In search of the golden fleece

O n 7 December 2012, we hosted our second AuditFutures assembly. Over 100 participants from diverse backgrounds came together for an open and honest debate about the future of audit and about rebuilding public trust in institutions.

There is a vacuum in public trust, created by failing institutions. We often rush to be fill this space with left brain approaches that lead to bureaucracy, micromanagement and overregulation. What makes our initiative unique is that we take a broader and systemic approach. We look at the opportunities for the audit profession to be part of the answer to the challenges ahead.

We are not interested in Greek tragedies that focus on dramatic problems and blaming our ills on others. Such stories have a single hero in the role of the leader, like Jason, who led the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece.

In our journey today there are no individual heroes. This is about the public interest. We are all heroes.

AuditFutures reflects the world we are living in today. This is about us being connected, about linking individuals. It is about the paradigm shift from the individualistic society of the 20th century to the world of connected networks. It is about us working together.

So this is our Golden Fleece – the triumph of the team player. The triumph of the higher collective purpose over the ambitions of the individual ego.

I think this is what has captured the imagination of so many of us. This is the momentum that the Audit and Assurance Faculty of the ICAEW has set out to build and this is the movement that the Finance Innovation Lab initiated on 4th of July. This is our AuditSpring.

We are taking radical new approach and inspiring not only people from the profession but also academics, think tanks, policy-makers, standard setters, investors, bankers, and leaders from the civil society. We have all come to work together. Using the proven facilitation methods of the Finance Innovation Lab we hosted participatory discussions in small groups. We have discovered new ways of how we can work together and have understood that collaboration is needed in order to achieve a significant goal.

We have gained a deeper understanding on the need to innovate and have identified innovation themes that we want to explore further. Over the last few months we have been building our collective intelligence and synthesizing our insights.

We have conducted lengthy internal and external consultations with a large number of professionals. The aim of each conversation has been to open up a deeper discussion around the innovation areas of audit that were identified in the 1st Assembly. These lengthy interviews with stakeholders have helped us to create a sense of community, to develop a strong network and to gain knowledge into the fundamental issues and questions that we are trying to address.

We have distilled our ideas and thinking into something more concrete that has given us further insight into how change happens in the profession. This has enabled us to develop an understanding of the broader systemic areas where innovation is needed. Further analysis has enabled us to develop the following model, which describes how change happens in the audit profession.


These are the four areas for systemic change in audit that we want to develop further. They are the four pathways that we have to collectively take. They are not alternatives that we have to choose from but simultaneous work at different levels. They interconnect and interact with each other and create the spectrum of change for greater systemic impact. This model organises our thinking on innovation in audit in the four areas of society, profession, information and people.

Society. Fundamental to our work is the definition of the purpose and the role of audit in our society. We need to understand better the demand for audit and what the dynamic in the market for trust is. How can we reframe and repurpose the role of audit in society?

Institutions: the supply side of the profession – this focuses on the question of how we do audit and how we organise the profession. the structure of the firms, policy process, our regulatory framework. How does this change our practices and institutional forms?

Information: what information do we include in audit and what is the content of audit? How does this change the scope and meaning of the information used?

People: Competency skills and behaviour that can drive change within the profession What new competencies and behaviours are needed?

The last assembly was about the need to innovate audit so that it best serves society. Today we are focusing on the purpose of audit, looking at its fundamental first principles. in the afternoon, we will look into the specific areas of innovation that we can collectively take further into incubation.

We look forward to an interesting discussion today


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