The Future is Now: Auditor Skills and Competencies, to Infinity and Beyond

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The Future is Now: Auditor Skills and Competencies, to Infinity and Beyond

The markets are buoyant; your technical expertise, supported by a rich bedrock of commercial softer skills, are keeping you at the top of your game in the race for audit talent. This is 2022. But before you get too complacent, spare a thought for the churning turmoil just beneath the surface. This is the twenty first century - the VUCA decades, where volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity are the life blood of the millennial years. You need to keep those skills laser sharp, not only to stay in the game of course, but also to navigate those inescapably, choppy waters just ahead. Read on for a whistlestop tour of the skills and competencies that you need in order to stay ahead of the competition in 2022, and beyond.


First: The Technology

Technological change is a given. Think automation, Big and even Bigger data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, alongside rapid business model transformation, and that’s before we’ve even got to Distributed Ledger Technology! All of that is here already but it is also just the tip of the iceberg. Take stock now as to what you’ve experienced over the last few years in each of these areas, and if your lived experience has been a little sluggish, it’s time to actively seek out further exposure. It’s impossible to reel off a prescribed list of what you will need on your CV in terms of technological specifics, but you definitely need evidence of rising to the technological challenge. The name of the game here is a forward-looking mindset, able to deal with lack of certainty while demonstrating robust capacity for adapting to ever-changing organisational systems, processes and environments. 

As a twenty first century auditor, information technology skills are a given; but their particulars have a short-shelf life, subject to ever-accelerating amortisation. Consequently, the coveted competence here is more about your digital dexterity, made credible by specific techno examples, as opposed to the specifics themselves whose relevance erodes at pace. 


Joint First: The Human

It seems almost counter-intuitive, particularly in light of the paragraphs above, but the human-side, the inter-personal skills of audit, are as important as ever. Actually, even more so. Technology can, does, and will, perform a huge part of the data-led and analytical side of auditing, and with increasing sophistication the profession is evolving beyond the historical, reactive, backward lens, towards real time functionality.  As the expectations of our external and internal clients soar, the auditor is positioned to take a much more forward-looking stance, offering organisations rich narrative and insights. Numbers and the analytics alone are insufficient; interpretation and communication skills are paramount in building and sustaining relationships, and influencing and convincing our clients. The auditor needs to first understand, and then to translate, to convey and present an engaging chronicle to management. This requires holistic organisational understanding, a depth of knowledge of the entity in this immediate and wider environment and the capacity to flex communication style and approach to audience requirements. In other words, the auditor is that critical bridge that connects the technology and the digital to the organisation, human to human! 

The supporting structures of this mighty conduit are those ‘softer’ business skills (over and above the technical side) that we have discussed in previous articles on In particular, have a look at The Resilient Auditor, Communication Skills for Auditors, Audit Advantage: Communication Styles and Flexibility and How to Audit Yourself: Building on your Audit and People Skills.


And Finally

The critical competencies that we almost take for granted are worth a final word here. I’m talking about professional scepticism, ethics and independence, the life blood of audit. If you were asked about these in an interview, how would you respond?  What do you understand by these terms? Is your Continuing Professional Education up to date in these areas? What tensions, challenges and conflicts do you see, or have you encountered? 

Spare a thought for what is going on in the background of our profession right now. The audit landscape itself has been under scrutiny for some time. While regulatory and legal change is (still) just over the horizon, an appreciation of the history, background and implications for auditors is paramount to understanding the profession in 2022. Just this week, for example, the UK Government presented its feedback document in response to consultations on audit reform. The history of this can be traced back to the Carillion collapse, charted by a pathway through major investigations on the future and even purpose of audit. From the Kingman Review, the Competition and Markets Authority report and Sir Donald Brydon’s bold proposals, the spotlight for several years has been on the restoration of public trust in audit and corporate governance. The UK government’s announcement this week culminated in the confirmation of a fresh, audit regulator, ARGA (Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority) and new details on Public Interest Entities. Whether you are seeking to enter the audit profession for the first time, or you already have some maturity and experience, you cannot afford to ignore this backdrop of turmoil and change. It’s time to swot up – the proposals and pronouncements are still some way from fruition but an appreciation, at least at a high level, of the issues and drivers for change, has to be considered highly judicious.


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