The Importance of Social Networks to Individual Auditors

67 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2019 Last revised: 13 Feb 2021

See all articles by Jeffrey Pittman

Jeffrey Pittman

Memorial University ; Virginia Tech

Baolei Qi

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management

Guochang Zhang

University of Hong Kong

Yuping Zhao

University of Houston

Date Written: February 13, 2021


We examine the role that individual auditors’ social networks play in their careers. We focus on educational networks in China, as measured by the size of an auditor’s university alumni network, including those who are auditors in public accounting firms (auditor alumni) and those who are executives of public companies (executive alumni). These social networks widen auditors’ access to expertise, information, and potential clients, which should enhance their professional development and audit quality. We find that individual auditors with larger social networks: provide higher-quality audits; attract more clients and earn higher audit fees; exhibit a higher likelihood of receiving a promotion and moving to a higher-quality audit firm, and exhibit a lower likelihood of leaving public accounting. Consistent with expectations, connections to auditor (executive) alumni play a more prominent role for audit quality (client acquisitions and career advancement). Evidence surrounding an exogenous large expansion in auditor social networks reinforces the main results.

Keywords: individual auditors; social networks; alumni networks; school ties; audit quality; client acquisition; career pamni network, audit quality, client acquisition, career path

JEL Classification: M42, M51

Suggested Citation

Pittman, Jeffrey A. and Qi, Baolei and Zhang, Guochang and Zhao, Yuping, The Importance of Social Networks to Individual Auditors (February 13, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Jeffrey A. Pittman

Memorial University ( email )

St. John's, Newfoundland A1B 3X5
709-737-3100 (Phone)
709-737-7680 (Fax)

Virginia Tech ( email )

United States

Baolei Qi

Xi'an Jiaotong University (XJTU) - School of Management ( email )

28,Xianning West Road
Xi'an, Shaanxi 710049

Guochang Zhang (Contact Author)

University of Hong Kong ( email )

KK Leung Building
Faculty of Business and Economics
Hong Kong
+852 3917 1076 (Phone)

Yuping Zhao

University of Houston ( email )

334 Melcher Hall
Houston, TX 77204
United States
713-743-2166 (Phone)
713-743-4828 (Fax)

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