Independently obtained data provides unprecedented opportunities for audit and specifically client collaboration. With the ability to meet clients where they work in seamless processes they know, clients are more prepared and left with a much better overall experience.
The Circit team spoke with James McCullough from Harbinson Mulholland about the impact of independently sourced data on the audit work at his firm. In a conversation with our Head of Customer Success, Sarah Broderick, insights, knowledge and ideas were freely shared. We have recapped some of the most important findings here.

Moving bank confirmations onto Circit

Having trained in the audit team at Harbinson Mulholland, James has always been interested in ways to introduce technology to help serve their clients better. He recently moved to the Forensics team, working alongside other accounting practices on cases of suspected fraud, among other things.

Considering his background in audit, how have James and the wider team been using Circit at Harbinson Mulholland?

“Circit has helped us to address some of the fundamental challenges that we have: the real basic building blocks of putting together a strong audit file and ensuring that we have the assurance we need.”

Historically, a bank confirmation at Harbinson Mulholland was completed through letters and sometimes emails, depending on if the bank accepted that. That process quickly became quite messy. It was also challenging for the Senior members of the team to be confident that the right information had been gathered.

“Bringing bank confirmations onto Circit has had a real tangible impact for us. It’s changed what the scenario looks like, it is no longer chaotic. It’s no longer about the Junior and Senior members of the team having conversations about whether a bank confirmation has been received and having to follow that up with the banks themselves. Rather, it’s now a process that can be passed to Junior members of the team to manage across a firm wide process. That’s created significant efficiencies in this part of our audit process.

We want to be able to use our Junior team members as efficiently as possible, to deliver as much of the audit file and the accounts preparation in a quick and efficient manner. Being able to give that to junior members of staff in a format they are familiar with, reliable data that includes everything – that makes a real difference.”

This scenario around bank confirmations will undoubtedly sound familiar to many auditors. However, there are also newer challenges Harbinson Mulholland is facing: those of challenger banks, cryptocurrencies and other new assets.

“Being able to verify this independently provides a lot of comfort. We see this on the Forensics side as well: if there is something unusual going on in the business, it is more likely to take place in the new compliance environment of new banking institutions.”

Seamless processes clients know

With authentications for direct access to client transactional data, these types of assets can be checked alongside the rest of the data. Since the output is a standardised file, there is no need to spend extra time on getting the files ready to be worked on.

Though providing these authorisations may be new to some clients, as James says: “We take the pressure off the client by saying: ‘Here is the link, just provide us your approval and we can take the information we need.’ That really streamlines the process as opposed to waiting for csv files to be delivered or receiving a patchwork pattern of pdf statements. It’s much more efficient to get that data and bank reconciliations in the same format.”

When setting up independently sourced data, firms first need to ensure that clients are clear on what they need to do.

“We find the videos Circit has put together on that very helpful. We can send these to a client and prepare them for what happens next and what it will look like. Some of our work on the Forensics Team is around fraud awareness, so we understand why clients are sceptical when they receive an email asking them to approve an authorisation. Circit has helped us make that collaboration more seamless.”

Meeting clients where they work

The other essential part is meeting clients where they work, using seamless processes they know. When clients provide authorisations, they are going into their online banking account securely via the Circit platform. These are all familiar environments and processes for the client, which reduces friction and can get the implementation off the ground quickly.

We recently asked in a poll which area would be most improved by independent access to data. Not surprisingly, time saved is top of the with 66% of the votes. Second are data matching and analysis and quality, tied.

With Circit’s Verified Transactions product, we are bringing in independently sourced data from evidence providers (including challenger banks). This allows for a couple of key improvements: centralising the data on one single platform, gaining real-time updates, making the team more collaborative and creating faster progression.

Another poll question we asked was around the biggest perceived blockers to implementing independently sourced data.

With client buy-in is high on the list, we asked James what to say to clients who are hesitant to provide access.

James: “I think it’s about talking them through what kind of access they are providing and who they are providing it to. I think it’s also about addressing the security and comparing it to downloading pdfs and attachments and the security risks that are involved in that. That’s a risky way to exchange information.”

Future-proof processes

So, what is next for Mulholland Harbinson and their continued use of Circit?

“We are excited about the AR/AP coming online. We realise there will be challenges in getting every supplier to approve, but there is a massive challenge in sending out hard letters or emails and tracking who has come back and who hasn’t. Circit’s automatic reminders are great, I can click one button to send a reminder. That would be transformative in how we get confirmations done from our client’s debtors and the balances that are out.”

At Circit, we are pleased to work with forward-thinking accounting firms to improve processes, elevate the client experience and streamline direct from source collection.

Want to connect with James? You can find him here.  

Interested in learning more about Verified Transactions? Speak to our experts.

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