Our moral compass is leading us once more

KPMG is re-mediating and is a different firm compared to three years ago

01 September 2020 - 16:18 By Joelene Pierce
Auditors must become forward-looking professionals, argues the writer. File photo.
Auditors must become forward-looking professionals, argues the writer. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

The auditing profession must reach a point where auditors are seen to be credible without any question.

To get to that point is not only up to governance, ethics, and the independence of auditors but it is also crucial to start developing full-rounded individuals – and particularly women – who understand the strategic view of where the business, the ecosystem, and the country is going.

The focus must be on building credibility for women in the corporate environment, including KPMG, as well as to bring back full credibility for the profession as such.

In the corporate setup there is a need to allow for divergent views. A place with diversity is a rich place where one does not subscribe to a majority rulebook, but where a rulebook must be recreated to cater for all of the diverse people, rich opinions and cultures within a space.

Through more women having inter-leadership, through inspiring encounters, mentoring and being a role model, younger women in more junior positions have someone to look up to, someone to aspire to, someone to be.

This opens a door for them to be more ambitious and confident. They will see a vision, a future. They will start seeing how what they hope for might look in reality. And then they will inspire others.

By making the professional environment cater for all the roles that women need to play, we will entice more women to join the auditing profession and to stay on in firms where they can mentor other women and raise them up.

The level of unconscious bias that remains against female accountants is disconcerting. Women face challenges at two levels – with clients and within the profession itself. Some clients would subconsciously want to test women’s credibility and audit opinion with male counterparts. This is where women must find their voices.

A new ecosystem with its own set of rules has become a necessity.

A new ecosystem with its own set of rules has become a necessity - far removed from the setup in which we have been operating in a particular way for a very long time.

Leaders in any industry must recognise the bigger picture. What am I fighting for? What is the focus? What do I believe in? What is the bigger reason for my presence here?

Leaders must be prepared to fight for their firm, at KPMG or elsewhere, for the rest of the people at their companies who work hard every day to make a success of the firm and to support their families.

What gives hope and strength is that KPMG is re-mediating and is a different firm compared to three years ago. Integrity and ethics are back at the core of who we are - our moral compass is leading us once more.

How do we ensure that the moral compasses of the people who work in the accounting sector align to the broader purpose of the firm, which is to serve the public? We should always ask: Is what I do in the interest of the public and is it aligned with the moral compass of the firm? KPMG’s renewed values attest to this kind of thinking. The public is who we really serve as auditors.

Let us as a profession be premised in credibility, let us improve our quality as per the findings of the South African Auditing Profession Trust Initiative (Saapti). Auditors must become forward-looking professionals and develop a better appreciation for what we do, with a strong focus on governance, ethics and independence without any question in a fast-changing environment. 

Pierce was awarded the 2020 Audit Partner of the Year Award by the African Women Chartered Accountants (AWCA) Forum on August 8. She has been with KPMG for 21 years and became a partner at the age of 28.


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