Commerce School Leads U.Va. Team to Victory in KPMG National Audit Competition

April 19, 2007-- An outstanding team of U.Va. students earned a first-place finish in the final round of the inaugural KPMG National Audit Case Competition, held April 15 and 16, 2007, in New York City. The team included three McIntire students, Ashley Albers (McIntire ’07), Jennifer Clifton (McIntire ’08), and Robert Duncan (M.S. in Accounting ’07), as well as College student John Thornton (A&S ’09).

KPMG developed the competition to heighten students’ awareness of the highly technical, judgment-laden accounting and auditing requirements demanded by complex financial transactions.

In winning the competition, the team edged out four other finalist teams, from Brigham Young University, The Ohio State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The five finalists, selected from a field of 22 competitors, were chosen based on a multi-part set of audit requirements that the teams completed between mid-January and mid-March.

The final round of competition, held at KPMG’s New York City office, involved an hour-long presentation to the mock audit committee of a hypothetical audit client. The first 30 minutes were taken up by a prepared presentation to the committee; the remainder of the hour was devoted to a Q&A session, with the committee grilling the students on the finer points of auditing.

“The Q&A session seemed to last forever,” team leader Duncan says. “It was tough standing up there, not knowing what you’d be asked next.” Duncan says the committee asked probing questions about the rationale behind many of the students’ decisions. “There’s really no right answer,” Duncan explains. “So you have to be able to very clearly explain why you made the judgment calls you did.”

The students were richly rewarded for their skills, knowledge, and cool-headedness under pressure: The Commerce School received a $25,000 gift from KPMG in recognition of the students’ achievement, and the four students on U.Va.’s winning team received $3,000 each. (The schools of the second- and third-place finishers received $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, and each student who completed the case received $500.)

But the real value of the team’s experience, says faculty adviser and McIntire Accounting Professor Roger Martin, is the educational and teamwork experience the event provided. Says Martin, “What they got out of it was two-fold—they learned a lot about auditing a very technical financial reporting topic about which they had little prior knowledge. And they also learned about working successfully on a team whose members had very different levels of experience with financial reporting. So the whole experience really taught them how to successfully share knowledge and responsibility.”