The closure of international borders and a subsequent shortage of international secondees coming in to help during audit season have led to Pitcher Partners Sydney developing an intensive audit program for its graduates.
The Super Grad Accelerated Learning Program (SGALP) involves four weeks of virtual intensive audit training to shore up the firm’s audit team as it expects a more difficult audit season than normal.
Pitcher Partners Sydney partner Rod Shanley, who spearheaded the SGALP, told Accountants Daily the graduates who have gone through the program are a key part in coping with the effects of COVID-19.
“We’ve put all 12 graduates from across the firm through the program. They’ll play a very important role in us getting through the season and, without having done the SGALP, we would have been very, very short on resources,” Mr Shanley said.
“They’ll certainly be much more useful than they would have been if they hadn’t gone through the SGALP, so certainly, it’s a key part of our strategy to cope.
“We’re now looking at running a similar program for our 2019 graduates because they feel a little bit left out that they weren’t the benefactors of the SGALP last year.”
Mr Shanley said that while the mid-tier traditionally relied on secondees from around the globe using the Baker Tilly network to help it get through more than 200 audit opinions, the SGALP had now delivered a reliable plan B.
He added that he was not too worried about the potential knowledge gaps in his graduates as a result of the intensive training program, noting that it would pave the way for further training opportunities.
“They got a very good grounding; we’re not expecting them to be able to complete an audit based on the four weeks’ worth of training, but we’re expecting them to be able to add significantly more value after the SGALP than before,” Mr Shanley said.
“I think the thing we’ve learnt while we’ve all been working from home is that we can use technology to deliver the training and do it effectively.
“The materials we’ve developed to be presented online will certainly be used for incoming secondees, inductions for new staff, a whole heap of other groups of people that we need to train up quickly, which is a model we haven’t necessarily embraced in the past.
“It has given us some great materials and a great ability to reuse the materials we’ve prepared.”
He said he hopes the program materials will play a pivotal role in the plans to expand the firm’s auditing team as it eyes recruitment for next year.
Upcoming audit season
Mr Shanley said the SGALP will just be one of the new processes in place at the firm for the upcoming audit season.
He said that while Pitcher Partners would normally bring in around a dozen secondees from international partner firms during audit season, they are looking into the logistics of remote auditing.
“Our experience to date is it [the audit season] has been slower getting the information,” Mr Shanley said.
“We’ve reached out to some of our previous secondees from prior years knowing that they can’t get into the country, seeing if they can’t do some work from their home location and we’re hoping for one or two of those to be able to be secured.
“We’re trying to do as many things as we can remotely, but from a perspective of the time involved in audits, it will take longer to do things remotely because we’re not onsite.
“There may be other audit issues that come out of COVID-19 which may require more work, so we’ll obviously need to have those discussions with the client.”