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Fit for the future: Robust and efficient markets

A little over two years ago I commissioned a joint project with ACCA looking at the future of audit, initially we looked at seven jurisdictions around the world.

The Future of Audit summarised the themes from roundtable discussions and has provided an excellent basis for further conversations around trust and integrity in the financial markets.

This piece of work is now prompting all sorts of interest with different stakeholders that have a common interest in building more robust and efficient markets that are fit for the future. By way of example, here is a summary of where Sue Almond, head of assurance at Grant Thornton UK and I have been able to refer to the report recently and the outcomes from these conversations.

Continuing the conversation

  • In October, Grant Thornton organised a joint event with ACCA to take the local debate to the next level. Sue participated in a panel with an investor, an audit committee chair and the head of audit and investigations at IBM in Asia. Sue said, “Singapore has all the hallmarks of a vibrant economy, as well as a very forward-thinking audit regulator, so it was great to be able to turn the debate to trust and integrity in the market, and the need to tackle some of the 'sacred cows' such as forward looking information, that can be barriers to innovation”. A diverse attendee list ranged through the financial stakeholders in Singapore.
  • Sue and I spoke at a similar event last week in Brussels. As expected the debate was different to Singapore. As ever in Brussels much of the real debate happened outside of the formal panel sessions; the impressive speaker list drew 100 Brussels influencers keen to network. I was really pleased that Arnold Schilder, chair of IAASB, accepted our invitation to speak. With Sue on the panel were representatives from the French equivalent of the 100 Group, the German Insurance Association and a Belgian disruptive technology organisation. There were diverse views. In her closing remarks, Sue drew out the key themes and reiterated the common desire for trust to support a vibrant economy.
  • Sue gave the keynote opening address to The Accountant and International Accounting Bulletin conference and awards ceremony (at which Francesca Lagerberg, Global leader – tax services, picked up the 'Personality of the Year' award). With a global audience, it was an opportunity to reflect on how established markets take audit for granted and, while in a market such as UK we are focussing on wider assurance, some countries are still developing the base level trust that a financial statement audit brings. The South African audit regulator outlined the range of regulations they are introducing, which provoked a lively conversation about the impact of this on attracting and retaining the best talent into the profession. The IAB captured all of this on video
  • The same day as the IAB session, Sue attended the annual conference of the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), a Grant Thornton UK client who provide a stamp of trust around media measurement worldwide – a different form of 'audit' - who were keen to get an external perspective on the trust and audit environment. Many of the themes from the report resonated with other discussions during their conference – globalisation of business, new business models and data enabling.
  • Finally, at the October IFAC Forum of Firms meeting, Sue provided an update on developments in Europe – Brexit, EU audit regulation, Capital Markets Union, tax, and trade deals. Sue took the opportunity to lift the debate up from the detail of the various regulatory actions and reflect on the common thread – trust – and the role of audit and assurance. We have shared our work with IAASB and have been asked to feed in follow-up thoughts from events such as those in Singapore and Brussels.

I'm now really looking forward to see how this conversation will continue to develop with our stakeholders, as well as how we can build on the outputs of the report to engage with our targets and clients in different ways