The 21st Minute


Melting Employee Benefit Sampling Selection Time

Achieve Results with IDEA & EBP Sampling App

An average Employee Benefit Plan (EBP) audit of 120 participants takes an average of 72 hours to complete. As plan sizes increase to upwards of 1,000 participants the time can increase by more than 50%, and full scope audits add even more time. Source: ThinkVisionary.com

McConnell & Jones conducts hundreds of EBP audits each year, and is conscientious about keeping fees reasonable, complying with professional standards, retaining industry knowledge and auditor expertise. Here is a snapshot of how they increase realization on EBP audits:


McConnell & Jones is among the top accounting firms in the country that audit employee benefit plans and one of the top 20 largest CPA firms based in Houston, Texas (according to the 2013 Houston Business Journal Book of Lists). McConnell & Jones prides itself on delivering outstanding results by focusing on efficiency and effectiveness.


Within the testing phase, there are several areas of emphasis including:

  • Investment valuation testing (full-scope audits) and disclosures (full and limited scope audits)
  • Contributions (including timeliness of depositing employee deferrals for defined contribution plans)
  • Distributions
  • Claim payments
  • Census data
  • Plan expenses


One of the biggest and most time-consuming challenges of an EBP audit is sampling. Certain classes of participants in a plan should be sampled such as:

  • Participants who joined the plan within the plan year
  • Participants who made loans against their plan balances
  • Participants who had hardship or rollover withdraws

Random sampling of participants does not assure the appropriate amounts for each class of participant will be selected. The auditor must manually sort through the data multiple times to find correct amounts of participants in each class. This manual process is both time consuming and tedious, and creates a somewhat judgmental selection process rather than a truly random subset of the entire population. With full-scope audits, multiple plans can carry the same investments, which may be tested several times.


  • Leverage staff – including training both staff and clients
  • Utilize technology – specifically data analytics
  • Standardize processes


McConnell & Jones selected IDEA® Data Analysis software for its ability to analyze data from multiple sources, preserve original data, self-document all work performed, and intuitive user interface.

IDEA offers an add-on App designed specifically for EBP Sampling. Developed by Audimation Services, the sole U.S. distributor of IDEA, the EBP Sampling App is a multi-level solution with the ability to automatically query and identify ineligible participants across three plan types:

  • Defined Contribution Pension Plans
  • Defined Benefit Pension Plans
  • Health & Welfare Plans


The implementation of IDEA on selected plan groups, coupled with the use of the EBP Sampling App increased the efficiency of EPB audits McConnell & Jones conducted including:

  • Automatically select sample participants based on type-of-class criteria and eligibility
  • Automatically scan the data for ineligible participants based on hire date and class of employment
  • Create a database of investments and identify common securities that can be tested across multiple plans
  • Automatically run a limited set of data integrity checks
  • Output the results to the same Excel format for predictable work papers every time

Once the data was imported into IDEA, McConnell & Jones was able to reduce their sample selection time considerably. More importantly, the built-in logic gave the firm a consistent approach to audits and uniform output to work with for testing.


Along the way, the firm worked to change its habits and implement the solution on existing engagements, which required new procedures, training and coaching. The result is a well-maintained library of repeatable data analytics that both standardize existing processes and improve efficiency. The biggest benefit is higher realization rates, which keeps both the firm and its clients happy.


We offer live demonstrations of IDEA and the EBP Sampling App. Let us show you how we can help melt EBP sampling time from hours to minutes and eliminate manual processes. Contact us to discuss your needs and schedule a demo.

[email protected] – 888.641.2800

Automate Procedures , CaseWare IDEA , Success Story

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