How a leading accounting firm hones critical-thinking skills and improves risk analysis using MindBridge Ai Auditor
Ranked among the top 20 public accounting firms in the United States, DHG is passionate about helping clients succeed. The organization offers comprehensive assurance, tax, and advisory services to businesses worldwide. A commitment to people and innovation is at the heart of what DHG does. The team of over 2,000 professionals goes beyond offering clients personalized service and uncompromising integrity; they take a resourceful approach to problem-solving to help clients achieve their goals.
An innovative mindset spurs interest in AI auditing technology
One of DHG’s core values has always been to embrace technology. Holding the position of Director of the Assurance Innovation and Methodology Group at DHG, Adam Roark leads this vision. In his role, Roark spearheads a team of professionals that ensures the maintenance and improvement of DHG Assure, the firm’s proprietary audit methodology. His team also oversees the adoption of emerging technologies to keep improving auditing processes and delivering greater value to clients.
Among the technologies that the team kept an eye on was machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). According to Roark, “Years ago, we kept hearing about machine learning and how it could possibly benefit the accounting and auditing profession. In partnership with some affiliates, we built a proof of concept for a tool that used machine learning to help detect fraud. We wanted to know—can a machine help find fraud? The results were very interesting, but we never took things beyond that proof of concept because we weren’t satisfied with the technology solutions that were available at that time. Then we met the MindBridge team who told us about the Ai Auditor platform. They had essentially asked the same question and went ahead to build a great product.”
While MindBridge had piqued the interest of DHG, the accounting firm knew that adopting this new AI auditing software would require lots of due diligence and testing. They were keen on fostering innovation and change agility in their business, but also remained thoughtful about the deployment process.
“We believe strongly in piloting solutions and gathering user feedback. We want to understand whether it’s a technology that can be helpful and identify its limitations. Then we can take what we’ve learned and design an adoption program with user training and support. This ensures greater levels of success for our business and our clients,” explained Roark.
Testing the power of Ai Auditor gives DHG a competitive edge
Understanding that the team would have to vet MindBridge Ai Auditor and work the platform into their existing processes didn’t faze DHG. That’s because they wanted to be in the upper echelon of firms that were exploring and utilizing these new technologies. The Big Four were already sinking millions of dollars into their own proprietary platforms. Knowing they couldn’t match that spend on a custom solution, DHG saw MindBridge as a company that could help innovative firms outside the Big Four such as theirs leverage the benefits of AI technology.
“Part of the product’s appeal for us was the potential for enhanced efficiency—allowing us to redirect the time saved into more meaningful audit procedures. If we can become more efficient using this AI software, then that was something we definitely wanted to explore. But we also genuinely wanted to know how this could help us be more effective auditors. When we began working with Ai Auditor, we started with journal entry testing. In our testing of the product, we put data sets into Ai Auditor with known fraud to see if the platform would find it. Pretty consistently, it made those finds. Ai Auditor certainly does a good job highlighting that there’s risk in a specific data set compared to a similar data set in the same industry.”
After initially vetting the platform, DHG was ready to take things a step further with Ai Auditor. Roark and his team reached out to several long-standing clients and asked whether they could use their data to assess the auditing platform’s capabilities.
According to Roark, one client was not only willing to participate but felt reassured by the request: “Very early on, I had a CFO of a pretty large, privately-held company with worldwide locations say: ‘We don’t have the time and the resources to trial these types of technologies on our data. But I’m so happy to hear that my auditors do. I believe it’s my fiduciary duty to make sure that you are applying these more advanced tools to our data to help us identify where we might have issues.’”
DHG auditors spend up to a third less time on journal entry testing
Today, more clients want to hear how DHG is using MindBridge software to improve the audit process. It’s something that usually comes up in proposals. Often, clients ask ‘What advanced technologies are you using? How do you use them? How do they make you better?’ After years of working with Ai Auditor and incorporating its use in the auditing process, DHG has a lot to share.
“MindBridge Ai Auditor helps us to understand the story of the data a little bit better. We’re able to perform a lot of different analytics on the data and see results in an easy-to-understand manner. So instead of running a couple of queries on millions of rows of data, pulling a few samples, and looking at individual transactions, the MindBridge software is running a myriad of tests automatically. As an auditor, I can focus on exploring the data trends, the risk characteristics, and the stories that are being told by the data. Since the software helps to detect data anomalies, we can redirect that time savings to evaluating the results and asking our clients more insightful questions.”
Since implementing Ai Auditor, the DHG team is not only saving time in risk assessment but they can now identify risks that might have gone undetected using traditional methods. With these experiences, users are keen to keep using the AI accounting software for more client projects.
“Once our auditors were able to use Ai Auditor a few times, they wanted to use it in even more applications. I think what gets people’s attention is how easy the software is to use from the start. For instance, one of the piloting users told me: ‘I expected that we would spend more time in the first year of using the MindBridge platform since it’s new and there’s a learning curve. Yet, we spent a third less time on a single application than the prior year.’ That’s time the audit team can deploy in other ways.”
After data is imported, Ai Auditor does all the heavy lifting. The AI auditing software quickly analyzes the entire data set, and then displays a summary of possible risks for the team to review. Easy-to-understand data visualizations help the team better understand anomalies and higher-risk areas. They can also query reports and dive into the data to determine if there’s more to the story, or if they need to engage with the client for more clarity.
“The visualizations and the risk dashboard definitely are helpful at highlighting that there’s additional risk for which we need to pay attention. And it is represented visually in different ways, depending on the nature of the anomaly. Ai Auditor makes our team more efficient because it runs tests en masse that previously our users would have had to run individually. And machine learning has capabilities to analyze patterns that quite frankly, we were not capable of doing with our existing toolset. For us, that’s where the real effectiveness comes into play.”
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Ai Auditor helps DHG build stronger client relationships
Critical thinking is a core competency that DHG fosters among its team. The firm understands that technology will continue to evolve, so instead of being tool-centric, they want their team to focus on what they do best— helping their clients solve problems and achieve goals including fair financial reporting and a robust audit process.
“We pride ourselves on being solutions-oriented. We want our folks thinking about how to help their private company client identify risks, ensure reliable financial reporting, protect assets, improve controls, and to enhance the overall business and operations. With Ai Auditor in our toolbelt, we’re able to ask smarter questions, better understand our clients, and identify where those critical issues might be. All of that makes for stronger audits and a stronger relationship,” explained Roark.
Today, the DHG team is having more informed and targeted conversations with their clients. That’s because they’re honing their talents and time to provide deeper insights and analysis. This is a win-win scenario for both DHG and their clients.
“We’re in an industry where time is billable and there’s a lot of demands on our team’s time. We don’t want to spend our time auditing areas of low risk. We want to spend our time auditing financial data that has a higher potential of being materially misstated.
With this user-friendly platform, all professionals, whether technologically confident or not, can easily navigate the data findings and pull reports to investigate things further. According to Roark, “One of the biggest benefits we saw with the MindBridge platform was this ‘data scientist in the box’ concept. A lot of the hard data analysis is done by the platform so the auditor can spend their time focusing on the results. No matter the person’s technological skill level, they can use Ai Auditor to gather insights.”
Part of what makes the platform so easy to use is the built-in training sessions. If a user needs assistance or additional guidance on a specific feature, quick video tutorials are a mouse click away. “The MindBridge platform provides that just-in-time training element that supports our users in doing different types of analysis. That’s especially helpful in those first few times of learning a specific feature or just when someone might have forgotten how to do something,” said Roark.
How a data strategy boosts implementation success
A core element to DHG’s success in implementing Ai Auditor was taking a one-firm unified approach to managing data. As early-technology adopters, DHG knew that consistent methodology could ease any technological barriers and speed up firm-wide adoption.
“We take a comprehensive approach to implementing new technologies and part of that includes how we’re going to handle data. In the end, we can train people on how to use a tool and show them many interesting features, but until we embed that technology into our workflow and processes, it’s not going to be adopted very well. And the last thing we want is for our auditors to run into issues and dismiss the technology completely,” said Roark.
Before implementing Ai Auditor, DHG discussed and tested methods that could streamline data ingestion into the new AI auditing software. Now confident with the outcome, Roark shares some advice for other firms who are journeying into new AI technology.
“The data from clients can vary in format significantly. Any firm that wants to be successful with new AI accounting software needs to examine their client base and make considerations about how they are going to effectively manage the data. What we have seen at DHG is that having a consistent firm-wide data strategy helps us to better manage change for our professionals and makes it easier for our auditors to embrace this new auditing technology,” explained Roark.
Moving into the future with MindBridge and Ai Auditor
In the coming months, the company is looking to increase the usage of Ai Auditor. The team is also keen to start exploring the software’s many other capabilities. To get everyone on board, they will be launching some additional training sessions for staff. DHG’s goal is to evolve their auditing methodology to the point where auditors use the MindBridge software right from the start of a client engagement, every time.
“The MindBridge Ai Auditor platform can help our team better pinpoint where the risks might be, so they can make more informed decisions and know where to focus their time. We can then adapt our strategy and testing to target those risk areas and really hone our team’s critical-thinking skills. With that understanding, I’d like MindBridge to be number one on our people’s minds when they begin an audit engagement,” said Roark.
With the results they have experienced so far, DHG feels confident that they can use the Ai Auditor platform to help become stronger auditors. And as they continue evolving processes to strike a balance between responsible audit methodology and innovation, the firm trusts that MindBridge will be there to support them.
“We feel lucky to have aligned with a like-minded company such as MindBridge. Their team is receptive to feedback and open to having constructive discussions. And from my experience, not all vendors are like that. Just having those types of conversations with MindBridge has been invaluable to our team at DHG in adopting new AI technology,” concluded Roark.