How crucial is SME growth to the UK economy post-Brexit?

SME growth and the challengesSMEs are often described as the backbone of the UK’s economy and it has been said that their future success will be crucial post-Brexit.

There are an estimated 5.7 million SMEs in the UK accounting for around 99% of all private sector businesses and providing 60% of UK employment. The CBI (Confederation of British Industry) believes that the UK’s economic growth depends on them.

Analysis by the Centre for Economic and Business Research has suggested that helping some 22,000 high-growth small businesses to flourish could close Britain’s productivity gap with its rivals.

On these figures one can conclude that SMEs are vitally important to the UK economy, both now and in the future, and especially their ability to compete in foreign markets to bring in the needed income to replace Europe once tariffs are in place.

Yet, it is also alleged that SMEs’ are not being given sufficient attention by the Government during the ongoing negotiations about leaving the EU.

What are the potential challenges facing SME growth post Brexit?

Investing in R & D is a significant challenge for many smaller SMEs.  Many rely on pooling their resources by using centralised research facilities for their sector. However, much of the current research funding comes via EU grants and such applications require considerable lead time.  This has already had some impact in SMEs scaling back their research plans, according to the CEO of the Materials Processing Institute.

A second worry is access to talent.  The European Start-up Monitor calculates that 51% of UK start-up employees come from outside the UK and the FSB has also highlighted that one in five small businesses rely on skills and labour from the EU.

A third concern is access to and ease of dealing with foreign markets. SMEs need help with investing in and establishing sales abroad, they are wary of the significant upfront costs and existential risks.

Then there is the SMEs’ position in many supply chains. Given the uncertainty about future post-Brexit tariffs it is worrying that the CIPS (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) has calculated that 46% of EU businesses currently working with UK suppliers are in the process of finding local replacements.

On the other hand, the CBI has found from its own research that the supply chain ties between the UK and EU “could go in the other direction”. It has calculated that strengthening supply chains could add £30 Billion to the UK economy by 2025.

While questions have been raised about the UK SMEs’ preparedness for Brexit, it is difficult to see how they could make themselves readier given that there is so much uncertainty about the final outcomes of various aspects of the ongoing negotiations.

Plainly, the ability to innovate, and therefore access to R & D, to foreign markets and to attract the right talent are among the most crucial concerns.

But essentially, while there is a lot of growth potential in UK SMEs they are going to continue to be hampered in making plans unless more attention is paid both to their needs and their concerns than currently appears to be the case.

Are creditors and their lawyers using Winding-Up Petitions for debt collection?

using courts for debt collectionI have written previously about short term thinking by businesses and the effect it has been having on their ability to plan ahead for the medium and longer term.

It has been affecting businesses’ ability to invest in capacity, efficiency and R & D as planning for growth. Instead, most SMEs seem to be focused on cash flow and immediate profits, in that order.

In the current uncertain economic climate short term thinking may seem to be a rational response by creditors seeking payment.

However, there is another, perhaps more worrying trend that I am seeing among creditors, many of them suppliers to SMEs. Larger companies owed money and their solicitor advisers are often pursuing debts by early use of a winding-up petition instead of speaking with their SME clients and if necessary helping them. Unlike most reporting which is about large companies delaying payments to SMEs, I am focusing on large companies’ aggressive debt collection from SMEs.

Sometimes it is necessary for creditors to help their clients who are in difficulty such as allowing time to pay or helping them put a restructuring plan in place.

There is rarely a day when the demise of another business is not reported in the media. At the moment, these are consumer-oriented businesses, such as Toys R Us, Maplin, Carpetright, UK Claire’s Accessories and East, not to mention the many struggling restaurant chains.

Again, arguably, uncertainty about the future could be a motivating factor in using insolvency procedures where creditors are owed substantial sums but all too often one creditor uses legal action as leverage, a ransom even, to get to the head of the queue for being paid.

The lack of trust and consequences of such action have a negative impact on both businesses concerned and the wider economy.

How effective is formal insolvency for debt recovery?

Aggressive debt collection by creditors to wind up clients is very short-sighted because if a Winding Up Petition (WUP) is granted they are even less likely to get their money.

Firstly, the WUP process is in itself costly, including the fees charged by the Insolvency Service and the Practitioner as Liquidator are paid ahead of any distribution to creditors. The IP is most likely to look for the quickest option when realising assets despite any obligation to recover as much as possible. This will normally be based on selling the company’s tangible assets, but the question is how much these will fetch and whether it will be enough to cover its liabilities.

Since the debts to secured creditors such as banks, and to preferential creditors such as employees, take precedence will there be anything left to repay unsecured creditors, such as suppliers?

If the supplier creditors’ primary motivation is to recover their money as quickly as possible, they should also remember that the insolvency process can be lengthy, given that a business can petition to delay the WUP to allow for time to set up a restructuring plan such as a CVA.

Surely, therefore, rather than using the courts as a tool for debt recovery it would be preferable for creditors to have the patience to allow a business the chance to be saved with the help of an experienced restructuring adviser where provision is made for debts to be paid in a manageable way over time. That way, while it would be wise for them not to extend further credit to the company in difficulty, they will keep them as a client with the prospect of getting their money back over time.

The key is to not let the debt grow, to have patience and to think for the medium and longer term.

After all, If the restructuring is successful, the creditor will end up with a potentially growing and successful client company from which their own business will ultimately benefit.

Can SMEs have confidence in the Government’s new Small Business Commissioner?

mall business commissioner a superhero?In December 2017 the UK Government appointed a Small Business Commissioner with the remit of supporting SMEs struggling with late and unfair payment practices when dealing with larger businesses.

The Commissioner appointed to tackle this is Paul Uppal, who ran his own small business for 20 years, and it will be his job to support SMEs in taking action on late payments and on making a complaint.  There is also a website where SMEs can get help.

Three months after his appointment, however, research by Close Brothers Invoice Finance found that very few SMEs have any confidence that the Commissioner will be able to make a difference. Their report says: “84% of SMEs do not anticipate that the introduction of the small business commissioner will have any positive impact on their business.”

According to Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB): “The UK is gripped by a poor payments crisis, over 30% of payments to small businesses are late and the average value of each payment is £6,142. This not only impacts on the small business and the owner, it is damaging the wider economy.”

It has been estimated by the Centre for Economic and Business Research that a group of 22,000 so-called high growth small businesses make a disproportionately large contribution to the economy, providing an estimated £65,000 per worker compared to the national average of £55,000.

However, while very high on the list, ‘late payment’ was not SMEs’ only concern when asked about their issues and prospects for 2018.

According to a survey by chiefexecutive.com, high on the SME list of challenges were firstly recruiting, retaining and developing quality people, followed by managing growth and change (specifically access to and cost of funding) and the Government’s competence, regulation and understanding of business.

In fourth place was managing uncertainty (the wider geo-political and economic context). Other research has found that more than half of SMEs felt that their Brexit concerns were being ignored and that ministers were not listening to their views.

Given that SMEs are seen as the key to improving the UK economy’s growth and productivity plainly they will need as much support as possible.

As the deadline for leaving the EU is less than a year away it is high time that there was serious attention paid to SME voices and that significant and effective steps taken to address them.

The Small Business Commissioner appointment is a start, but he might also take up other causes for small businesses, not least holding banks to account for their dealings with SMEs. There is the prospect of a complaints procedure that avoids the need to deal with issues through the courts. There is also the creeping nature of fees and charges which go unreported in the press, the latest being Lloyds revised fees that for some have in interest rates being increased up to 52% and fees being increased by 240%.

it remains to be seen how effective the new Commissioner will be.

What are the accounting options for SMEs?

woman doing her accounting I have talked previously about the importance of having up to date and regular Management Accounts where there are fundamentally two options for producing them: either doing the data entry, bookkeeping and accounts in-house, or outsourcing all or part of the work to a specialist firm.

Related to this is whether certain services are outsourced, such as Year End accounts, tax returns, payroll and pension administration.

Hybrid options should also be considered such as data being entered into the accounts by in-house staff with external bookkeepers or accountants doing more advanced work such as bank reconciliations, producing VAT returns and producing management reports.

If any of the work is done in-house, then suitably trained staff will be needed as will having access to the right accounting packages.

Considerations when looking for an accounting package

There are several accounting packages that might be considered where the main factors are choosing one are whether it produces the reports you want, does it have the functionality you need, is it appropriate for your business, its ease of use and cost.

Most packages are now cloud-based so you are likely to pay a monthly fee. Most also provide scope for upgrade and adding functionality depending on the size and complexity of the business and its requirements but for smaller businesses it makes sense to start with a basic package.

Among the best-known for SMEs are Sage, Quickbooks and Xero and all of these are flexible with scope for adding more functionality and reports.

The basic requirements will be to produce standard reports including: profit & loss, balance sheet, trial balance, aged debtors and aged creditors. These should also allow for reporting by period such as last month and year-to-date figures and the ability to compare them with the same period last year.

They should also make it easy to produce and file VAT returns, do invoicing and produce account statements for reconciling accounts and chasing payments. Additional functionality could include daily reports of key figures, monitoring dashboards, links to bank accounts, managing and online filing of payroll, pension auto-enrolment and, if relevant, the tracking of stock and order processing.

A package that offers all these options can be used for monitoring efficiency and business processes, for monitoring cash flow as well as producing Management and Year End Accounts, but remember, the more sophisticated the package, the greater complexity and higher the monthly fee. Do remember when producing reports based on data, “rubbish in, rubbish out”.

Backup, security, reliability and update of the software are also factors.

Related to the package decision are controls which might be done through the package such as of purchasing decisions to issue and approve prices and orders, and cash flow management to make and authorise payments. I advocate that these should be separate from those administering accounts and done by different people.

If all of the above are outsourced, then a business doesn’t need its own accounting package as the outsource supplier will use their own. However, if any of the work is done in-house then one will be required. Some outsource suppliers use several packages and can be flexible, however most use a preferred brand so you won’t have a choice and you should check it can be tailored to suit your business. You will also need to check if you need your own version for them to access and work on or if you can have access to theirs.

If you do decide to do all or any of the work in-house, then in addition to choosing a package you will need to consider the cost and overheads associated with both employing staff to carry out the work and training them on how to use the software.

There is no doubt that a comprehensive and detailed accounting system is needed to monitor productivity and cash flow, and the right one can save time and cost, but clearly considerable research and thought is needed before choosing the appropriate accounting package for your business.

Your accountant, providing they know and understand your business, ought to be able to help you choose the right one.

The High Value Dealer and the new Money Laundering Regulations 2017

The High Value Dealer and money launderingMoney laundering is the process of making illegally-gained proceeds (i.e., “dirty money”) appear legal (i.e., “clean”). The first step in the process involves introducing cash into the financial system by some means, known in the jargon as “placement”.

Typically, this can involve making a purchase, or a deposit for the purchase of, a high value item from a business and paying in cash.

In 2017 the Government introduced the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations. This was a 4th update of legislation that was first introduced in 2003 in a bid to stamp out money laundering.

While the regulations deal with the criminal aspect of laundering money they have implications for reputable businesses that unwittingly might be targeted by criminals, among them High Value Dealers (other specified service providers are also detailed in the guidance).

A High Value Dealer (HVD) is defined as a firm or sole practitioner making, or accepting, cash payments of the equivalent of €10,000 or more.

Under the regulations HVDs must carry out a risk assessment on their business’ vulnerability to being used as a conduit for money laundering, review it regularly and keep records of both the transaction and the customer. They must also ensure they and all staff are trained to spot suspicious activity and they must carry out due diligence and risk assessments on clients to whom high value goods may be supplied. Again, all this must be documented.

HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) oversee HVDs and its inspectors can turn up unannounced to check the records. If they do attend they will look most closely at cash receipts for goods and tend to make the assumption that the receipt is illegally laundered money unless the HVD can produce suitable checks on their clients.

HMRC has the power to impose fines for any infringements based on the failure to produce records and the penalties can be steep, up to 100% of the value of the sale. Since the regulations were brought into force HMRC has updated its guidance for HVDs, downloadable as a PDF

Are you a High Value Dealer?

Many SMEs may fall into the category of being HVDs without realising it.

Your company may be at higher risk if it has:

  • customers carrying out large, one-off cash transactions;
  • customers that are not local to the business;
  • overseas customers especially from a high risk third country as defined by the EU.

I recently came across a family business of 30 years–plus standing with an impeccable record of honest and debt-free trading selling large second-hand capital items.

While it had very few transactions involving cash payments, three were identified as being above the €10,000 cut-off point. Despite the fact that these three were with long-standing and known customers, the HMRC inspector ruled that the transactions had breached regulations, by not producing documents proving the identity (copy of a driving licence or passport) and place of residence (utility bill) of the customers concerned. HMRC imposed a fine on the company of £20,000, saying this was a 50% reduction on the maximum. Understandably my client is contesting this as being excessive, but the matter hasn’t yet been resolved.

With such legislation, HMRC might be seeking to maximise its revenue, but whether justified or not, it costs a lot of time and money for an SME to contest such a harsh judgement, one that can so easily have been avoided.

While my client, after 12 years of my support, now has a strong balance sheet and if necessary can pay the fine, it is easy to see that the size of the fines may push some SMEs into insolvency.

It therefore makes sense to know whether your business comes under the definition of a HVD and to ensure it is protected and complies with the regulations.

Are you undermining your business by ignoring equal pay?

equal pay how far have we progressed since this old suffragette posterDespite years of campaigning and even legislation it seems that many businesses are still ignoring the rights of women to have equal pay for work of equal value.

Tomorrow, April 4, marks the deadline for the UK Government’s legal requirement for businesses and public sector organisations employing more than 250 people to publish their gender pay rates.

As of April 1, approximately 7,000 of the estimated 9,000 businesses and organisations required to do so had complied and the results so far have made depressing reading.

According to the ONS, the median pay gap between men and women revealed so far is 18.4% in favour of men and the mean (average) gap is 17.4%.  The median gap, based on the difference between those employees in the middle of the range, is thought to be more accurate because the mean can be skewed by a small proportion of very highly paid employees.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment and was replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act.

Yet it seems that many employers have continued to consistently ignore the law or found ways to circumvent it.

According to the ONS top of the list for ignoring equal pay are in businesses in the Finance and Insurance, Power, Education, Professional and Academic, Manufacturing and Communications sectors.

Perhaps given greater impetus by the #MeToo movement following the revelations of the Harvey Weinstein and other similar scandals, this may be a moment where the situation can no longer be ignored. High profile voices, such as the resignation of the BBC’s China correspondent Carrie Gracie in protest against her own pay disparity compared with male colleagues, have also put the situation under the spotlight.

Equal pay is about respect and valuing employees

Any number of excuses will be put forward for the disparity, such as the effect on career progression of women taking time out for pregnancy or the preponderance of women in relatively low-skilled or part time work.

However, as I have argued many times, crucial to a successful business is showing respect for employees.

There is plenty of evidence that those who feel valued, who are consulted about business developments or who are given opportunities for further training to improve their skills and progress their careers can make all the difference to productivity and to a business achieving its goals.

It makes no sense at all, especially in times of near-full employment, for a business to ignore or undervalue half the potential pool of recruits, i.e. women, who could be available.

Perhaps, 100 years after the birth of the suffragist movement began, we have finally reached a tipping point where there will be some real action on equal pay for work of equal value.

Should SMEs maintain a fall-back list of suppliers?

who are your business suppliersThe recent problems that beset KFC when it switched suppliers raises the question of how vulnerable SMEs are when a supplier fails to deliver on time.

This is not only an issue for those businesses within the food industry that may be dependent on timely delivery of fresh ingredients.

Many businesses don’t hold stock or raw materials and depend on prompt deliveries as part of their production processes. Equally, it can be crucial when something, such as an IT failure, occurs unexpectedly that they can call on IT support promptly to fix the problem.

One of the ways in which businesses can avoid having too much capital tied up is to operate a “just in time” or “lean production” model for supplies or raw materials, components and other stock. This can also save premises costs by needing less space and save on the staff and management costs of having to administer stock.

However, this can make them vulnerable if a delivery fails to arrive on time, perhaps making it impossible to fulfil a client’s order to an agreed deadline. A smaller business is likely to be more vulnerable in a situation like this, not least to the reputational damage it might incur of being unreliable, and therefore to a loss of future orders.

The same situation could apply where IT support is outsourced but the supplier is unable to respond to a call for help quickly enough so that the affected business risks losing several hours – or days – of working time.

Another area where SMEs are likely to be vulnerable is where an existing supplier decides to increase their prices. Again, SMEs may not have the reserves to be able to meet the new charges and in fact may have quoted a sales price based on the current cost of materials or components where manufacture or delivery to the customer involves a a long lead time.

In the KFC case, it emerged that where previously it was being supplied from several depots located around the country, its new deliveries would be coming from one central depot to outlets across the whole country.

This, too, can make a business particularly vulnerable.

It makes sense for SMEs to have a contingency plan that includes alternative sources for any supplies on which its ability to fulfil orders may depend.

It also puts the business in a stronger bargaining position when it comes to negotiating the price of supplies.

Keeping an up to date list of alternatives, not only for price comparison but also for availability of stock and reliability of deliveries makes economic sense particularly for a small business.

The pros and cons of Brexit for British farming

where next for British farmingWhile Britain is not self-sufficient in food, 60% of the country’s food supplies does come from British farms.

In terms of the country’s economic output farming accounts for just 1%, but from the farmers’ perspective the EU is its biggest market. Food and farming provide about 475,000 jobs in the UK.

Having said that, it is argued that much of the UK’s farming would not be viable without the subsidies provided by the CAP (Common Agriculture Policy), first introduced in 1973 when the UK joined the then European Economic Community.

Indeed in 2016, Government payments to agriculture totalled £3.1bn, more than half of overall British farm income, and yet in that year 26% of farms failed to break even.

There are those who argue that the subsidy has acted as a brake on innovation, preventing some farmers from getting out of the business and others from entering it. It has also, allegedly, inhibited what some see as necessary structural change and diversification.

Could Brexit provide a much-needed shake-up in British farming?

The negatives for farming of the decision to leave the EU have been well-rehearsed. Already there have been reports that the negative attitude to EU migrant labour has had an impact particularly on fruit and vegetable farmers’ ability to recruit enough seasonal workers to pick and pack crops when they are ripe, forcing them to leave produce rotting in the fields.

At the same time, farming faces constant pressure when selling in to the food production supply chain and to the supermarkets whose purchasing power keep prices down, almost to the point of being unable to make a profit on their efforts.

Equally, farmers argue that their current tariff free trade with the EU needs to be preserved if they are to survive.

There have been some initiatives to diversify the rural economy, to the extent that it is now not uncommon to see redundant barns on farms converted in to business centres for SMEs, some farmers have capitalised on the movement for fresh, chemical free and organically grown produce and plenty have set up their own farm shops. But the inadequacy of rural infrastructure, from reliable broadband to inadequate rural roads acts as a brake on such initiatives.

Similarly, there are other vested interests, such as those who want to preserve “the countryside” and regularly oppose planning applications for a change of use to rural buildings, that act as an inhibitor to innovation.

One thing is for sure and this is that there needs to be a new vision and more joined-up thinking about the countryside, especially as the CAP will be scaled down and eventually discontinued in the transition to Brexit.

The Government produced a Command Paper in late February with proposals on what next for the rural environment and its economy. Given its impact the consultation period seems limited with input required before May ahead of a new Agriculture Bill.

Under the proposals, up to £150m in support payments could be shifted from the richest farmers to environmental schemes after Brexit.  There are also suggestions for various ways of phasing out the CAP.

The aim, according to Environment Minister Michael Grove, will be to shift the balance between the environment, its protection and farming. But it also includes proposals for a national food plan, something that the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) has welcomed and incentives to farmers to pilot schemes to improve both animal welfare and to trial new technology.

Perhaps this is one case where Brexit will provide an opportunity for some innovative thinking that is arguably sorely needed.

An interesting insight into the psychology of accepting too much work

too much work and a heavy loadI have warned in previous blogs about the dangers of over-trading and the effects it can have on an otherwise profitable business.

Over-trading is when a company is growing its sales faster than it can finance or fulfil them, in other words, taking on additional orders when it can’t afford to service or fulfil them.

The impact on cash flow is often concealed by the growing profits from growing sales.

The assumption that you cannot turn down business and must accept all orders is normally based on a rational fear of either leaner times in the future or that your customers will go elsewhere.

However, the American author and trader psychologist Rande Howell has an interesting perspective on the causes of and motivation for over-trading.

He outlines this in his book, Mindful Trading: Mastering your emotions and the inner game, and on his website mystateofmind.com.

While acknowledging that there is a fear element, the decision-maker’s fear of missing out, he attributes this to their mindset as a hunter.

The business leader, or trader as he refers to them, has a bias to act and therefore to chase after sales.

This can lead to taking action out of boredom because the mindset is about making things happen. Inaction, and the suspicion that opportunities are passing by, is therefore uncomfortable but it can also lead to acting on impulse rather than reason.

Howell also points out that there is a biological imperative in this behaviour in that the brain rewards success by releasing dopamine, the “feel good” chemical. Add to this Testosterone, which is associated with risk-taking and you have the elements of a behavioural pattern that can lead to over-confidence and unconsidered behaviour.

The danger of acting on impulse rather sticking to the business plan

As I have said before a well-organised business ought to schedule work and know when an order can be easily fulfilled.

When planning for growth, the business should look carefully at its finances and have a clear idea of its capacity.

I have also advocated in the past my view that those businesses with more demand than capacity should, instead of building more factories or taking on more staff, consider selling their existing capacity instead of selling more services or products.

This can be done in two ways, either by pricing to manage demand or fixing prices but managing expectations. No one minds waiting if the quality justifies the wait, at least until a competitor offers a similar quality at a similar price but quicker. This sale of capacity allows you to focus on quality of both product and service and avoids taking on more fixed costs in a febrile market.

Honesty and self-awareness, what Howell calls mindful trading, can help to combat the psychological components that lead to risk-taking and can strengthen the confidence in sticking patiently to the growth plan.

What is a company audit and why is it important?

audit seal of approvalFollowing the collapse of Carillion in January this year with over £900 million of debts, a £590 million pension fund deficit and uncalculated £millions in uncompleted contracts several investigations were announced into what went wrong.

Among these is a probe, by the independent accountancy regulator, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), into the company’s audits for the years 2014, 2015 and 2016 by auditors KPMG, to identify any breaches of regulatory requirements “in particular the ethical and technical standards” required of auditors. This week the FRC also announced inquiries into two of the company’s former financial directors.

This is not surprising given that Carillion was one of the UK Government’s largest contractors for outsourced services and building projects, but it is often the case that where businesses collapse one of the spotlights invariably falls on the auditors.

Why focus on auditors when things go wrong?

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is one of the bodies appointed to approve and register auditors, as required by law, and defines the purpose of the audit as follows:

“to provide an independent opinion to the shareholders on the truth and fairness of the {company’s] financial statements, whether they have been properly prepared in accordance with the Companies Act and to report by exception to the shareholders on the other requirements of company law”.

Audit reports are filed with Companies House and used by suppliers and other interested parties to make decisions about their trading relationship with the company concerned, not least how much credit to extend.

Auditors therefore are the public scrutineers and should be held to account if they are found to be complicit in any deceit through concealing problems that ought to be highlighted.

Who is required to have a statutory audit?

While there are some exemptions covered below, in principle, any public body or business above a defined turnover and size, as well as any business of whatever size that comes under FCA regulation, such as those involved in banking and insurance, must have audited accounts.

In addition, a business, whatever its size, must have an audit if shareholders who own at least 10% of its shares request one at least one month before the end of the financial year for which the audit is being requested.

Who is exempt from a statutory audit?

Subject to the above, businesses and organisations qualify for exemption if they can satisfy at least two of the following three conditions: an annual turnover of no more than £10.2 million, assets worth no more than £5.1 million and/or 50 or fewer employees on average.

Who can carry out an audit?

Accountancy companies containing suitably qualified individuals and which are registered with a recognised supervisory body, such as the ICAEW, are empowered to carry out audits.

To qualify they must be and be seen to be independent, to comply with auditing standards and ensure that all their employees are “fit and proper persons” competent and qualified to carry out the work.

Equally important is the code of ethics to which auditors must conform, which includes behaving with integrity, and being objective, only accepting work the member or firm is qualified to do and maintaining standards of professional knowledge. The auditor must also maintain confidentiality and must not use information about a company it is auditing for their own professional gain.

Another requirement for auditors is for them to demonstrate that they do not have any conflict of interests with the company they are auditing. This can be an issue for large complex companies but essentially the auditor ought not to have any relationship or be doing any work that might be used to influence the outcome of an audit.

Plainly, it is important for there to be some proper scrutiny of a business’ accounting and handling of its finances, for the sake of creditors and those people who have a stake in its survival and this is why the role of auditor in the event of a collapse is inevitably going to be a focus of investigation.