Auditing Section Research Summaries Space

A Database of Auditing Research - Building Bridges with Practice

This is a public Custom Hive  public

research summary

    Differences in Industry Specialist Knowledge and Business...
    research summary posted May 7, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 02.0 Client Acceptance and Continuance, 02.05 Business Risk Assessment - e.g., industry, IPO, complexity, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.02 Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual, 06.0 Risk and Risk Management, Including Fraud Risk, 06.05 Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement 
    Differences in Industry Specialist Knowledge and Business Risk Identification and Evaluation
    Practical Implications:

    The findings in this study are not intended to undermine the benefits of specialization in generic industries. Rather, they serve to highlight the importance and impact that specializing across differing industries has on auditor knowledge and experience.  From a
    practical perspective, the results of this study provide audit firms insights into the possible effects experience from industries of varying complexity has on auditors’ abilities to evaluate audit risks.  The results highlight the challenges in simply grouping industry specialists homogeneously, as the benefits accruing to specialists may vary depending on the nature and complexity of the industry.


    Moroney, R., and R. Simnett. 2009.  Differences in Industry Specialist Knowledge and Business Risk Identification and Evaluation.  Behavioral Research in Accounting 21(2): 73-89.

    Behavioral decision theory; industry specialization; business risks
    Purpose of the Study:

    Prior literature has reported that auditors who are considered industry specialists outperform non-specialists on tasks within their area of expertise.  Noting that not all industries are the same, the authors build on this prior literature to examine the relative performance gains between auditors specializing in a complex (pension fund) industry vs. generic (manufacturing) industry.  Below are the primary objectives that the authors address in their study: 

    • The authors argue that the nature of a complex industry causes a specialist to possess a more developed sub-specialty knowledge base compared to his/her counterpart specializing in a generic industry.  In response, it is believed that the complex industry specialist will outperform the generic industry specialist in identifying appropriate business risks, within their respective industries.
    • The authors additionally examine information-gathering attributes. Specifically, they argue that complex industry specialists will 1) list more appropriate information sources, 2) list more appropriate evidence gathering processes, and 3) will list more appropriate accounts and related assertions when compared to generic industry specialist auditors.
    Design/Method/ Approach:

    An experiment, which uses Big 4 auditors ranging in experience from 2 to 27 years, is conducted. The average experience levels of the auditors are 5.2 and 4.6 years, respectively, for the complex and generic industry specialists. This data was collected in Australia, prior to 2009. Two expert panels of Big 4 industry specialists (one from each industry) were involved in the development of the experimental materials.  

    • Complex industry specialists (i.e., pension fund auditors) were able to list relatively more business risks when working in their industry than generic industry specialists (i.e., manufacturing auditors) were able to in their respective industry.
    • Complex industry specialists, working in their industry, were able to list a greater number of appropriate information sources and appropriate evidence gathering processes, compared to their generic industry peers. However, they were not able to list a greater number of accounts or related assertions.
    Client Acceptance and Continuance, Audit Team Composition, Risk & Risk Management - Including Fraud Risk
    Business Risk Assessment (e.g. industry - IPO - complexity), Industry Expertise – Firm and Individual, Assessing Risk of Material Misstatement
    home button