Big Four audits are off the pace

“Big is best” is a phrase often quoted in business circles, but for many
corporate consumers of audit services the truth can be very different.

An independent survey into clients’ views on the service they received from
their last audit provider found the Big Four lagging far behind smaller rivals.

Of 12 leading audit firms, the Big Four member to receive the highest
ranking, PricewaterhouseCoopers, only managed 5th place. The firm stood out for
its strong technical skills but failed to impress in other areas.

Mazars was placed first with Horwath Clark Whitehill and Grant Thornton
coming in second and third.

Ernst & Young suffered the worst results, ranking 12th and coming bottom
in each of the five aspects of service graded. Staff were described as “pretty
dire”, short on technical knowledge, confidence and even decent written English.
Negative comments outnumbered the positive two to one.

“These findings are wholly inconsistent with the positive and detailed
feedback we receive from our clients and other stakeholders,” stated E&Y.
“We are committed to audit quality and delivering technical excellence.”

KPMG and Deloitte fared little better in the inaugural Finance 360 survey of
senior readers of Accountancy Age and sister publication Financial Director,
coming in 9th and 10th.

While KPMG won plaudits for technical skills, it was let down by perception
of its added value, with one FD claiming “very little feedback on potential
improvements” their money.

Deloitte also struggled to prove it added value, while clients felt the
firm’s audits were “mechanical” and an exercise in “box-ticking”.

One FD felt Deloitte was “more concerned with gathering enough evidence to
stand up in court with a defence if there were ever a negligence case”.

The firm proved more popular for its transparent and fair billing. A KPMG
spokesman said the firm was “committed to the very highest standards of audit
quality and service”. Deloitte declined to comment.

At the other end of the rankings Mazars scored well across all five
categories, while Horwath came top for fair billing.

David Evans, senior partner at first-placed Mazars, said: “Every team member
at Mazars strives to put clients at the heart of everything they do. It’s
fantastic to have this hard work and dedication recognised in the results of the

Mark Lucas, head of audit, tax, advisory at 6th placed RSM Tenon, said: “It’s
clear the profession can all do better to build on the quality of services and
responsiveness to the marketplace.”

Further reading:

Audit services: top to

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