“In my experience, 80% of the time accountants and auditors tend to only talk about financial data. They’re not linking with additional information that’s important to companies,” observes Wesley Schulte from Finext, a Netherlands-based consultancy.
“Many companies today already report on more than just financial data. So, accountants must also start talking about more than financial results. Include assessments of human resources or environmental impact to create audits that are of value for a company,” he urges.
In Wesley’s view, it’s also a wider question of regulation, not only a need for better focus on evolving client needs. “Although there are auditors who are currently going a step further in the services they provide, the profession is focused on rules and compliance. Currently, it is over-regulated.”
However, he has a positive prediction about future regulatory trends: “10 years from now, I think the regulation will be broader than only financial, so audit firms will have a bit more space to build more and better advisory services as well.”
Back to school
Wesley also sees a change in the focus of education as part of the solution: “Currently, professional education is all about getting the financial numbers right and all the boxes ticked. It needs to immediately shift focus to also looking properly at the other capitals that help create value for a company. These need to be audited too.”
A more process-based approach
It’s clear that digital technology can help companies along with accountants and auditors to quickly form a clear picture of data – both financial and non-financial.
That said, tomorrow’s successful accountants and auditors will also need more knowledge of the systems that their clients use. In Wesley’s view: “I believe accountants and auditors tend to see technology for performance management and accounting systems as a ‘black box’. So, they’re only looking at the inputs and outputs. We also have to focus on the process part – the rules in the system – as well as the inputs and outputs to add value. For example, by looking at whether there is a good audit trail in place and a good work flow.”
Hitting the spot?
Wesley believes that auditors and accountants have an opportunity to overcome the status quo to fully meet the fast-evolving, technology-driven client needs that go beyond traditional financial data.
He’s confident that new opportunities are coming: “Accountants need to give their opinion as a professional, aware, informed and reporting information from the client’s perspective.”