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It's a mixed blessing

Audit & Beyond explores how audit firms and individual auditors can keep their skills relevant and up-to-date in the face of rapid and accelerating technology change.

Digital technologies have become integral to the accountancy profession and audit is no exception. “The roles of audit and assurance professionals and the skills of audit team members are evolving,” says Henry Irving, head of the Audit and Assurance faculty. Audit firms are using data, and what new technologies can do with it, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of financial statement audits. Meanwhile, users are seeking assurance over new types of information.

“Auditors are being affected by developments, such as continuous control monitoring, data analytics techniques and manifestations of artificial intelligence and smart systems like robot process automation. As the world becomes more technologically advanced, auditors will need to develop new skills,” says Irving.

Software dependency

The breakneck speeds at which new technologies emerge, advance and become commonplace will create challenges and opportunities for auditors. “Technology is going to have a huge impact on how we execute our roles, the tools we use, the skills we need and even potentially what we audit,” says Hywel Ball, EY managing partner of assurance.

He sees the increasing availability of large amounts of structured and unstructured data as a game changer for the audit, enabling auditors to “better identify risks” in financial reporting, fraud and business operations, and tailor their approach to deliver a more relevant audit.

“A huge amount of insight into a company can be obtained from sources other than the traditional company reporting mechanisms,” he notes. How much and how fast this data and the associated technologies will impact on audit professionals and the skills they need (as a consequence) remains to be seen.

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