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The trait that will prevent robots from stealing your job

RobotsLet’s face it. Artificial intelligence (AI) is going to revolutionize our business environment and the profession. Advancements in AI mean that you will soon spend less time conducting time-consuming and repetitive tasks. However, just because a robot can perform certain tasks traditionally performed by a CPA, does not mean that a robot is going to steal your job. That is because humans possess traits vital to our work that robots just don’t have the bandwidth to handle. One of the most essential traits is professional skepticism.

According to the AICPA Professional Standards, professional skepticism is an attitude that includes a questioning mind, being alert to conditions that may indicate possible misstatement due to fraud or error and a critical assessment of audit evidence. It is a necessary trait that all auditors must have, and is expected of all CPAs. Here are six tips to help you enhance your professional skepticism.

  1. Take the time to build rapport with your clients. Given time constraints, this may be a challenge, but gaining your clients’ trust is key, and it doesn’t happen overnight. This is especially important because you will be asking them probing questions that may seem intrusive if you do not develop a relationship first.
  2. Even though you have audited this client before, you still have to act with professional skepticism now. You never know, conditions may have changed from year-to-year. I was once given the advice to approach every audit as if it was a new client that I didn’t know or trust.
  3. Make sure you have enough evidence to support your conclusion. As auditors, we need to consider internal and external factors that might support or challenge our findings. It’s often easy to stop once we’ve seen evidence that supports client’s explanations. But it’s our job to ensure we’ve looked at and evaluated all available evidence, whether it supports our understanding or not.
  4. Separate your relationship with the client from the job that you have to get done. Remaining objective is key. Even if your client is a friend, you need to take off your friendship hat and put on your auditor hat.
  5. Make sure to leave enough time. Sometimes deadline pressures can inhibit appropriate professional skepticism. Prevent this from happening to you by planning ahead and building time into your schedule for the unexpected.
  6. Maintain focus from start to finish. If you see something that strikes you as unusual, look into it, even if you find it as you are wrapping up the audit. Let’s say it’s your last day of fieldwork and you spot a variance that’s just over your threshold for an individually significant item. Stay diligent and investigate further – what seems like a minor issue may indicate something bigger.

As auditors, we are required to act with professional skepticism. Stakeholders rely on our audit reports because they trust that we enter each engagement with a questioning mind, are alert to conditions that may indicate possible misstatement due to fraud or error and provide a critical assessment of the audit evidence. The complexity of transactions in today’s business environment requires auditors to use increased levels professional judgment while performing audit engagements. So sharpen your skills with these resources:

When you are performing your next audit engagement, make sure to ask yourself, “Am I acting with professional skepticism?”

Ahava Goldman, Associate Director- Audit and Attest Standards, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Robot courtesy of Shutterstock

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