Contributed by: Zachary Aronson, PwC Audit Manager
When I started my career in audit six years ago, I knew I was going to learn valuable business and finance skills, but I also thought I would have to spend a lot of hours digging through files and spreadsheets. In fact, six years ago I couldn’t have imagined the role that technology innovation would play in the audit profession, much less in my day-to-day work. When I landed at PwC and learned about the firm’s Digital Accelerator program—part of a $3 billion global investment in upskilling, technologies and individuals to increase value for the firm’s people, clients and communities— I applied right away. I was excited to play a role in improving efficiency and accuracy, and I could already point to a few areas of my day-to-day work that would benefit from a new approach. Thanks to the dedication of the audit profession toward enhanced skills and technology, I was able to bring forward important solutions for these challenges.
When COVID-19 sent our entire workforce remote in March, we knew that technology would be the key enabler that would allow us to continue to provide the exceptional level of service our clients expect, and our capital markets rely on to operate effectively. The reality is that we’ve long been positioned to be successful in this environment – after all, we have long possessed the technology solutions that would ultimately see us through this new and unprecedented environment. But we also knew that we needed to continue to upskill all of our people to ensure they had the knowledge and practical experience to accompany those technologies. To do so, we leaned into the principles behind gamification. We created a game-board approach (adapted from Candyland, of all games) that made learning and upskilling fun for our teams. In the spirit of friendly competition, we went from tens of people participating in our virtual trainings to hundreds, all united behind the common goal of ensuring that we not only have the best technologies, but also the skills needed to leverage them.
With these skills, our auditors can develop unique solutions to the everyday challenges they face. Here’s a real-world example of how I’ve applied these learned skills to benefit my organization: audit testing for one transportation industry client required a reconciliation process that involved hours of digging through spreadsheet tables that contained hundreds of records and pivot tables. The situation was essentially a “claims triangle,” industry speak describing the lag time between an incident and the time it takes to settle a claim. Testing these transactions was part of my job a few times a year—and, each time, it took 20 to 30 hours of manual labor to complete.
I learned to use a range of automation tools and automated the testing process, reducing the time required to complete this type of work to only minutes – an estimated 80 percent reduction. Accuracy and quality also improved, and perhaps most importantly, this freed up my capacity to do more exciting and challenging work.
The Digital Accelerator program gives me the chance to feel like the Superman of audit. Not only am I gaining the skills to automate the testing process but I am also assured in knowing that my peers and managers are encouraged to bring innovative solutions to the table that will support our clients and make us successful in our ultimate goal of protecting the capital markets.