With 97% of the UKs FTSE 350 companies currently being audited by just 4 accountancy practices, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has called for an inquest into the audit market. Recent high-profile failures such as the collapse of BHS and Carillion have only added to the growing concern that the audit market is broken and in need of reform. But how can the Big 4 put their best feet forward and show that they are doing everything they can to improve their auditing processes? In this 2 minute read I'll look at the feedback given by the Big 4 to growing criticism amid their auditing process and whether or not they're doing enough to answer their critics.
The so-called “Big 4” Accountancy practices PWC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY have all issued statements highlighting where they feel there is room for improvement.
"the audit function needs to change to improve audit quality"
EY issued a public response stating: “In order to ensure capital markets are trusted and what companies report to the public is trusted, the audit function needs to change to improve audit quality and the audit itself needs to be modernised to meet public expectations. It is vital that this should be accompanied by further reforms to ensure healthy regulation fostering greater accountability of auditors and management, new corporate reporting rules, an enhanced audit product, stronger regulation and reinforced public interest. Reforms to audit alone will not restore public trust, sustained confidence or prevent corporate failures.”
PWC focused their response around three key areas; quality independence and choice. These issues are “interconnected and will require a holistic package of measures to address them effectively particularly in the context of the wider global market. We also believe that the sequencing of those measures will be important in ensuring that the right solutions are put in place to support the audit of the future.”
Bill Michael Chairman and Senior Partner of KPMG LLP commented; The purpose of audit needs to evolve and quality needs to be enhanced to meet the challenges of evolving markets and needs of stakeholders; potential conflicts need to be demonstrably managed more clearly and effectively; and the market needs to be accessible and attractive to firms capable of delivering high-quality audits.
"there is no one simple or quick solution that addresses all of the CMA’s concerns"
Deloitte has acknowledged; “We are clear that there is no one simple or quick solution that addresses all of the CMA’s concerns. A small number of solutions that have been discussed, such as breaking up the largest four firms, would not solve the question of choice and will undoubtedly impair audit quality. Consequently, a constructive, aligned and complementary set of remedies is required.”
It seems for once that the Big 4 are all in agreement! There does need to be wholesale and industrywide changes to address the public concern and restore consumer confidence. These changes must be implemented cohesively and with the support of the mid-tier firms who will undoubtedly benefit from the increase in competition that will be offered.
The future of audit is changing, to what we do not yet know. The market study is expected to be completed in 2019 and I for one will be interested to see their findings as to whether the market is working as it should be.