Peer Review

Kostelecky Julie 2015.jpgWritten by Julie Kostelecky, CPA, CVA

Do you know what I love about our profession?  We are constantly learning.  No matter which part of the accounting profession you are in, we are constantly being hit by new regulations, new challenges and new areas that we can grow into. How can people possibly think being an accountant is boring?

I recently was nudged toward a whole new area of our profession for me: peer review.  Perhaps nudged isn’t a strong enough word.  You see, one of our audit partners is retiring in the next few years and he is the only one in our firm that still does peer review. He needed to find a successor or our firm was going to get out of peer review work entirely.  After we decided we didn’t want to lose that area, I agreed to step up and take it on. Only then, did he tell me the real reason he wants out is because peer review is changing and there is new enhanced oversight, new technology, new training, etc.  This was after he had talked up how great it would be if I was interested in taking things over. Lucky for him, I had already heard all about the changes by way of being on the MSCPA board and I had taken those things into account before I said yes.

Dealing with new government regulations or AICPA changes isn’t anything new for all of us. It’s just always more painful for those of us that haven’t had to deal with a change in awhile.  Or if you are on your way out to retirement and can’t see any value in learning something new this close to the end!  The bottom line is that change always happens for a reason.  More often than not, if you look really hard, you can find the silver lining too.

Peer review is changing because when the AICPA put together a task force to look at audit quality, they found a lot of problems.  Worse, they looked to peer reviews to see if most of those problems were caught, and quite a few of them weren’t.  The new regulations are meant to bring the quality of audits and of peer reviews back up to what the AICPA knows they can/should be. It certainly doesn’t mean that all auditors and peer reviewers are a problem.  It also doesn’t mean we have to like the additional oversight, but it does mean that if we as a profession can police ourselves, then we don’t have to worry about the government stepping in to do it for us.  We all know we don’t want that!

Remember that silver lining that I mentioned?  I promise there is one.  Maybe it doesn’t relate exactly to the additional regulation, but all of this is causing more CPAs to come together to find solutions.  That’s actually what peer review is all about, reviewing your peers and helping everyone to become better and improve audit quality.  The best thing about getting into peer review for me is that I get to work with other CPAs.  I’ve never been the type to shy away from CPAs outside my firm just because they can be our competition on certain things, I want to collaborate with everyone.  I find that I learn a LOT by getting outside my bubble and talking to people in other industries and at other firms. That’s exactly why I’m on the MSCPA Board too.

As part of getting into peer review, I had the great fortune of being invited to join our peer review committee at the Society as the Board liaison which means I get to participate in meetings with other CPAs that have way more experience than me and learn from them.  I’ve known a lot of them since I got into accounting in the first place and now I get to build on those relationships and invite them to participate in peer reviews with me if I don’t have all the expertise needed for a particular review.  It’s amazing how helpful everyone is and how encouraging it is to be a CPA in Montana.

If there is anyone out there considering getting into peer review, we need you.  The Baby Boomers are getting ready to retire in droves and we will be losing a lot of reviewers across the country.  I attended the AICPA Governmental and Not for Profit conference in Las Vegas recently and the biggest complaint I heard from firms is that their peer reviewer is retiring and they don’t know anyone else getting into it.  Well, other than the complaints about how much money people lost at the tables. (Who says accountants are risk adverse?) I know it can seem a bit daunting, but I promise there is help out there. I’m sure those that have been doing this awhile will groan a bit at the optimistic picture I’ve painted, but working with each other is the best part of what we do.  If you want to work to make our profession a better place, then peer review is a great place for you.

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