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Audit isn’t sexy enough anymore

The audit profession is at a tipping point.

March 2017

There is now real concern that few people will be attracted to a career in audit, and there could be a huge skills gap.
The call has come for audit to be ‘repositioned’ and sold to the next generation by demonstrating the positive role it plays in society. Changing the perception of the accountancy profession in general, and audit in particular, will be no mean feat.
However, recent discussions appear to show that there is an even bigger threat to the accountancy profession on the horizon as firms look to totally change the skill-set of their audit teams. Accountancy could be asked to take a back seat as firms look to recruit more data and risk analysts, and cyber security experts.
One Big 4 firm admitted while it currently recruits 1,000 graduates for chartered accountancy training each year for its audit teams it may look to cut this to just 200.
If the accountancy bodies want to keep ahead of the curve they may have to have to change the very essence of their accountancy qualifications.
The recent joint report from the Financial Reporting Council and ICAS said that the profession needed to develop the audit skills base at the same time as the audit of the future evolves. Waiting for audit to change will be too late given the time-lag involved in recruiting, developing and training staff.
There will undoubtedly be a greater emphasis on IT skills within audit teams, to complement the use of IT specialists. The report’s authors felt that the development of multi-disciplinary teams will clearly impact on how and who the firms recruit.
To meet the challenges of today and tomorrow the report, ‘Auditor Skills in a Changing Business World’, said there are three key skills that need to be enhanced: business acumen, technology and data interrogation, and soft skills.
ICAS CEO Anton Colella said: “Audit quality relies on quality people. The challenge is that audit needs to attract and retain the most talented individuals – now and in the future. More and more we need to demonstrate what an exciting and fulfilling career choice it can be.”
• See ‘Author Skills in a Changing Business World’ and ‘The Capability & Competency Requirements of Auditors in Today’s Complex Global Business Environment’, both from ICAS and the FRC.

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