BDO Australia Implements an Automated End-to-End Conflicts Clearance Process with Intapp Conflicts

One of the world’s leading professional services firms, BDO Australia chose Intapp Conflicts to systemize a rigorous closed-loop conflicts process, unburden staff from manual processes, fully integrate systems across offices, and improve the firm’s overall risk management profile.

Part of the world’s leading accounting and advisory organization with a team of more than 80,000 people worldwide, BDO Australia maintains offices in Adelaide, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney. The firm — one of the country’s largest associations of independently owned accounting and consulting practices — was named fastest-growing in the 2019 Australian Financial Review Top 100 Accounting Firms report’s midtier category.

Modernizing a Manual Clearance Process

Prior to implementing Intapp Conflicts, BDO Australia staff manually logged conflicts requests into a web-based collaborative platform, capturing only the bare-bones information related to potential engagements. Daily, the team packaged requests and emailed them to all eight offices, waiting for a response. With no closed-loop communication safeguards in place, conflicts and potential threats to independence could have easily slipped through the cracks.

“Our data capture and circulation process was problematic — we neither captured the information required for a thorough conflicts assessment, nor had the ability to perform quality assurance on our manual processes,” said Willem Olivier, National Director, Risks and Ethics for BDO Australia. “We relied entirely on the diligence of our staff and partners to sound the alarm on potential conflicts or independence issues in a timely fashion.”

Olivier recounted the undue burden the firm’s former process placed on its fee earners. “The onus was on the conflicts reviewers — who were ultimately on the line if there was an issue and they didn’t respond — to diligently review each and every potential engagement and go through the time-consuming process of reporting where we could potentially have conflicts exposure,” he said. “It was unsustainable from both a risk management and an operational perspective.”

Selecting a Conflicts Clearance Solution

From Olivier’s point of view, the costs associated with the ongoing maintenance for the firm’s conflicts solution — coupled with the fact that the system was ill-suited for the task — forced the decision to upgrade BDO Australia’s conflicts clearance solution.

“When we went out to the marketplace to explore what was available, there was no other product that could match the capabilities that Intapp Conflicts offered,” said Olivier. “Our decision to choose Intapp was predicated not only on the fact that the solution was clearly superior to all of the other options, but also in our trust that Intapp would provide a one-stop-shop for ongoing maintenance and upgrades — which it has.”

Olivier praised the ability of Intapp Conflicts to integrate data from all BDO Australia offices into a single searchable source. “From a conflicts perspective, the ability to unify data across a range of systems and locations into a centralized database was a huge plus,” he said.

"When we went out to the marketplace to explore what was available, there was no other product that could match the capabilities that Intapp Conflicts offered."


Willem Olivier, National Director, Risk and Ethics for BDO Australia

Supporting Implementation with a Responsive Team

Olivier characterized the firm’s implementation of Intapp Conflicts as seamless. “I’ve dealt with quite a few developers over the course of my career, and the Intapp implementation stands out as one of the easiest,” he said. “The level of responsiveness — it was almost instant — between the Intapp team and our team ensured that we successfully resolved bugs and issues during our user acceptance testing (UAT) phase. We’d find a bug, and Intapp would fix it within a reasonable timeframe.”

On the ground, Olivier described a big push for training power users on using the new system. “Prior to launch, we conducted a robust UAT with various pockets of the business, and funneled ongoing feedback to the Intapp developers for customization, ” he said. “We had so much confidence in the implementation that we launched across all offices on the same day — we all started using the system concurrently with no issues.”

Olivier described the rock-solid support he received from Intapp post-launch. “For a 2-week period, Intapp provided on-the-ground support both locally and internationally, which meant that we could deal with tweaks immediately,” Olivier said. “I was not pulling my hair out, nor losing sleep — it was smooth sailing all the way through.”


Executive Summary

BDO Australia — a trusted advisor for tax, audit, and advisory services — used Intapp Conflicts to automate end-to-end conflicts clearance, fully unifying data across a range of systems and satellite offices into a single, searchable data repository. As a result, the firm automated safeguards and improved its risk profile.

Challenges

  • Cumbersome manual conflicts clearance processes unduly burdened fee earners and introduced risk.
  • Siloed data — caused by dispersed, independent offices — prevented a unified risk management approach.
  • Increasingly stringent audit and regulatory requirements pressured the firm to modernize its conflicts clearance process to maintain compliance.
  • Manual processes burdened fee earners with responsibility for both nonbillable administrative work and risk-exposure outcomes.
  • Varying global and regional regulatory requirements made it difficult to manually evaluate conflicts clearance and waivers.

Results with Intapp

  • Decreased risk exposure: An automated end-to-end conflicts clearance process prevents issues associated with uncaptured conflicts.
  • Improved speed and accuracy: Instant access to a centralized data repository across independent offices reduces the possibility of errors or omissions.
  • Enhanced reputation: Built-in conflicts clearance provides engagement teams a basis to conclude that engagements comply with the applicable, professional, regulatory and legal requirements, as they relate to independence.
  • Reduced administrative drain: Closed-loop conflicts clearance protocols unburden partners from nonbillable, time-consuming tasks.
  • Worry-free implementation: 24/7 access to local and international Intapp resources fosters collaboration and reduces time-to-deployment.

Reaping the Rewards of a Streamlined Process

Post-deployment, Olivier points to a significant improvement in the efficacy of the conflicts resolution process, and describes how implementing Intapp Conflicts empowered the firm to actively manage its risk management profile. “As regulatory and compliance mandates become increasingly stringent, we have vastly improved our processes to address these requirements,” said Olivier. “Our investment in Intapp Conflicts provides engagement teams a basis to conclude that engagements comply with the applicable professional, regulatory and legal requirements as they relate to independence; it also demonstrates that we have the necessary measures in place to reassure clients that we are able to manage threats to independence on an ongoing basis.”

From a process standpoint, Olivier describes a landslide win on all fronts. “For the conflicts clearance initiators, the increased complexity and detail that Intapp Conflicts required was initially daunting,” he said. “But when the team experienced instant access to a searchable, centralized data repository, there was a shift in mindset that resulted in a new sense of purpose, mission, and importance of the role they play in risk management.”

“Partners still maintain ultimate responsibility for conflicts clearance, and Intapp Conflicts provides them with the peace of mind,” Olivier added. “They know that there are safeguards in place for conflicts resolution, but also ensures they’re only involved when they really need to be involved in conflicts resolution.”

"Our investment in Intapp Conflicts provides engagement teams a basis to conclude that engagements comply with the applicable professional, regulatory and legal requirements as they relate to independence; it also demonstrates that we have the necessary measures in place to reassure clients that we are able to manage threats to independence on an ongoing basis."


WILLEM OLIVIER, NATIONAL DIRECTOR, RISK AND ETHICS for BDO AUSTRALIA

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