As the future of the current audit framework remains under the microscope, investors and analysts clearly state that they value audit- but say they rarely read boilerplate audit opinions or bland audit committee reports.
The findings came out of PwC’s Audit today and tomorrow study. As regulators weigh up what changes may need to be applied to the current system, the study directly seeks the investment community's views on the future of audit.
Investors and analysts called for auditors to provide assurance on performance measures – in particular industry metrics, such as same-store sales, upcoming contracts data and core or underlying earnings.
The majority of those surveyed also wanted auditors to report on companies’ preliminary results, which they say would provide more timely assurance at a critical stage in the reporting cycle of a business. The challenge for the profession to address is the fact that audit of financial statements may not be finished by the time prelims are issued.
Richard Sexton, UK board member with responsibility for reputation and public policy, PwC said:
“The views of investors and analysts are critical to the audit profession’s aim to underpin trust and confidence in the capital markets. They clearly value the audit process, but in calling for more timely assurance, investors and analysts have laid down the gauntlet. The profession needs to accept the challenge no matter how difficult the task to achieve it. But we cannot make progress alone. If we want an assurance and reporting model that adds value to the capital markets, all market participants- analysts, investors, regulators, companies and auditors will need to be engaged in the debate.”
In the wake of the financial crisis, investment professionals believe audit committee reports could become more helpful if the lid was lifted off the talks between auditors and audit committees, which currently take place behind closed doors. Ideally, there should be greater transparency around these talks, but some cautioned this transparency should not jeopardise the frankness of discussions between auditor and audit committee. Some of the UK’s leading companies have already successfully expanded their audit committee disclosures, forging a path for others to follow.
The investment community’s thoughts on going concern, which has been a contentious topic since the financial crisis, were mixed.
Corporate governance specialists would welcome additional going concern information, rating the adequacy of current disclosure as poor. However, there is little appetite from mainstream investors ( buy- side and sell-side analysts) for auditors to provide additional detail on going concern- they say enough information can be gleaned through management and other sources.
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