Accountants, in general, are not doing very well at the moment. The profession is in a state of crisis - and it isn't all due to Enron. Apparently, they are not keeping their customers satisfied...
A new survey conducted in the US by market researchers and consultants NFO WorldGroup reveals that businesses using outside auditors give the profession an overall performance score of 61: equivalent to a D grade. General business-to-business services score an average of 80 (B grade). Just over half (55%) of respondents thought that their auditors were very good or excellent. Professional services usually score 70-75%.
Integrity is not the problem
According to NFO WorldGroup's Shubhra Ramchandani, the problem isn't integrity, it is value. Most clients rate their outside accountants' business ethics very highly, but what they question is the performance and value of the services they receive. According to the survey, auditors achieved high marks in trust, commitment to personal ethics, having a culture of business integrity, and in commitment to maintaining a position of independence as an auditor.
Below average performance
However, the scores were average to below average on critical performance factors including expertise in the client's industry, having responsive staff capable of giving the right advice, competence in recommending the right level of financial controls, and communicating effectively.
Back to basics
"We're seeing a clear demand that auditors get back to basics, to shore up their core competencies and concentrate on delivering fundamental value to their corporate clients," Ramchandani observed. "The accounting industry has concentrated on expanding its portfolio of services, such as consulting and international support, but these do not appear to be what is motivating clients to continue their current external auditor relationships. The crisis of competence will continue to affect the accounting industry long after the big headline controversies become old news."
Respondents to the survey had mixed feelings about whether it was sensible to use the same firm for both auditing and consulting. Only 35% would, while 27% wouldn't. The rest were undecided. However, one in two of the companies surveyed were using the same vendor for both auditing and consulting. So there is probably some change ahead.