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Employing generalized audit software in the financial services sector: Challenges and opportunities

Roger Debreceny (School of Accountancy, College of Business Administration, University of Hawai'i, Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA)
Sook‐Leng Lee (Texas Instruments Inc., Singapore, Singapore)
Willy Neo (Deloitte and Touche, Singapore, Singapore)
Jocelyn Shuling Toh (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Singapore, Singapore)

Managerial Auditing Journal

ISSN: 0268-6902

Article publication date: 1 August 2005




Computer assisted audit techniques (CAATs) encompass a range of computerized techniques that internal and external auditors use to facilitate their audit objectives. One of the most important CAATs is generalized audit software (GAS), which is a class of packaged software that allows auditors to interrogate a variety of databases, application software and other sources and then conduct analyzes and audit routines on the extracted or live data. This study seeks to evaluate the nature and extent of the utilization of CAATs in financial institutions. In particular, the study establishes the extent and nature of use of GAS by bank internal auditors and their external auditors. The study is conducted with large local and international commercial banks in Singapore, a major financial center. Given the limited research on GAS in general and in the financial services sector in particular, the study uses exploratory qualitative research.


Qualitative research employing depth interviews with internal and external auditors of financial institutions.


The research finds that the extent and range of use of GAS varies widely between the institutions in the sample. Internal auditors see GAS primarily as a tool for special investigations rather than as a foundation for their regular audit work. External auditors make no use of GAS, citing the inapplicability of this class of tool to the nature of testing the financial statement assertions or the extent or quality of computerized internal controls maintained by the bank.

Research limitations/implications

This is a small sample study. While the data are rich, the findings cannot necessarily be extrapolated to broader populations.

Practical implications

This study provides guidance on the role that CAATs play in the audit process of financial institutions that is relevant for the audit community.


This is the first in‐depth study of the application of CAATs to financial institutions.



Debreceny, R., Lee, S., Neo, W. and Shuling Toh, J. (2005), "Employing generalized audit software in the financial services sector: Challenges and opportunities", Managerial Auditing Journal, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 605-618.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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