Chartered accountants must restore trust in banks and audit

ICAS held its annual conference last week and delegates were left with plenty to chew over at the end.

As well as Iain McLaren, the ICAS president, Angela Knight, the head of the BBA, and Sir David Tweedie, the ex-standard setter took to the podium. They all agreed that Scottish chartered accountants had to address the idea that auditors lack perception and take a proactive role in rebuilding public trust.

Ms Knight pointed out that one of the major challenges facing accountants was to restore the public’s trust in both banking and audit. It takes a long time to build up trust but it can be lost in a flash.

David Tweedie admitted that auditors emerged badly from the recession. He explained that auditors’ independence could be seen to be diminished by the fear of dismissal, so we must defend audit so that observers are confident that auditors’ reports were not drawn up through fear of dismissal.

The conference debated auditor scepticism and although there was much consensus, there were few concrete answers. McLaren, Knight and Tweedie agreed that a lot was down to personality and that demonstrated how important it was to hire the correct people from the start.

McLaren also pointed out that it was beneficial to have non-accountants sitting on the company board as they help members pose the right questions. Board members need to be tough and they must be prepared to be the odd one out, he said.

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