SuperAuditors director Shelley Banton tells James Mitchell why understanding the needs of accountants is crucial to SMSF auditing success
One of the pioneers of SMSF auditing in Australia, SuperAuditors has nevertheless had to maintain the firm’s value proposition to remain a leader in an increasingly competitive industry. The company specialises in SMSF audits, with an online SMSF audit business that has been going since 2007.
“We work exclusively with accountants across Australia,” SuperAuditors’ director, Shelley Banton, says. “We were one of, if not the first audit firm in Australia to provide an audit portal for our clients that enables them to get online and upload the information that we require.
“We also provide them with the time of the audit being in our system,” she adds. “They can also see where that audit is tracking in our system against our time KPI.”
The company usually turns audits around in about seven days, a significant improvement on the 15-day turnaround time offered when SuperAuditors was first established. In December 2013, the company retooled its entire operating system, enhancing its internal platforms and identifying areas where benefits could flow through to customers.
“We were able to get some additional productivity to be able to service our clients a lot more effectively and efficiently,” Ms Banton says.
KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER
Understanding your customer and their needs is an important part of any business. And for SMSF auditing, where complexity, timing and regulatory and legislative requirements dominate the process, knowing what the end customer wants is central to a business’ operating successfully.
Auditors also rely on receiving specific information, documents and knowledge from their accountant customers in order to be able to do their job effectively.
While SuperAuditors has always promoted itself and its services to accountants, Ms Banton says that in the early years the company did take on a few SMSF trustees as well.
“We used to deal with trustees, but it was a little bit like pulling teeth,” she says. “It was difficult because trustees are not familiar with the requirements and documentation that we would need to be able to do the audit – unless, of course, they had a background in accounting or in the SMSF industry themselves.
“When you are talking to a trustee they don’t appreciate or understand the compliance requirements and documentation that we need to undertake the audit.”
Initially, SuperAuditors spent a great deal of time trying to educate trustees about getting the information needed for an audit. But the business quickly realised it was under stress – attempting to fully explain the auditing process while also auditing the trustees’ SMSFs was one job too many.
“It was getting difficult for us to effectively audit the funds while also providing an educational service in getting information from the trustees as well,” Ms Banton says. “So we decided to opt out of that area in 2009 because it just became too difficult and time consuming.
“We always set ourselves up to work directly with accountants, but obviously trustees found our website and made enquiries about our services. It’s much easier to work with a professional who understands the requirements of the audit, plus they also understand what we are asking them specific questions about the funds we are auditing.”
Focusing on accountants has streamlined the process for SuperAuditors, and sharpened its offering. “We want to make it as easy as possible for accountants, and that’s why our service is developed specifically for them and not trustees,” Ms Banton says.
KEEPING UP WITH CHANGE
SMSFs have experienced huge and rapid growth, meaning that SuperAuditors has had to continually adjust to new legislation and new technology.
“There have been developments in the industry and we have had to adapt our systems to cope with those changes, and also to keep one step ahead of technology changes that have happened,” Ms Banton says.
“We were the first ones to be doing online audits,” she says. “Obviously the rest of the industry has caught up with that, so we are working to try and ensure we differentiate ourselves in this industry by being able to provide custom-built and purpose-built technology that we develop in-house.”
While technology and regulation continue to be the biggest challenges for the business, Ms Banton says the company’s primary focus always comes back to the end customer.
“Making sure that our customer service level is premium and that our clients are continually satisfied with the quality of service that we provide [is crucial],” she says.
“There are a lot of different providers out there who have different levels of service.
“We pride ourselves on making sure that from a technology perspective and from a professional accounting viewpoint, we are providing the best possible service we can for our clients at all times.”
Part of that service is keeping customers informed. After the ATO’s new penalty powers came into effect in July, SuperAuditors sent a newsletter to its clients and subscribers noting that the ATO will be using SMSF annual returns and auditor contravention reports (ACRs) to apply a risk-based approach to assessing SMSFs with compliance breaches.
“They have further said that the failure of an SMSF auditor to lodge an ACR will result in the same or heavier penalties for the trustees than if no ACR was lodged,” SuperAuditors stated.
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