5 minute read 10 Dec 2019
How to navigate through challenges posed by the cybersecurity compliance

The best possible time to build a career in audit

By John King

EY Americas Vice Chair – Assurance

Advocate for audit quality and inclusive leadership. Track record of providing exceptional client service to multi-national organizations, start-ups and rapid growth companies.

5 minute read 10 Dec 2019

Auditing has become even more relevant to a rapidly evolving global economy and the opportunities have only expanded.

One of my mentors once told me, “The audit profession is one of the great bastions of opportunity. If you work hard and commit yourself, your potential is unlimited — because what you do matters to so many people.”

I have been meeting recently with our newest audit partners and I tell them the exact same thing. As new leaders, they play such an important role in helping our younger people see the value in what they do and the opportunity before them.

The United States has the largest, most liquid and transparent capital markets in the world, which offer investors of all types the opportunity to provide for their families, save for college, secure their retirement and build toward all of their aspirations. Essential to those markets is a trusted financial reporting system. Audit quality is job one for auditors and it always will be.

Auditing has become even more relevant to a rapidly evolving global economy than it was during my first years in the profession, and the opportunities have only expanded. Here is why I believe there has never been a better time to build a career in audit.

The digital audit

For every company, in every industry, digital transformation is at the top of the agenda. The EY global organization is no exception. New technologies are revolutionizing the way we work and what we do.

With EY Canvas, we have created the first totally online platform in the profession, which allows audit teams around the globe to monitor audit progress from anywhere at any time. We are the only global organization that uses one platform everywhere in the world, confirming that the audit methodology is applied consistently, every day and every place teams work.

Even more revolutionary is the advent of data analytics in the audit. In 2018, 90% of audit teams on large US public audits used our suite of data analytics, the EY Helix Analyzers. This is a significant shift. For the first time, with data analytics, teams are able to consider full populations of data from our audit clients instead of exploring the more traditional sampling of client data and drawing statistically-based conclusions.

They can identify outliers with greater confidence, find patterns and analyze them to identify potential issues earlier. The conversation with the audit committee is entirely different. Instead of drawing conclusions from testing, they can say definitively, “These things did occur.” With data analytics, they can look at their data from a different perspective and deliver insights to them in real time.

The advent of data analytics has been wonderful for EY people, as well as for clients and investors. For example, in the US, to make the digital audit a reality, we not only created the 10x Accelerator — a new, centralized team that includes IT resources to help with data capture and preparation — we also have trained more than 400 EY professionals from the US, Canada, Israel and countries across Latin America as digital coaches.

Increasing the value of the human element

Our EY global organization is also investing in the next waves of digital audit technology, including: predictive analytics, blockchain, robotics and process information, and artificial intelligence that can interpret unstructured and text-heavy data to pull key information from large numbers of contracts, or to search emails and social media posts for evidence of fraud.

Some people assume that when any part of a job or profession becomes automated, the human element is devalued. I see the opposite happening with the digital audit. As auditors are freed from the more tedious, manual aspects of auditing — spreadsheet-driven and tick-and-tie tasks — there is much more room for critical thinking and strategic insights within the audit. The job of auditing is becoming much more interesting and challenging.

This is happening at an important moment for our US firm because critical thinking is required as we continually strive to increase the quality of our audits and our communication with investors by identifying critical audit matters, setting a higher bar for using the work of specific resources in an audit, and intensifying the professional skepticism we apply to accounting estimates, including fair-value measurements.

This change is happening as the needs of investors are growing to include reliable information outside the financial statement audit in areas such as cybersecurity and the value created by intangibles including innovation, culture and reputation.

To succeed, our professionals still need domain knowledge in accounting, but they also need the ability to evaluate relevant data, ask the right questions, and interpret and share the results.

The skills for a changing profession

Globally, 90% of EY audit professionals are members of Gen Y and Gen Z, generations that are extremely motivated by a sense of purpose and the opportunity to grow. A career in audit has always provided that sense of purpose, but the digital audit means that early-career auditors are now able to develop professionally at a more rapid pace.

To succeed, our professionals still need domain knowledge in accounting, but they also need the ability to evaluate relevant data, ask the right questions, and interpret and share the results.

At EY, we are working on creating this mindset right from the start. Last year, we engaged over 1,000 early-career auditors in a two-day Assurance Professional of the Future training program designed to ramp up their ability to manage and present data. For our audit interns, we held a Digital Ambassador data immersion program, during which they learned how to use data to solve a real client challenge. They left with a bronze badge in digital skills — one of the digital credentials we award our people around the world to differentiate them in the marketplace — so these interns are identified as leaders at the dawn of their careers.

However, it would be a mistake for early-career auditors to assume that a high level of aptitude or training in technology is, by itself, sufficient. Ultimately, the skills that will help them succeed will be as relevant 50 years from now as they are today, and as they were 50 years ago. Auditors need intellectual curiosity and logical reasoning; adaptability, resiliency and the courage to learn continuously; and the ability to relate to people, including communication and presentation skills.

For the auditors who develop this combination of capabilities, the significance of the work they do, the impact they have, and their relevance to the capital markets and the global economy are all growing. And the experiences they have in audit are increasingly rewarding.

I am so optimistic about where the audit profession is headed. For those in the profession today, as well as those looking to join, the opportunities have never been greater.

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Summary

Auditing has become even more relevant to a rapidly evolving global economy and the opportunities have only expanded. A career in auditing helps provide that sense of purpose, but digital auditing means that early-career auditors are now able to develop professionally at a more rapid pace.

About this article

By John King

EY Americas Vice Chair – Assurance

Advocate for audit quality and inclusive leadership. Track record of providing exceptional client service to multi-national organizations, start-ups and rapid growth companies.