The Sustainable Audit Quality (SAQ) program is EY’s commitment to conducting globally consistent, high-quality audits sustained over time.
SAQ demonstrates EY's determination to keep audit quality as our primary focus. It is the single most important factor in our decision-making, and the key measure on which our professional reputation stands.
Audit quality: a globally sustainable approach examines the progress that has been made under the six SAQ components: tone at the top; strengthen people capabilities; simplification; audit technology and digital; enablement and quality support; and accountability.
It shows that at EY we provide an environment in which our auditors can thrive. We recruit, develop and retain the right people, embrace innovation, encourage simplification and monitor closely what we do.
Our aim is to exceed regulatory benchmarks and produce audits of the highest quality. Continuous improvement is critical to the way we operate, and quality is the key to our culture.
"We have created a culture where quality is always the most important issue."
EY structure and governance
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Tone at the top
It is important to set the right tone from the top by establishing and maintaining a culture underpinned by high-quality, effective risk management and continuous improvement.
Such a culture fosters an environment of confidence, trust and pride which, in turn, enhances mutual accountability and develops high-performing teams.
“Systems and structures alone cannot guarantee continuous improvement. Our purpose requires a mindset and a culture of both personal and collective responsibility,”
EY Global Quality Enablement Leader
This is the reason that “tone at the top” is the first component of SAQ and why we place great emphasis on culture, consultation and communications.
By “the top,” we do not just mean the Global Chairman and Chief Executive or the Global Vice Chair for Assurance. The messages sent by almost 4,000 audit partners across the globe are equally essential to maintaining a culture that is focused on quality.
Cascading the tone from the top helps our people understand that shared values and commitment to quality are central to everything that we do at all levels of the organization.
It is critical that our stakeholders view EY as the leading audit organization in terms of a quality culture, and we are developing a number of initiatives to make this happen.
"We believe that by asking the right questions, our auditors can serve the public interest."
Strengthen people capabilities
To provide high-quality audits, we need high-quality people. EY is committed to attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining outstanding audit professionals.
These audit professionals must be knowledgeable and skilled at what they do. In addition, we need them to act with integrity and to demonstrate appropriate behaviors, such as curiosity, good judgment and professional skepticism.
We place a lot of emphasis on supporting our people to develop these skills and make the most of their abilities throughout their career journey.
We understand that not everyone who joins EY does so with the intention of staying with us for their entire career. Nevertheless, whether they stay with us for a few years or a few decades, whether they leave us forever or return at a later date, our aim is to ensure that they are constantly developing during their time with us.
Our people benefit from award-winning learning, as well as coaching and mentoring designed to help them achieve their full potential and enjoy enriching career experiences.
The approach is summed up in EY’s people value proposition: “Whenever you join, however long you stay, the exceptional EY experience lasts a lifetime.”
"We invest in our people by offering them opportunities to enhance their professional skills and personal development."
As the world of accounting and auditing becomes more complex, the need for simplification becomes more pronounced.
The pace of standard setting — both accounting and auditing — continues to accelerate, and the scope of regulatory oversight is expanding. New accounting standards are changing the way that certain assets and transactions are recognized, which creates additional work not only for management, but also for auditors.
We are also in the middle of implementing new auditor reporting requirements and expect some significant auditing standards to be issued during the coming year. Since it takes many years to develop a senior member of an audit team, responding to this level of change inevitably puts pressures on resources.Back to Top
We need to find ways to save our people time so that they can be more productive in the workplace, while enhancing their knowledge and skills. The less time they spend on basic tasks, the more time they have to focus on higher-risk matters.
The simplification of our audit methodology and associated guidance is an important component of our strategy to deliver SAQ. Simplification underpins efficient and effective audit processes that are customized to the requirements of each individual engagement. It also supports consistency of processes on audits.
Where we have applied simplification comprehensively and vigorously within our network, we have already seen a measurable improvement in audit quality.
"By converting complexity to simplicity, we are supporting our teams to carry out better-quality work."
When it comes to delivering quality audits, effective project management is as important as technical competencies. Sound project management means that audit issues can be identified early in the process and addressed adequately. For this reason, it is essential to incorporate communication with the client into the project management plan. EY Canvas, our online audit platform, has excellent project management capabilities. I depend on it to manage my audits effectively.
People are also essential to delivering high-quality audits. EY has a very good people culture. I find it a rewarding environment where my efforts are acknowledged and the partners take a keen interest in my career development. The partners also spend time with the managers, providing them with on-the job coaching as well as holding career discussions with them every quarter.
Since EY is a global professional services organization, I am able to draw on the skills and experiences of people right across our international business. This enables me to deliver quality
audit engagements that are of a high standard and meet the expectations of all stakeholders.
I believe that audit makes an important contribution to the business world and I value the experience that I have gained in the profession. I aspire to become a partner at EY one day.
Nadij Panday, Manager,
Johannesburg, South Africa
Audit technology and digital
EY’s audits are powered by leading-edge digital technology. By integrating the latest technologies into our audit processes, we are able to deliver high-quality audits that are agile, efficient and insightful, while meeting both our expectations and the evolving needs of businesses, regulators and investors.
We want to give our auditors the best possible tools to use in their work, which is why we are continually enhancing and upgrading our three foundational audit tools: EY Canvas, our global online audit platform; EY Helix, our suite of data analytics; and EY Atlas, our cloud-based knowledge platform that delivers the latest accounting and auditing content.
We are also investing in emerging technologies such as advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, drones and robotic process automation (RPA).
We have developed an analytics-driven audit approach. We believe in using technology to its fullest potential to deliver a high-quality audit that puts greater emphasis on risk identification and gives our people the opportunity to demonstrate an increased level of professional skepticism.
A recent survey found that EY Canvas and EY Helix help our audit teams to better understand their clients, better understand risk and deliver better audits overall.
"Our analytics-driven audit is designed from the bottom up to ensure our auditors derive the right audit conclusions and deliver a high-quality audit opinion."
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Accountability, enablement and quality support
At EY, we see accountability and enablement as critical drivers of audit quality. This is why they comprise two of the components of SAQ.
Accountability is about professional pride and individuals taking ownership of their work — as an auditor, you are accountable not just to yourself, but to your team, the organization, and our stakeholders. We reinforce the importance of accountability through our SAQ program, our quality ratings and our partners’ performance evaluations.
Enablement is about giving our teams the resources they need to deliver high-quality audits. Those resources encompass our technological tools, such as EY Canvas, EY Helix and the Client Portal, as well as a network of experienced professionals, the Quality Enablement Leaders (QELs) around the globe.
Our QELs provide on-the-ground support and mentorship to our teams, helping them to set and achieve high standards and providing additional assistance as and when it is needed. We are also enabling our teams to work more efficiently by simplifying and streamlining our audit methodology and associated guidance.
The drive for better-quality audits is a collective endeavor on the part of the entire global audit profession. This means that we do not just want to inspire our own teams, we also want to inspire every auditor in every member firm across the world.
As a result, we are challenging our people to become role models, to think proactively about how they can inspire those around them, and to embed quality within their DNA.
"We know that our commitment to audit quality is visible and that it is having an impact on outcomes."