[IMGCAP(1)]The way I see it, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in the public accounting and auditing profession.
We ensure that stakeholders can trust a company’s numbers, and that’s no small thing. Our capital markets system couldn’t function without trusted, skilled accountants and auditors.
Accounting has unfairly earned a reputation as a staid profession focused on scrutinizing invoices and tallying balance sheets. But it’s so much more. Our profession means understanding complex businesses—their strategies and operations—and their role in society. In practical terms this means companies and everyday people make strategic and financial decisions that affect their lives and their futures. What we do matters.
We also have the privilege of working with board members and audit committees. Independent, yet at the center of the action, we have a front-row seat to our clients’ strategies, opportunities, risks, controls and systems—and we also have the opportunity to provide our point of view. We can help our clients improve their financial communications, thereby building trust with their stakeholders. By engaging management in an ongoing dialogue about expectations, rather than being satisfied with routine, pro forma reporting, we can help our clients increase transparency and stand out from their competitors.
Today, our profession is beginning a new chapter. In a post-Sarbanes-Oxley world, the audit remains central to traditional financial reporting. But also, an array of stakeholders—investors, boards, audit committees, regulators, academics, employees, customers and the public at large—are looking beyond the traditional numbers. They want to know about strategy, governance, risks, sustainability and markets. Accountants and auditors will be crucial to providing accurate, relevant information in new areas:
• Sustainability and corporate responsibility: We’re on the verge of a fundamentally different reporting model—one that integrates social consciousness into traditional financial reports. Today’s patchwork of approaches will eventually yield to a uniform standard. We are working with companies, governments and standard setters to determine what the framework and rules should be.
• Cyber controls: Before investing, investors want to know whether a company’s competitive edge could be destroyed overnight due to inadequate cybersecurity. Our clients are concerned with protecting trade secrets, customer identities, financial information and intellectual property. We’re advising our clients on best practices in these areas.
• Government accounting standards: Investors will demand a new framework that more accurately reflects the financial well-being of state and municipal governments. Current standards can exclude too much relevant information. We see increasing opportunity in this area.
• Aging global population: Although longer life spans are good news, our social systems and retirement funding are inadequate. Accountants and auditors will be part of transforming this global challenge into an opportunity by creating new models and serving companies focused in this area.
• Growing global middle class: While some parts of the world are aging, other parts are young and growing. We’re also seeing the rise of the middle class. This shift presents opportunities for our clients, which we can help them navigate. For example, we expect that aging regions will increasingly focus on health care, pension systems and access to labor. Young and growing regions will create strong labor markets, consumer markets and higher standards of living.
To solve these and other issues brought on by macroeconomic forces shaping our world, we need talent—great talent. Our people are our most important asset, and we devote enormous resources to attracting, developing and retaining the best. The average age of a professional at PwC is approximately 30 years old. We’ve studied the “Millennials” and are incorporating their desire for fulfilling work, technology and flexibility into how we operate.
For example, our teams create “flexibility plans,” which specify preferred schedules, assess the likely impact of these schedules, and examine how they would mesh with the plans of others. We also support geographic flexibility and assignment flexibility. And we’re piloting an online tool to facilitate the match of people with the assignments they want—both in the U.S. and globally. Our people appreciate our flexibility, which strengthens their commitment to the firm, benefitting our business and our clients.
Most importantly, a career in the profession is about integrity and serving the public interest. Being a part of the accounting and auditing profession provides the opportunity to learn on the job every day and to work with diverse, intelligent and passionate people. As a profession, we help people and communities, provide confidence to the capital markets, and help solve complex problems. If you’re looking for a profession that provides unlimited opportunities regardless of who you are, and listens to its people and other stakeholders, then a career in accounting and auditing might be right for you.
Tim Ryan most recently served as PwC’s U.S. Assurance Leader and now serves as Markets, Strategy and Stakeholders Leader for the firm.