As with most species, there are a number of different related varieties of auditor. Today we look at the first of three key varieties.
1. The External Auditor
Easily recognised because you probably haven’t seen them for a while, these are outwardly the most impressive variety. Often with smart suits and large cars, they often work for dedicated audit firms, such as the ‘big 4’ firms KPMG, PWC, Deloitte and Ernst & Young as well as many smaller firms. They tend to have a natural authority, reflecting their perception by other animals as an unwelcome predator.
This may be because, whilst they will be paid by your company, they are actually working for someone else – mainly the shareholders and the government, from where their authority derives. They will look mainly at financial matters and their main interest is the organisation’s financial accounts.
They can be found in organisations of all sizes, and will generally come in to the business for a relatively short period, leaving a small but potent ‘opinion’ when they leave. Common qualifications include membership of accountancy bodies – with letters such as CPA, ACA or ACCA after their name. Not all will be qualified – generally most of the auditors you find ‘on site’ will be working towards one of these qualifications, led by a ‘supervisor’ (who may be qualified) or a ‘manager’ (who usually is).
External auditors are very hierarchical, with senior staff – often known as ‘partners’ and ‘directors’ – identifying sources of revenue for more junior staff to bring back to the nest.