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The auditor of the future will require a wide range of skills

The seminar took a look at the current trends and likely future of the auditing sector as digitalisation and robotics shape the sector.
The seminar, held on 18 May, was run jointly by the Department of Accounting of Aalto University School of Business and the Finnish Patent and Registration Office’s Accounting Department.

This year, the focus of the Future of Auditing seminar was particularly on the forecast changes to the operating environment in the auditing sector – changes which will be reflected first and foremost in the kind of expertise that auditors will need to have in the future. Perhaps this was the reason why the seminar was of interest not only to auditing professionals and researchers but also to the students at our school, who attended in larger numbers than at previous auditing seminars.

The audience participated actively in the seminar’s panel discussion in which auditing experts from Deloitte, PwC, KPMG, EY, insurance company Varma and the City of Tampere spoke shortly and then responded to questions from the audience. At the beginning of the seminar, Professor David Hay from the University of Auckland presented a comprehensive and international overview of the current state of auditing and the outlook for the future. Professor Jukka Sihvonen from the University of Vaasa opened up in his own speech the secrets of utilising Big Data for qualitative research.

Work is becoming increasingly automated and specialised, but it’s still a people-centred business

Analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence, complex data analysis, digitalisation, standardisation. Auditing is going through big changes, just like many other sectors. A sector which used to be based on manual work will require in the future increasingly diverse expertise and understanding of new technologies. However, it is still in the end about business and customer relationships in which people make the final decisions. Therefore people skills are still needed, as is at times the ability to think critically and question things.

From the customer’s perspective, auditors are expected to keep to agreed timeframes and to understand what is happening in businesses’ operating environments. In addition, a deep understanding of the customer’s business activities is also expected. ‘You don’t just talk with numbers, but also with people’, summarises Varma’s CFO Pekka Pajamo

In addition to accounting expertise, a variety of other studies are expected from those studying to be an auditor or those with a Master of Science in Economics and Business Administration who are seeking to specialise as an auditor. ‘We need a good variety of different kinds of people working for us, not people all cut from the same mould. The most important things are a holistic understanding, the ability to focus on the right thing and a certain kind of flexibility’, says Partner Antti Suominen from EY.

Participating in the discussion panel led by Professor Lasse Niemi were:
Partner Antti Suominen, EY
Partner Marcus Tötterman, KPMG Oy ab
Senior Manager Johan Groop, Deloitte Oy
Senior Manager Teemu Vieruaho, PwC
CFO Pekka Pajamo, mutual employee pension insurance company Varma
City Auditor Erja Viitala, City of Tampere

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