Getting To Know Lillian Ceynowa

A Q&A session with BDO’s new Audit Quality and Quality Management Leader

 As part of BDO’s commitment to audit quality, we’ve hired Lillian Ceynowa to take on the role of Audit Quality and Quality Management Leader. Prior to joining BDO, Lillian spent over a decade at the PCAOB, most recently as Associate Chief Auditor.

Our Assurance practice leader, William Eisig, sat down with Lillian to learn more about her role and how it fits into BDO’s audit quality commitment, what inspires her in her work and her top advice for aspiring auditors.

William Eisig, CPA, National Managing Partner and Assurance Practice Leader: Lillian, we’re so excited to have you joining us at BDO. What was it about BDO that cemented your decision to come on board?
Lillian Ceynowa, Audit Quality and Quality Management Leader: Bill, I am excited to be here. I decided to join BDO because of the strength of the firm’s commitment to audit quality. The actions BDO is taking are truly meaningful. What really impressed me is the way you’ve restructured the assurance practice into two distinct functional areas and reporting structures. Consolidating the operational and professional aspects of the business under one umbrella and separating out the quality management, inspections and independence areas that now report to a newly formed Audit Quality Advisory Council was key to incentive alignment. With this new structure, we are further empowered to truthfully identify issues and design solutions in a way that will lead to impactful change and continuous improvement of audit quality. 

Eisig: What do you see as your biggest opportunity at BDO?
Ceynowa: When I worked at the PCAOB, my job was to affect macro-level change through policymaking. Now, I have the opportunity to see policy through practice. I get to apply all my years focused on public interest, audit quality and investor protection and use them to make an impact with BDO and its clients. At the end of the day, my goal is to strengthen our system of quality management and improve audit quality.
Eisig: What does audit quality mean to you?
Ceynowa: Part of the reason I took this job is that my definition of audit quality is in line with BDO’s. Foundationally, audit quality is consistent audit execution, conducted with objectivity, integrity and professional skepticism, in compliance with relevant requirements and professional standards. At the end of the day, audit quality is not one and done. Sustaining audit quality requires ongoing investment, iteration and innovation.
Eisig: Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
Ceynowa: My father had the biggest influence on my career. He came to this country as an immigrant from Greece, barely spoke English, worked crazy hard, put himself through culinary school and became an entrepreneur — owning and operating a restaurant for 20 years. He overcame adversity, had a strong work ethic, enjoyed serving people and had a sense of humor that was contagious.
Learning from him and watching him during my early years contributed to so many of the values I possess today — working hard, helping people, wanting to make a difference… and loving to laugh. I wish he would have been around long enough to have witnessed how I’ve been able to contribute to the profession.
Eisig: If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring auditors, what would it be?
Ceynowa: I’m so glad you asked me this question!
I would tell aspiring audit professionals to think about who their audit clients are and the tremendous impact to society they can make on a daily basis. Their role is greater than just being an auditor. We are purpose-driven because we advance a very important policy initiative: protecting the millions of people who invest their savings in the capital markets and who rely on company-prepared financial statements.
Auditors are objective, impartial and skilled professionals who rigorously examine financial statements so that investors and other users can rely on them. Being an auditor is honorable, purposeful and impactful to society. 
Eisig: If you weren’t working in audit quality, what would your dream job be?
Ceynowa: In my free time, I love putting puzzles together. It is so satisfying, especially when I figure things out. This is probably why for most of my professional career I’ve gravitated towards really understanding how things work, figuring out the problems, coming up with solutions and making a meaningful impact.
Given these interests and the skillsets I’ve built over the course of my career, working in my current role as BDO’s Audit Quality and Quality Management Leader is actually my dream job! In my prior professional roles, I focused on initiatives that strengthened audit quality for the profession as a whole. This was a very big puzzle to solve. Most recently, I worked as a standard setter. In that role, we were very focused on researching matters that impeded audit quality so that we could identify effective solutions in response — solutions that protected investors and furthered the public interest. Now I’m working a smaller-scale puzzle, so to speak, because I am directly impacting BDO’s audit engagements by identifying opportunities to strengthen our system of quality management. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and very much look forward to taking audit quality at the firm to the next level.