Connect with us

Technology

WHY TECHNOLOGY IS KEY TO THE FUTURE OF AUDITING

By Piers Wilson, Head of Product Management at Huntsman Security

 

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC), which is responsible for corporate governance, reporting and auditing in the UK, has been consulting on the role of technology in audit processes. This highlights growing recognition for the fact that technology can assist audits, providing the ability to automate data gathering or assessment to increase quality, remove subjectivity and make the process more trustworthy and consistent. Both the Brydon review and the latest AQR thematic suggest a link between enhanced audit quality and the increasing use of technology. This goes beyond efficiency gains from process automation and relates, in part, to the larger volume of data and evidence which can be extracted from an audited entity and the sophistication of the tools available to interrogate it.

As one example, the PCAOB in the US has for a while advocated for the provision of audit evidence and reports to be timely (which implies computerisation and automation) to assure that risks are being managed, and for the extent of human interaction with evidence or source data to be reflected to ensure influence is minimised (the more that can be achieved programmatically and objectively the better).

However, technology may obscure the nature of analysis and decision making and create a barrier to fully transparent audits compared to more manual (yet labour intensive) processes. There is also a competition aspect between larger firms and smaller ones as regards access to technology:

Brydon raised concerns about the ability of challenger firms to keep pace with the Big Four firms in the deployment of innovative new technology.

The FRC consultation paper covers issues, and asks questions, in a number of areas. Examples include:

  • The use of AI and machine learning that collect or analyse evidence and due to the continual learning nature, their criteria for assessment may be difficult to establish or could change over time.
  • The data issues around greater access to networks and systems putting information at risk (e.g. under GDPR) or a reluctance for audited companies to allow audit firms to connect or install software/technologies into their live environments.
  • The nature of technology may mean it is harder for auditors to understand or establish the nature of data collection, analysis or decision making.
  • The ongoing need to train auditors on technologies that might be introduced, so they can utilise them in a way that generates trusted outputs.

Clearly these are real issues – for a process that aims to provide trustworthy, objective, transparent and repeatable outputs – any use of technology to speed up or improve the process must maintain these standards.

 

Audit technology solutions in cyber security

The cyber security realm has grown to quickly become a major area of risk and hence a focus for boards, technologists and auditors alike. The highly technical nature of threats and the adversarial nature of cybers attackers (who will actively try and find/exploit control failures) means that technology solutions that identify weaknesses and report on specific or overall vulnerabilities are becoming more entrenched in the assurance process within this discipline.

While the audit consultations and reports mentioned above cover the wider audit spectrum, similar challenges relate to cyber security as an inherently technology-focussed area of operation.

 

Benefits of speed

The gains from using technology to conduct data gathering, analysis and reporting are obvious – removing the need for human questionnaires, interviews, inspections and manual number crunching. Increasing the speed of the process has a number of benefits:

  • You can cover larger scopes or bigger samples (even avoid sampling all together)
  • You can conduct audit/assurance activities more often (weekly instead of annually)
  • You can scale your approach beyond one part of the business to encompass multiple business units or even third parties
  • You get answers more quickly – which for things that change continually (like patching status) means same day awareness rather than 3 weeks later

Benefits of flexibility

The ability to conduct audits across different sites or scopes, to specify different thresholds of risk for different domains, the ease of conducting audits at remote locations or on suppliers networks (especially during period of restricted travel) are ALL factors that can make technology a useful tool for the auditor.

 

Benefits of transparency

One part of the FRC’s perceived problem space is that of transparency, you can ask a human how they derived a result, and they can probably tell you, or at least show you the audit trail of correspondence, meeting notes or spreadsheet calculations. But can you do this with software or technology?

Certainly, the use of AI and machine learning makes this hard, the learning nature and often black box calculations are not easy to either understand, recalculate in a repeatable way or to document. The system learns, so is always changing, and hence the rationale that a decision might not always be the same.

In technologies that are geared towards delivering audit outcomes this is easier. First, if you collect and retain data, provide an easy interface to go from results to the underlying cases in the source data, it is possible to take a score/rating/risk and reveal the specifics of what led to it. Secondly, it is vital that the calculations are transparent, i.e. that the methods of calculating risks or the way results are scored is decipherable.

 

Benefits of consistency

This is one obvious gain from technology, the logic is pre-programmed in.  If you take two auditors and give them the same data sets or evidence case files they might draw different conclusions (possibly for valid reasons or due to them having different skill areas or experience), but the same algorithm operating on the same data will produce the same result every time.

Manual evidence gathering suffers a number of drawbacks – it relies on written notes, records of verbal conversations, email trails, spreadsheets, or questionnaire responses in different formats.  Retaining all this in a coherent way is difficult and going back through it even harder.

Using a consistent toolset and consistent data format means that if you need to go back to a data source from a particular network domain three months ago, you will have information that is readily available and readable.  And as stated above, if the source data and evidence is re-examined using a consistent solution, you will get the same calculations, decisions and results.

 

Benefits of systematically generated KPIs, cyber maturity measures and issues

The outputs of any audit process need to provide details of the issues found so that the specific or general cases of the failures can be investigated and resolved.  But for managers, operational teams and businesses, having a view of the KPIs for the security operations process is extremely useful.

Of course, following the “lines of defence” model, an internal or external “formal” audit might simply want the results and a level of trust in how they were calculated; however for operational management and ongoing continuous visibility, the need to derive performance statistics comes into its own.

It is worth noting that there are two dimensions to KPIs:   The assessment of the strength or configuration of a control or policy (how good is the control) and the extent or level of coverage (how widely is it enforced).

To give a view of the technical maturity of a defence you really need to combine these two factors together.  A weak control that is widely implemented or a strong control that provides only partial coverage are both causes for concern.

 

Benefits of separation of process stages

The final area where technology can help is in allowing the separation and distribution of the data gathering, analysis and reporting processes.  It is hard to take the data, evidence and meeting notes from someone else and analyse it. For one thing, is it trustworthy and reliable (in the case of third-party assurance questionnaires perhaps)? Then it is also hard to draw high-level conclusions about the analysis.

If technology allows the data gathering to be performed in a distributed way, say by local site administrators, third-party IT staff or non-expert users BUT in a trustworthy way, then the overhead of the audit process is much reduced. Instead of a team having to conduct multiple visits, interviews or data collection activities the toolset can be provided to the people nearest to the point of collection.

This allows the data analysis and interpretation to be performed centrally by the experts in a particular field or control area. So giving a non-expert user a way to collect and provide relevant and trustworthy audit evidence takes a large bite out of the resource overhead of conducting the audit, for both auditor and auditee.

It also means that a target organisation doesn’t have to manage the issue of allowing auditors to have access to networks, sites, data, accounts and systems to gather the audit evidence as this can be undertaken by existing administrators in the environment.

 

Making the right choice

Technology solutions in the audit process can clearly deliver benefits, however if they are too simplistic or aim to be too clever, they can simply move the problem of providing high levels of audit quality. A rapidly generated AI-based risk score is useful, but if it’s not possible to understand the calculation it is hard to either correct the control issues or trouble shoot the underlying process.

Where technology can assist the audit process, speed up data gathering and analysis, and streamline the generation of high- and low-level outputs it can be a boon.

Technology allows organisations to put trustworthy assurance into the hands of operations teams and managers, consultants and auditors alike to provide flexible, rapid and frequent views of control data and understanding of risk posture. If this can be done in a way that is cognisant of the risks and challenges as we have shown, then auditors and regulators such as the FRC can be satisfied.

 

Business

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING AIRLINES SMARTER DURING LOCKDOWN

Captain Nadhem is the General Manager of Alpha Aviation UAE

 

2020 has provided challenges to all industries, but few have been as directly hit as air travel by the Covid-19 pandemic. Across the world, entire fleets have been grounded as international airports closed and travel bans were introduced worldwide.

Unfortunately, the challenges faced by airlines do not stop there. Airline economics dictate that planes be used as much as possible. For larger planes, this means keeping them in the air as close to 24/7 as is possible. For this reason, there simply aren’t enough dedicated storage facilities at global hub airports. At Frankfurt Airport for example, the tarmac on the 4th runway is now the home of many of the airport’s planes. It can also often take as long as 30 days to return a commercial jet to circulation after it has been mothballed.

As a result, many planes that are still in circulation have been transferred to the Indian sub-continent where air travel hasn’t been as badly disrupted. It will take some time for them to be rehomed to their previous routes if flight paths do reopen. In 2021, the aviation industry will also need to adapt and re-assess both its fleet sizes and operational strategies in order to re-build in the wake of this global crisis.

Pilots account for a key proportion of overhead costs and airlines will be constantly rethinking their pilot training strategy, which is likely to include a need to outsource and decentralise to maximise efficiency. At the same time, trained pilots will require training updates and renewals to their licenses, even as fleets are grounded.

Flight simulators have therefore assumed a crucial role in 2020. Usually developed to keep experienced crews sharp by creating challenging scenarios in safe environment for them to overcome, they have now become important across the industry for several reasons. Flying, like any other skill, requires constant practice to maintain the highest level of competency. That’s why airlines have recency rules that require pilots to perform a specified number of take-offs, landings and approaches within a certain period of time.

Advancements in simulator technology continue to bridge the gap between theory and reality. At Alpha Aviation we’ve recently invested in the new Alsim-AL172 flight simulator that features a Cessna 172 cockpit, with two seats and a flight deck. As pilots still need to clock up over 1,500 flying hours to receive their ATP certificate, advanced simulators like these will also be effective in providing pilot training without the operational costs of a real flight.

This year also highlighted the need for regulators to make changes to the training process. For example, there will need to be more reliance on e-learning in the initial cadet training and the acceptance of integrated technology in simulator training will also be important. Further adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can also offer a vital competitive advantage.

AI technologies have already been widely adopted across the aviation industry. From facial recognition at airport passport security to baggage check-in and remote aircraft monitoring. For years these innovations have been streamlining processes, both for operators and customers. However, AI has a much greater potential beyond these practical applications.

Among other benefits, AI and machine learning algorithms excel at recognising patterns and are extremely efficient at collating data from the process of training cadets. As most flight simulators are already equipped with sensors that generate considerable amounts of data, this resource can now be used to assess pilot competency from the onset of training.

Powerful AI and machine learning systems can analyse hundreds of flight parameters and sort through thousands of hours of simulator data to produce findings that a human coach wouldn’t have been able to determine. For example, AI programmes can evaluate a pilot’s ability as they execute key manoeuvres and create a comprehensive assessment of a cadet’s strengths and weaknesses based on real-time data.

The data collected from these training sessions can also be analysed by AI programmes to evaluate how the cadets fly certain training routes, for example, considering their angle of descent and acceleration periods. From this, airlines can gather enough data to build a picture of each pilot’s unique flying style and determine the optimum routes for them to fly.

A crucial part of this assessment centres around the rate each pilot burns fuel. Real-time decisions about the throttle settings during take-off and the climb can have a significant impact on the amount of fuel burned during a flight. With airlines spending around 33 percent of their operational costs on fuel, reducing the rate that fuel is burned can have a considerable effect on the finances of an airline and its carbon footprint.

Airlines already use AI systems to collect flight data regarding route distance, altitudes, and aircraft weight to determine the amount of fuel needed for a flight. However, now the data collected from simulators can also be used to pair pilots to specific routes, based on optimum fuel usage. This will result in cost savings for the airline by optimising the potential of their pilot crew to reduce excess overheads.

As we continue to work directly with regulators and the airlines to further expand the use of technology and AI in the industry, our ability to continue to adapt and innovate in this crisis will hopefully mean clearer skies ahead.

 

Continue Reading

Finance

HOW COVID-19 HAS RESHAPED THE PAYMENTS LANDSCAPE

By Mohamed Chaudry, Group Chief Financial Officer of FoodHub

 

The year 2020 may well have sounded the death knell for the saying cash is king. As the pandemic took over our world, consumer behaviour altered considerably as people embraced contactless payment, e-commerce and delivery services for many of the things we once handed over notes to buy.

Finextra reports that research carried out by YouGov for the ATM network Link found that 58% of Brits are using cash a lot less often thanks to the pandemic, with 54% avoiding it altogether and using alternative payment methods.

Some 76% of those questioned by YouGov added that they think the crisis will affect their future use of cash over the next six months.

 

Adapt to survive

Many businesses, particularly those in the food sector, quickly worked out they needed to pivot and adapt if they were to survive. Social distancing measures, lockdowns and the economic downturn hit the hospitality industry hard.

Safe and convenient online payments provide food businesses with a solid foundation from which to operate. The year 2020 saw the rise of payment gateways and the size of the market is likely to escalate in the coming months, giving online merchants more choice over the gateways they choose to work with.

Many of these platforms are embracing the changes in innovative ways, adapting to the altered way of life and creating different ways to facilitate recurring online payments and members’ due models. They can also put in place order ahead services for restaurants and expanded delivery options.

 

‘Seamless’ payments process

As lockdown restrictions continue to drive more people online, the e-commerce industry needs to offer seamless online payments to maximise its soaring popularity. The right payments provider should be able to guarantee security, offer access to fast-growing markets and a plethora of relevant payment methods for each market, all components that provide expansion opportunities and a better consumer experience.

Payment providers allow food businesses to focus on their core business and meet new customer demand while they take over the non-core competency tasks. Platforms such as online food portals need to design their site or app to make it as easy as possible for merchants to onboard and customers to use.

As the use of online payments racks up, online security has never been more important. Increases in one inevitably result in the increase of fraud or cyberattacks. Platforms and businesses must ensure customer data is protected. Payment partners can ensure security is key, their greater size and expertise providing the added edge to small businesses that do not have that capability.

 

Building a loyal customer base

Payment security is what will encourage—and keep—customers who haven’t previously used online food portals. Building a loyal, local customer base can encourage businesses to consider expansion—perhaps opening more venues in their region or county or even nationwide.

Promoting the ways in which a platform can benefit customers and a community—in the midst of a pandemic, for example, many people will be conscious that their local takeaway/restaurants, etc., are suffering and they’ll be anxious to help—is another way to broaden a platform’s appeal. An app that doesn’t charge a service fee or take a commission from its partners is one way to do this.

Covid-19 has accelerated consumers’ whole-scale move to online payments faster than anyone can have imagined, and they want convenient, relevant and secure payment services for markets that have previously been served mainly by cash or card.

The pressure is on for retailers (and especially food retailers who want to survive) to ensure they can meet this demand.

 

Continue Reading

Magazine

Trending

Business1 day ago

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS MAKING AIRLINES SMARTER DURING LOCKDOWN

Captain Nadhem is the General Manager of Alpha Aviation UAE   2020 has provided challenges to all industries, but few...

Business1 day ago

THE INEFFICIENT MARKETS THEORY

Fraser Thorne, CEO at Edison Group According to accepted financial thinking The Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) asserts that, at all...

Finance1 day ago

HOW WILL WE PAY IN 2021?

Nick Corrigan, UK & Ireland Managing Director, President of Global Payments.   As 2020 began, there was already much conversation...

Top 101 day ago

WHY BETTER PLANNING COULD BE THE INSURANCE INSURERS NEED

Adam Bimson, Chief Customer Officer, Vuealta   Insurance is predicated on the ability to plan effectively, to model accurately, and...

Business1 day ago

WHY IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER TO SHOP SOCIAL

Dave Linton is an innovator, social entrepreneur, thought leader, mentor of social enterprises, motivational speaker and the founder and Managing...

Finance2 days ago

HOW COVID-19 HAS RESHAPED THE PAYMENTS LANDSCAPE

By Mohamed Chaudry, Group Chief Financial Officer of FoodHub   The year 2020 may well have sounded the death knell...

Business2 days ago

CREATING A PEOPLE-CENTRIC WORKPLACE CENTERED ON FLEXIBILITY, EXPERIENCE AND WELLBEING

By Anne Marie Ginn, Head of Video Collaboration, Logitech EMEA   The light is appearing at the end of the...

News2 days ago

UK OPEN BANKING FINTECH YAPILY ANNOUNCES EXPANSION IN VILNIUS

Yapily, a London-based fintech startup, has announced plans to set up in Vilnius, the company’s third European office. Yapily joins...

News2 days ago

FINTECH EEDENBULL SECURES PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY DEAL WITH NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK

EedenBull has announced a five year agreement with National Australia Bank (NAB), which allows the bank to deploy EedenBull’s innovative...

Finance2 days ago

2021 FINTECH PREDICTIONS

2020 has been a year like no other. The way we live, work, socialise and more has completely changed as...

News2 days ago

MARQETA ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH GOLDMAN SACHS ON MARCUS CHECKING OFFERING

Marqeta’s modern card issuing platform will be leveraged by Marcus by Goldman Sachs to build new digital banking offerings.    Marqeta,...

Finance4 days ago

MAKE 2021 THE YEAR YOU DRAW UP A PERSONAL BUDGET

By Neli Mbara, Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes   Budgeting is the most important thing you can do to manage...

News4 days ago

FINTECH EEDENBULL SECURES PAYMENT TECHNOLOGY DEAL WITH NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK

EedenBull has announced a five year agreement with National Australia Bank (NAB), which allows the bank to deploy EedenBull’s innovative payment...

Finance4 days ago

GEOSPATIAL DATA VISUALISATION MAKES SENSE OF MASS OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTY INSURANCE DATA

Heikki Vesanto, Manager GIS Data Science, LexisNexis Risk Solutions UK & I   Like most areas of the general insurance...

Top 104 days ago

A GUIDE TO HMO PROPERTY INVESTMENT

Many experienced property investors are turning their attention to HMOs and achieving much higher rental yields as a result. Find...

Finance4 days ago

PROTECTING THE DIGITALLY-EXCLUDED: BIOMETRIC IDENTIFICATION ENSURES ACCESS TO PAYMENTS IN A CASHLESS WORLD

By Vince Graziani, CEO, IDEX Biometrics ASA   The events of this year have exacerbated a number of challenges for...

Interviews4 days ago

‘GLOBAL TRADE IN 2008 VS 2021: GLOBAL IMPACT, DIFFERENT CHALLENGES’

A Q&A with Nawaz Ali Head of Insights at Western Union Business Solutions who draws comparisons between the financial crisis...

Finance4 days ago

FOUR WAYS OF FINDING THE SUPPORT AND RESISTANCE LEVELS

Support and resistance levels are mainly conventional values where a large number of orders assemble to stop a prevailing trend...

Finance5 days ago

TAX-FREE SAVINGS ACCOUNTS OR RETIREMENT ANNUITIES: KNOW THE SAVINGS PRODUCTS AVAILABLE TO YOU

By Michael Kirkpatrick, head of individual consulting best practice, Alexander Forbes   The start of a year is a great time...

News5 days ago

FROM PLASTIC WASTE TO PAYMENT CARD

Giesecke+Devrient invites to join the cause of saving the oceans.   Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) and the environmental organization Parley for the...

Trending