Views on the future of assurance set out in new ICAS/CPA Canada publication
In 2017, ICAS and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) hosted a symposium on what audit and assurance could look like in the future.
75 senior professionals, primarily auditors, but also involving investors, audit committee members and educators, participated in this symposium which debated three of the key issues for our profession as follows:
- The use of data analytics in the audit process and how these techniques might evolve to enhance the value and relevance of the audit.
- The role that assurance providers/auditors might play in the public interest to enhance investor confidence in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- In the rapidly changing business environment, the role of the auditor is also likely to evolve therefore how do we ensure that the auditor of the future is equipped with the right skills and expertise to respond to the changing business environment.
Panellists during the event included representatives from CPA Canada, ICAS, the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC),
the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board (IAASB) and the U.S. Centre for Audit Quality.
The key points discussed during the symposium have now been summarised in a joint ICAS/CPA Canada report, ‘Audit and Assurance in the Future’.
The symposium highlighted five key calls to action necessary to evolve and advance the value and relevance of audit and assurance:
- Innovate: The dynamic business environment, developments in technology and artificial intelligence (AI) represent an opportunity for the profession to innovate and identify the services and activities that best meet their clients’ and investors’ needs. We need to grasp this opportunity.
- Collaborate. There is a need for all parties: professional bodies, standard-setters, regulators and the firms; to collaborate and share resources, money, time and expertise to support and create agile, efficient, technology-enabled audit and assurance services.
- Educate. The professional bodies’ education programs need to ensure that people are being trained in the right skills and with the right mindset and reflect that lifelong learning and adaptability are now the norm.
- Adapt. There will be a greater need for multi-disciplinary engagement teams, for auditors to enhance their knowledge base beyond audit and accounting and to acquire new skills related to technology. Being able to adapt in this rapidly changing world is critical to success. We can’t just embrace change, we need to be change-makers; we need to remain nimble to near-term changes while taking a long-term outlook.
- Experiment. We should follow the example of other experimental initiatives, such as experimenting with how to value natural capital, human capital and social capital in addition to the more familiar financial capital, to develop a framework that results in the generation of decision-useful, credible information. Only by doing so, can audit and assurance continue to play a pivotal role in society.