Q&A: G&E’s new audit head on moving in a pandemic and the future of audit

Q&A: G&E's new audit head on moving in a pandemic and the future of audit

Moving from the Big Four to a regional firm, Daisy Marsden is taking her audit expertise to Garbutt & Elliott

Accountancy Age spoke with Daisy Marsden, to discuss moving into a new role in the midst of a pandemic and her views on the future of the audit function. She recently moved from KPMG to become senior manager of audit at Garbutt & Elliott (G&E).

Why make a career move during a pandemic?

To be honest, I made the decision before the pandemic hit but was on maternity leave previously. However, I’d been keeping in touch with G&E just because you do worry during a pandemic, especially with a smaller firm, that everything might not be okay. They were still growing, winning new audits, which is really exciting and reassuring. I thought this was the perfect time for me to make the transition.

How has the transition been? Has it been difficult to start a new role in a WFH environment?

I’ve been into the office twice actually. I went in my first day, with the office under coronavirus procedures, social distancing and things like that. I went in to set my laptop up and meet a couple of people. I also went in on my second day and sat with one of the other senior managers, so I would get up to speed on everything. On top of that, we’ve just been having a lot of meetings via teams. I’ve been meeting people face to face but virtually.

The pandemic has obviously made the transition a little bit more difficult. If you just have a quick question, instead of just going to ask someone face to face or sitting next to someone, you’ve got to give them a call. But everybody’s in the same boat. G&E have hired quite a lot of people during this time and I’m one of the later ones. They’ve got a process in place that’s working and I’ve found the transition to be really smooth.

You mentioned you previously worked at KPMG. What are the big differences or advantages of a smaller regional firm like Garbutt & Elliott?

The main difference is the clients. I worked on a few audits for listed companies, which are very deadline driven and the regulations are strict. The clients that G&E are a lot smaller, they don’t have listed clients. It’s just a different environment and that was what I preferred doing at KPMG. I preferred the client interaction, the owner managed businesses, where you are adding value to the client when they don’t have their own tax team, and they don’t have their own set of in-house experts. That’s what I really enjoyed doing at KPMG and I’m going to get to do more of here at G&E.

At KPMG we had big teams, so big audit teams, big tax teams and there wasn’t much cross functionality, you didn’t have as much contact with other teams. I’m looking forward to learning more about tax and learning more about other areas apart from audit, which I think will bring me new challenges.

What is your outlook for your new role?

I’m coming in with a fresh perspective which is always good. I’m going to be bringing my technical knowledge from listed clients. KPMG is a much larger firm, naturally have more of a structure in place for innovation so they are a bit more innovative, but I’m equally impressed with G&E having an innovation team. I had a tutorial on some of the work papers and things that they’ve got and I was impressed at how intuitive it all is.

Company filings have had their deadlines extended, how has that affected audit?

Audit is fairly flexible; it just has to be. For example, a lot of the time, you’ll be ready to go on site and something just isn’t quite ready or something happened or you’ve got to swap teams. We’re quite used to working in that environment where things change every day. Regulations change quite rapidly, it’s quite a fluid environment.

Staffing is always changing in audit. It’s a normal thing to have regular swapping of staff. I think everyone will be able to cope. It will be how you manage that and how to be flexible in order to accommodate the client. Client service is paramount. I don’t think [the delay] will be too much of a problem.

The norm in audit is that things do change all the time.

What do you think are the near-term development within audit will be?

The main thing is the regulatory environment is just getting stricter and stricter. The big four probably see those changes first and then it filters down to the smaller firms. At G&E we’ll probably a little bit later, but it will all flow through. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bring some of my KPMG experience, working with the listed [companies] and meeting those regulations and deadlines, that experience will all help.

The other thing is data analytics, everything is driven by this or by data manipulation these days. That’s just going to get more and more important while also becoming more automated. I think G&E are really prepared for that with the innovation team and the things that we’re doing with audit files. We’re trying to get work papers automated where the data can then be analysed and manipulated.

What are your thoughts on remote audit and do you think it’s something that will carry on post-pandemic?

So we had to transition to remote audit, in most cases, obviously given the situation. Now we’re getting client information by secure drop box. Remote audits are the norm, but we do try and get to the client site where possible. That’s because face to face interaction is always best.

Post-pandemic, there will be an element of both. In my opinion, returning to the client site and working together as part of a team, it’s always the best way to do it. If you’ve got a quick payroll question, you head over to the payroll team and ask them. If you’ve got a cash question, you head over to that department. It’s makes the audit process much easier and quicker.

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