My auditing career began over 35 years ago when I joined KPMG in the U.S. as an intern, fresh from university. It’s been a fantastic journey ever since.
One of the things I’ve loved most about being an auditor is the people you get to work with. You’re alongside incredibly bright colleagues working together as a team to achieve a common goal. You gain exposure to so many things. You literally learn something every day. In fact, after 35 years, I’m still learning.
What makes me most proud of the profession is the value that auditing adds to the capital markets. Audit is a fundamental bedrock – it’s key to the effective allocation of capital within a country and around the world. It touches everything and everyone, although the vast majority of people will never read an auditor’s report, audit contributes to economic growth, creating jobs and savings. It’s something that we inside the profession sometimes lose sight of as we get caught up in the pace of everyday work. I actually spent some years outside KPMG when I left the U.S. firm mid-career, leading an Internal Audit team at a Fortune 100 company and becoming CFO. I am grateful for this time as it gave me a clear perspective on just how important the audit is. The oversight and scrutiny that the audit brings, acting as a challenge where needed to management decisions or thinking, can help drive different corporate behavior. It gave me a real appreciation of the value of the audit to the marketplace.
In recent years, there has been a lot of debate about the relevance of audit. But I think the intense focus and discussion with politicians, regulators, investors and clients shows us just how relevant the audit remains to them and is something we need to continue to engage on.
I’m also proud of the ability the profession has shown to adapt to change. Of course, things are hugely different today from when I started out. Back then for example, working papers actually were paper! The world has digitized and audit firms have moved with it. The use of technology is growing virtually exponentially and KPMG professionals are increasingly building sophisticated data analytics into our audits including the use of AI, robotics and machine learning. It helps our work in so many ways and also makes the work more interesting, removing many of the mundane tasks. It’s changing the experience that KPMG professionals and clients have of the audit too as we create smart agile platforms to interact with them on.
These are some of the reasons why I truly believe that auditing remains a great career for young people starting out today. There are so many opportunities to grow and learn, and you find yourself interacting with senior executives at a very early stage. Meanwhile, the training that member firms invest in their young talent is phenomenal. In fact, the Big Four probably represents one of the biggest business leadership development programs in the world. Of those that may choose to leave later on, many go on to do great things, becoming CEOs, CFOs and successful entrepreneurs.
For me, auditing is fascinating and truly engrossing work. You need many different qualities. A good auditor is switched on, inquisitive, appropriately skeptical, persistent and persevering. Above all, a good auditor has to be a good listener first. It’s essential to hear and absorb what team members or clients are saying and then make a clear judgment on how to proceed.
Looking to the future, I think the outlook is bright. The audit will continue to move rapidly with technology and integrate ever more powerful tools. Of course, in years to come, the audit itself might be exposed to some disruption through the advancement of AI and automation. But, while exactly what we audit and how we do it may change, there’s no doubt there will always be a need for assurance over financial and other information investors use.