Organizational resilience of audit firms - evidence from the outbreak of the COVID-19

Jesper Haga, Kim Ittonen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This paper examines the organizational resilience of audit firms during the early stages of COVID-19. The unexpected restrictions placed on travel and on-site working created unanticipated barriers for auditors in Hong Kong. The authors expect that auditors with greater organizational resilience can respond to unexpected situations and restore expected performance levels relatively quickly.
The authors utilize a sample of 1,008 companies listed on Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEX) with a financial year-end of December 31. The authors identify five proxies contributing to organizational resilience: auditor size, industry specialization, diversity, geographic proximity to the client and auditing a new client. The authors use audit report timeliness as this study's main dependent variable.
This study's full-sample results suggest that larger auditors, industry specialists and auditors with closer relationships to clients issued more timely audit reports during the pandemic. The analysis of a subsample of companies that initially published unaudited financial statements reveals that industry expertise and longer auditor-client relationships significantly reduced the need for year-end audit adjustments. Finally, the authors find that larger auditors were more likely to offload clients, whereas industry specialists were more likely to retain clients.
Research limitations/implications
The results of the paper suggests that audit firm characteristics associated cognitive abilities, behavioral characteristics and contextual conditions are associated with audit firm organizational resilience and, consequently, helps auditors respond unexpected changes in the audit environment.
Practical implications
The findings of the paper are informative for those involved in audit firm management or auditor hiring and retention decisions.
This study is the first to link organizational resilience to the performance of audit firms in a time of unexpected events. The authors connect three auditor and two auditor-client dimensions to the organizational resilience of the audit firms.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Applied Accounting Research
Publication statusPublished - 05.01.2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • auditing
  • audit fees
  • organizational resilience
  • covid-19
  • audit quality
  • audit firms
  • audit adjustments
  • auditor resignations
  • audit delay

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoS: Financial management, accounting, and governance

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