The exciting future of assurance takes shape

By Richard Sexton, Global Assurance leader 

Information is the lifeblood of decision-making – and across the world, digital connectivity is putting more information in the hands of more people than ever before, impacting every facet of personal and business life.

And as cognitive science and robotics increasingly replace human knowledge, there’s a growing need to help people feel they can trust the technologies that make decisions for them. 

For organisations, this information explosion has taken transparency to a new level, requiring them to find new ways of communicating their performance and building trust among their stakeholders. For many years, companies concentrated on providing their shareholders with robust financial information. That’s no longer enough.

Today, organisations must engage with a broader set of stakeholders, each focused on specific – often non-financial – information. Also, companies themselves rely on diverse systems and information for decision-making. All stakeholders want to feel confident that the information they’re interested in is up-to-date, relevant and reliable: only then will they bestow their trust. As people’s information expectations are changing, assurance must change too.

 

“All stakeholders want to feel confident that the information they’re interested in is up-to-date, relevant and reliable: only then will they bestow their trust. As people's information expectations are changing, assurance must change too.”


Richard Sexton, Global Assurance Leader

Richard Sexton, Global Assurance Leader

 

The regulated financial statement audit has, by design, always focused on historical financial information. While its scope has changed over time, especially with the integration of new technologies, we cannot expect it to satisfy all the new needs and bridge the ‘expectation gap’ between the assurance stakeholders now seek and what they receive. So assurance must become much broader and more adaptable. 

To make this happen, ‘auditors’ can take the same expertise and judgement they use for regulated audits, and apply it to other sets of data and different processes and controls. This expanded view of assurance still includes the financial statement audit – but extends the same rigour to areas like people development, environmental impacts, community involvement, tax contributions and more.

Why is this broader scope needed? Because some stakeholders are looking for different and additional information in order to gain an overall picture of a business and assess an organisation's performance and sustainability.

As a purpose-led and values-driven organisation, we believe we’re well-placed to seize these opportunities. To do this, we must answer fundamental questions about what kinds of assurance different stakeholders are seeking, for what information, and how quickly. About how technologies like artificial intelligence can help increase quality and drive efficiency. And about how the assurance we provide over audited financial statements can be delivered on broader information.

We’re already starting to answer these questions. And we’re finding that the quickest and surest way to generate confidence in new kinds of information and processes is to innovate alongside the regulated audit. While standards may ultimately emerge in this area, we’re currently at a stage where agility and flexibility are vital in meeting stakeholders’ changing demands. This means providing greater transparency, wider perspectives and deeper insight by supplementing our traditional audit skills with newer capabilities in technology and data, combined with wider business acumen.

This is the journey we’re on, and we’re making progress towards an exciting future for assurance. In a world of almost limitless information and fragile trust, there’s some way to go before the expectation gap is bridged. But our destination of wider assurance is in sight – and we’re navigating the way.

 

Contact us

Mike Davies
Director, Global communications
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7804 2378
Email

Stay Connected: