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Answering Audits

Posted By USFN, Friday, August 1, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

August 1, 2014


by Shawn J. Burke, Director, LoanSphere Sales Engineering
ServiceLink, A Black Knight Financial Services Company – USFN Associate Member
Chair, USFN Technology Committee

The USFN Technology Committee has repeatedly discussed the subject of answering audits. The goal: just make it easier. From our perspective, we look at whether or not everyone is having the same issues; do we need larger industry action or standardization? Let me start with three challenges — consistency, volume, and submission.

Consistency comes up in the wording of the questions. First, consider the year-to-year recurrence of an audit. Questions worded differently from one year to the next reduce efficient validation of last year’s response. Consistent wording would permit review and pasting into the new spreadsheet, after making appropriate revisions of course. Another manifestation of the “consistency” challenge is repetition of a question within one audit. While one may assert that this gives the opportunity to confirm an answer, the patterns of repetition do not indicate that that is the intent. It seems, instead, that someone else is writing this year’s questionnaire without leveraging (or possibly not even being aware of) last year’s version.

Beyond consistency, there is a volume issue. The steadily increasing audit volume literally creates the need for a full-time job position. In fact, consistency joins volume here. That is, if there were more consistency between audits from different parties, answering the volume would be more manageable. As it stands right now, answering questions about “how security is ensured” across five audits probably yields 25 distinct answers.

Finally, there is the problem with audit response submission. Again, consistency applies. Many responses are completed in a spreadsheet format and submitted by email. Some are entered using online portals. Those formats where one has to “leave it open while answering” without the ability to save and return later can be problematic. Days of work must be re-entered whenever a power outage or computer glitch occurs while in the “leave it open” mode. In addition, some audits may offer “offline” functionality, such as via spreadsheet. Here, though, the frustration can come when the spreadsheet is locked down. That is, features like color coding, adding a column of comments, or other methods to share and coordinate with one’s team are not possible.

Certainly these aren’t challenges that can be solved overnight. However, it is hoped that discussion and agreement on the issues is a first step in moving forward to some type of solution. The USFN Technology Committee is interested in your thoughts and experiences; send them to

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