”他补充道。
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.
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.
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