By law many companies and non-profit organisations must have their financial reports independently audited.
The audit must be performed by a professional who has qualified with, and is a member of, ACCA or other recognised bodies.
External auditors’ review is designed to ensure the financial statements – which look at the organisation’s past financial performance and current financial position – are ‘true and fair’ and have been prepared in accordance with relevant legislation.
The auditor’s opinion provides assurance to shareholders and to other stakeholders.
External auditors review the financial statements of commercial and non-profit organisations. Charities, universities and government departments are audited to ensure money is spent appropriately.
As well as external audit, firms usually offer other assurance services. These include checking that organisations are meeting legal and voluntary obligations such as:
- general business risks
- corporate and social responsibility
- health and safety.
Organisations’ management will use the auditor’s work to ensure it is complying with:
- legislation and regulations
- codes of practice
- business ethics
- internal guideline and principles.
External auditors’ work ensures businesses and markets function effectively and it is a role which carries immense trust and responsibility.
Entry and progression
For many accountancy practices, audit is a key aspect of their work.
Students can gain audit experience with firms while completing their studies.
Progression is often clear from junior roles, such as audit executives, through audit semi-seniors and seniors towards the position of external auditor or partner.
ACCA develops the skills and knowledge required by forward-thinking professional accountants, including those focused on external audit.
Qualified professionals may progress all the way to audit partner.
For those who work in external audit, or aspire to be an external auditor, the most relevant exam options are:
Remember it’s not just about exams. You need to have the right experience so that you are competent – you have the experience and knowledge – to start and continue your external audit career.
Performance Objectives (PO) which would provide great experience and must be signed off as part of the Practical Experience Requirement (PER) could include:
Partners and/or directors of firms which undertake public practice work need to obtain an ACCA Practising Certificate. They may also need to complete further requirements depending on the jurisdiction in which they operate.
High level competencies required by external auditors include:
Audit, Assurance and Advisory
A. Advises on and communicates effectively the role and scope of audit, assurance and advisory engagements to relevant stakeholders.
B. Applies regulatory, legal, professional and ethical standards relating to advisory, audit and assurance engagements.
C. Plans and prepares for audit, assurance and advisory engagements.
D. Performs effective audit and assurance engagements.
E. Reviews and reports on the findings of audit and assurance engagements.
F. Guides efficient and effective operations.
Governance, Risk and Control
A. Evaluates organisational structures and governance to protect the long-term interests of stakeholders.
B. Recommends appropriate strategies to ensure adherence to governance structures and application of best practice internal controls.
C. Identifies and manages risk appropriately.
D. Uses risk management for the best interests of an organisation and its stakeholders.
E. Monitors and applies relevant legislation, policies and procedures.
Leadership and Management
A. Applies appropriate leadership strategies to effectively deliver business objectives.
B. Leads, motivates and manages people to optimise performance and effectiveness.
C. Collaborates, supports and works to achieve the objectives of the organisation, harnessing appropriate digital technologies.
D. Acts proactively and thinks strategically, in anticipating organisational needs, recognising the wider business environment and dynamics.
Ethics and Professionalism
A. Develops advanced ethical values and professional skills in the promotion of public interest and the profession.
B. Demonstrates personal effectiveness in fast changing environments.
C. Encourages innovative thinking within the context of professional scepticism.
D. Thinks proactively about the future, applying professional judgement and commercial intelligence and seeks specialist input when needed.
E. Communicates effectively and influences others.
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Careers in finance
Read real-life case studies of ACCA members and students to learn more about their careers and the industries, sectors and roles they work in.