Ian Pickering explains why and how to get maximum benefit from the closing meeting.

The closing meeting at the end of a monitoring visit is intended to be a constructive discussion between the firm and the compliance officer. Compliance officers present their findings to the firm, explain any deficiencies in the firm’s audit work and recommend ways in which the firm can improve its procedures.

Practitioners have the opportunity to ask questions, provide additional information, which the compliance officer may have overlooked, and correct any factual errors in the compliance officer's understanding of the firm’s procedures.

The compliance officer must also inform the firm clearly whether or not the outcome of the visit is satisfactory or unsatisfactory at the beginning of the meeting and explain what further action, if any, is to be taken such as an early follow up visit. Some firms are, inevitably, disappointed where the outcome of their visit is unsatisfactory. 

In such cases it is vitally important that firms make sure that they understand what has given rise to the unsatisfactory outcome and what course of action they should take to deal with any issues arising. If there are any areas of misunderstanding these should be identified during the closing meeting.

All compliance officers have been instructed to ensure that firms fully understand the outcome of each visit. Therefore, when the report is issued to the firm after the visit there should be nothing in that report which comes as a surprise as all the points should have formed part of the discussions at the close of the visit.

There are occasions when compliance officers may have to seek technical advice or research a particular point after the visit but such instances are rare and the report or its covering letter should specifically identify such matters.

The closing meeting is an opportunity for the principals of a firm to have a one-to-one discussion with a member of the Practice Monitoring Department and I recommend that they take full advantage of it in order to gain maximum benefit from the monitoring visit.