April 2, 2013

5 Tips Every Auditor Should Know

Todd Bonneville’s first exposure to auditing and accounting came during high school when he worked as a retail store manager. After studying finance and accounting at UNLV, Todd accepted a position as Shift4’s accounting clerk in 2002 and earned a number of promotions before becoming our VP of Finance and a member of our executive team. These tips are drawn from his experience.

For many companies, some of the most vital accounting duties (such as settling the daily transactions) fall to the night auditor. Typically (although certainly not always), these are the least-experienced members of the accounting team, but they are given great responsibility to prove themselves.

Whether you’re a Night Auditor with ambitions of someday becoming the Controller, or a CFO looking for helpful training material for your accounting staff, here are a few tips.

1) Never Auto-Settle
How you settle your transactions can have a significant impact on how much of your profits your business ultimately receives. Pre-settlement auditing is vital to the avoidance of downgrades and fines.

Review your transactions each and every day. Review the automated Fraud Sentry® alerts that DOLLARS ON THE NET® generates for potentially fraudulent transactions or overstated credits.

Keep track of how many mistakes you catch and figure out the dollar amount you’ve saved the company in terms of downgrades and fraud losses avoided. Quantifiable evidence of your value can be invaluable when it comes time for your next performance review or when you apply for a promotion.

2) Be Timely
No, this doesn’t mean “be on time for work,” although that should be a given. This is talking about the timeliness of settling your batches. Do your homework and know what your processor’s settlement window is. Be certain that your business has time to do pre-settlement auditing and still have your transactions in on time.

Depending on your industry, you may only have 24 hours to submit your transactions for settlement before you see significant downgrades. (Remember, you can configure the “Aging Warning” feature in DOLLARS ON THE NET to remind you to settle any transactions that are more than 24 hours old.) You may need to ask for your work schedule to be adjusted to make sure that you have time to do your work before their deadlines.

If you work in a resort hotel or similar environment, you may have multiple merchant types under one account (e.g., hotel, spa, retail, and restaurants). Be certain to settle before the earliest deadline, which is typically retail.

3) Be Strategic
Whether you’re the manager or not, thinking like a manager will go a long way. Think ahead. If you are out sick, who else knows how to settle batches? Does that person have a DOLLARS ON THE NET login with sufficient access level? If it’s not something they do often, have you written out step-by-step directions for them so they don’t mess it up?

Yes, you want to be irreplaceable, but you also don’t want to leave your company high-and-dry (costing them huge losses in downgraded transactions) just because you’re out of the office.

4) Learn Everything You Can
The higher you move up the ranks, the more you’ll need to know. Taking time early in your career to learn about what those around you do will pay dividends in the future. Dive in and help with accounts payable, accounts receivable, transaction settlement, or any other task people may be willing to teach you. As you gain experience and the confidence of your managers, offer to help compile financial statements and learn what you can about how they are analyzed and used in business decisions. Just be careful not to overstep your bounds or get in over your head. Take it one step at a time and you’ll go far.

5) Focus on the Transactions
Aspiring managerial accountants should learn to gain insight from transaction data. DOLLARS ON THE NET was built by a team that got their start in accounting software; it is loaded with reports and tools to help you dive deeper and figure out what is really happening across your enterprise. Also, it can often be integrated with your accounting software to provide even more flexibility in how you track transactions and follow trends.

Ultimately, DOLLARS ON THE NET makes it extremely simple for you to audit, batch, and settle your transactions. But don’t just – as we say in our office – “push the monkey button.” Go beyond the simple button-pushing approach. Validate your transactions, learn your industry, spot trends, and don’t be afraid to learn something new. Follow these few steps, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful career. Good luck!