Henry R. Keizer is global head of audit for KPMG International and also serves as U.S. vice chair, audit, for the U.S. member firm, KPMG LLP.
Globally, he leads a team of over 3,700 audit partners and more than 55,000 audit professionals. Keizer chairs the firm's Global Audit Steering Group and is a member of the global executive team. As U.S. vice chair of audit, he has responsibility for all aspects of the U.S. audit practice, and serves as a member of the firm's management and operating committees. He previously served as a member of the U.S. firm's board of directors.
Keizer has spent over 30 years serving KPMG clients and has held various leadership roles, including risk management partner for the western region of the U.S., professional practice partner for the Northern California and New Jersey Business Units, SEC reviewing partner, and lead engagement signing partner on several large global clients.
He continues to serve as an account executive for several of KPMG's largest clients. In addition, he is a frequent speaker on issues affecting audit committees.
Keizer serves on the AICPA's board of directors and is a member of their audit committee. Active in his community, he is a member of the board of directors of the YMCA of Greater New York and serves as chairman of the YMCA audit committee.
Q: What are some of the issues KPMG encounters with audits these days?
A: The impact of the financial crisis has caused our clients and us to focus on a pretty wide range of issues. While many companies have historically enjoyed very stable relationships with their lenders and their credit analysts, the turbulence in the markets today has placed a lot more focus around the going concern evaluation that auditors go through every time they issue an audit report. I think there is also a lot of energy around the valuation of certain investments. Also, there is a whole class of hard-to-value securities which challenges management, auditors and even investors in terms of defining underlying assumptions and appropriate disclosures; for instance, what should I take from that information, and how do I use it to make the appropriate decisions.
Q: How do you deal with clients that have problems with their audits?
A: When you have complex facts or a lot of uncertainty, there is a real need to make sure, first and foremost, that there is very vibrant and robust two-way communication, not the auditors talking about their view or simply listening to management and then not reacting to their concerns. All of those involved in financial reporting - audit committees, management, auditors, both internal and external - have really rallied around the table to deal with uncertainty and the increased risk and complexity of coming up with the appropriate financial statements, disclosures and transparency that everyone is striving to get. There is a recognition today that, while there has been a global economy for a number of years, the connectivity in that global economy makes the impact of events within any single country felt much more around the world.
Q: Do you think KPMG will have any trouble adjusting to the convergence of IFRS with U.S. GAAP?
A: Conversion will require focus and a lot of the skills that any major transformation project calls for. Those companies that face conversion sooner will be better prepared and less disruption will occur for them. KPMG has worked with over 1,500 companies around the globe in dealing with the conversion to IFRS. That experience certainly is going to have an impact. There are definitely complexities, but I think that the profession and registrants will be able to manage that change. There needs to be increased focus on the academic side. The last aspect that will require some focus is the educational component within companies --how the people involved get the knowledge and skills necessary to play their role in convergence activity. Our KPMG IFRS Institute is responding to that need in the marketplace.
Q: So the IFRS Institute that KPMG set up will train both your accountants and outside accountants?
A: I would certainly view it as a knowledge repository for both, but I would say that the knowledge we post to the KPMG Institute Web site draws on the knowledge that we have within the firm and makes it available to those with an interest. So some of our webcasts, for example, feature lessons learned or key emerging issues, some of the things that our technical folks are involved in and contributing to.
Q: There's been a lot of debate about fair value measurements. What are you doing with the banking clients that are struggling to establish a fair value for their assets that are hard to price right now, and the writedowns affecting the mortgage industry and banking industry?
A: Well, part of the framework of accounting calls for judgments and estimates. On the flip side, that is one of the challenges of the profession, because with judgments and estimates, not all minds around the table might see things the same way based on how facts are interpreted and evidence is gathered. I think that fair value certainly does have its challenges, because accountants and those that prepare financial statements like precision. But we're not in a precise space when you get into fair value, so it opens up the importance of understanding the basis for estimates, and the basis for judgments, and if the individuals involved are sufficiently trained.
Q: How do you deal with work/life balance issues at KPMG?
A: We want to make sure that the people who come to KPMG have a great place to build their career, enhance their skills and experiences, from the day they join us and every day thereafter. There are few places you can learn as much as you can in public accounting. But people have to be able to do that on terms consistent with their own parameters around work/life balance, and also consistent with our need to proactively serve our clients. So it's got to be a balance of those components. We have a number of programs that we have put in place to accomplish just that. The guiding principle is to do it in a way that meets individuals' needs based on where they are within their lives -- if they're raising a family, if they're pursuing extended university studies, if they have certain restrictions around how much they can be engaged in client service at a particular point in their life. Also, today's world needs to recognize that we are in a global marketplace and we've launched a number of programs that allow our people to experience what it's like to work for a global organization in a global economy.
Q: I noticed that KPMG recently set up a global green initiative to reduce its member firms' carbon emissions. Is this going to be a profitable niche for firms like KPMG, to audit carbon emissions at clients?
A: In each of our member firms, not just in the U.S., but globally, we have had a number of environmental initiatives which our employees and partners have endorsed fully. Certainly we're committed from an international leadership perspective to do our part. In terms of the service offering, I do believe that as we move forward there will be more of a demand for some type of attestation or independent assurance around some of the measurements that will indicate whether a particular entity is doing more than average or more than some of their industry peers. It is an area that is evolving and I think the profession as well as companies will need to agree on those appropriate measurements. Around the globe we are issuing reports around sustainability, and I expect that will continue to evolve as many companies make it a corporate initiative.
Register or login for access to this item and much more
All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.
Community members receive:
- All recent and archived articles
- Conference offers and updates
- A full menu of enewsletter options
- Web seminars, white papers, ebooks
Already have an account? Log In
Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access