In France, public limited companies and sole-trader businesses that have exceeded certain thresholds regarding their turnover, annual balance sheet or number of employees are required to make use of the services of a statutory auditor, as defined in the 2019 PACTE law.
The statutory auditor, who is always an external third party, is responsible for carrying out an internal audit in order to certify the accounts or identify accounting anomalies. However, as companies digitalise, the complexity of procedures and constantly evolving management methods mean that new operational and financial risks are emerging.
So, how does digitalisation affect the auditor’s task and the profession itself?
A necessary adaptation to the digital transition
The traditional task of an auditor is to perform a legal audit to verify that accounting operations are in compliance with regulations. The auditor’s role is to ensure the accuracy of the accounts and, where appropriate, to establish the absence of significant anomalies. Since the adoption of Professional Practice Standard (NEP) 240, a financial audit is no longer limited to a direct examination of the consolidated accounts, but also includes a risk assessment and an internal review.
However, the digital transition has given rise to an extremely large volume of online transactions and operations, increasing the risk of internal abuses within companies. Indeed, the sheer mass of the data to be processed makes the flow of financial information less and less transparent. As a result, monitoring this information is becoming much more complex, according to the National Association of Auditors (CNCC).
Meeting companies’ new needs
Digitalisation creates new challenges for auditors:
Firstly, new CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies have encouraged companies to report more than just their financial data. The trend for the future is a shift towards a universal reporting model, where accounting records for financial and non-financial data will be standardised to facilitate audit.
Secondly, companies are now facing a new and worrying challenge: the rise in risk associated with cybercrime, i.e., malicious attacks on IT systems aimed at damaging a company’s image or financial situation. According to a 2021 Heuler Hermes study, 9 out of 10 companies feared an increase in cybercrime related risk, such as data theft.
According to the same study, the main fraud risk faced by companies on the Internet is phishing. This practice involves using a false identity to pretend to be an employee of an organisation and requesting sensitive information (bank details, data), often by means of emails.
This means that it is now necessary for auditors to measure companies’ exposure to cyber risks and evaluate the financial consequences of cybercrime in order to protect against it
Towards a transformation of audit tools?
As we have already seen, the digitalisation of companies provides auditors with new challenges, in particular the need to review a large volume of data. However, digitalisation also contributes to the provision of the audit tools needed to meet these new challenges, in the process influencing the auditor’s profession itself.
Regtech – derived from “Regulation” and “Technology” – refers to new technologies aimed at facilitating the application of financial regulation. Regtech helps financial institutions to analyse data in real time, facilitating the fight against fraudulent malpractices such as money laundering.
The Kantik platform [Internal link] was created with this in mind. Kantik’s algorithms are based on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning and its sophisticated expertise in Data permits massive data analysis. Kantik’s platform enables the legal auditor to monitor financial and operational data on intuitive dashboards, and to set up automatic alert processes in case anomalies are detected.
Digitalisation is at the heart of the new challenges facing statutory auditors. The volume of data to be inspected, as well as the increased risk of fraud and cybercrime, are changing the role of auditors. Moreover, digitalisation offers technological tools fit for these new challenges, allowing analysis and monitoring of the completeness of transactions, so that auditors can concentrate on value-add operations.