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RSA and AuditFutures publish report on the future of the audit profession

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13 Feb 2014

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and AuditFutures, a thought-leadership programme of ICAEW run in partnership with the Finance Innovation Lab, have published 'Enlightening professions? A vision for audit and a better society', a report which discusses how the audit profession can respond to the political and social demands of the modern business world.

The report sets out to address what it sees as the principal challenge facing the audit profession today - the need to win back public trust following the financial crisis and a series of perceived audit failures. It argues that the unprecedented organisational and informational complexity of the modern world will lead to an ever greater public demand for transparency, which the audit profession is ideally placed to deliver. However, in order to do this it needs to move away from reliance on its foundation stone, the statutory audit report on historic financial information, and respond to the challenges of a business world where fortunes can fluctuate overnight on the basis of a tweet or a negative news story, and shareholding periods are measured in days, not months or years.

The authors set out the view that audit needs to develop away from being a service consisting almost exclusively of external investigation and towards a more co-productive process, with the auditor’s role expanding to include that of an expert convenor willing to share the tools of enquiry. Instead of focussing on the audit report as a trust-producing product, the profession should instead focus on making the audit process a trust-producing practice, bringing into consideration all aspects of an organisation’s value.

To make this change, the audit profession would need to adjust the focus of its training process, to include not just technical rigour but also qualities like empathy, imagination and moral reasoning.

The report is based on interviews and comment from over 200 professionals, both from within and outside the audit profession. It has been produced by RSA 2020 Public Services, a practice-research and policy development hub which is part of RSA’s Action and Research Centre, and AuditFutures, a programme run by the Finance Innovation Lab (a partnership between ICAEW and the World Wide Fund for Nature) and the ICAEW's Audit and Assurance Faculty.

Click here for details of the release of this publication on the AuditFutures website and here for similar details on the RSA site. 

The report itself can be downloaded here (link to the AuditFutures site).

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