Director of Audit and Accounting services,
Pannell Kerr Forster
This is quite a teaser of a question purely because of the discreet nature of the job. But to be a decent auditor, you need to maintain your objectivity and your independence while getting on with the task in hand in the most constructive way. You really must be able to stand up to your clients. Jim Riddell is a very good auditor who can be found in our Edinburgh offices. He is professional enough to be able to stand up for and to what he believes in. And he will seek to get value for his clients. He epitomises what's good about a difficult job. You have to achieve a balance: you're under constant pressure from the client to bend to their thinking and yet you have to maintain your accounting standards and deliver value to the client. It's not easy.
It is difficult to judge other auditor's abilities because only they and their clients are ever likely to know exactly what they do, unless of course, there is a business disaster of some sort. But a man I do admire and who stands out for me is Gerry Acher, a KPMG partner and chairman of the audit faculty of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He has consistently and publicly promoted the true value of independent audit at a time when the buyers of audit services have devalued it by making it a commodity product.
Deloitte & Touche
I know there are definitely leading auditors to be found within my firm. That's to say, Martin Eadon and Steve Almond both managing partners. Steve has been a specialist in financial services for a long time. He has also been on secondment to the Bank of England and has a very broad base of experience. Both men have built up their parts of the practice very successfully. They are both robust and bright individuals who are highly competent and handle major clients exceptionally well.
Head of Assurance,
The auditor who stands out for me is Rodger Hughes at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He shows a great appreciation of market development and a deep concern for the needs of his major clients. He is also concerned for the future of the profession. So he's the one I would turn to first. Then there's Geoff Norman of Ernst and Young. He is a thorough pragmatist who has a very clear view of the issues which the clients are faced with. He cares for his client to the extent that in a way he puts the client before the business. In a nutshell, the client care is the most important thing. You have to be able to pinpoint the individual issues and difficulties of the client and provide sensible solutions. There are three core values within auditing: people, knowledge and business. Obviously, to be in the business in the first place you need the knowledge, but in the absence of people you'll not have a business.
Head of Financial Reporting
BDO Stoy Hayward
Auditing in the 1990s is a very funny world, we keep ourselves to ourselves. But someone like John McGill who was involved with the Shirley Porter case is a well-known name because he appeared in the media. If you go back to the Eighties, when there were big Department of Trade investigations, there were opportunities for auditors to shine and make names for themselves. These days there are fewer opportunities for us to push auditing forward. If I were to pick just one name now, I think I would choose Ian Plaistowe of Arthur Andersen who is chairman of the Auditing Practice Board and leader of one of the strongest firms of accountants. He has independence of mind and a necessary scepticism which you need in order to keep on ferreting away for details.
Funnily enough, the best auditors are usually the ones you never hear about because they keep the clients happy and resolve issues quietly. So as with anything in business really, it's hard to judge quality unless you're speaking from the client's point of view. By extension I suppose that the partner who does our audit should get my vote - Hugh Butterworth from Horwath Clark Whitehill. It's a funny business really: the auditors who tend to give the most competitive pitches and who are good salesmen are not necessarily the best auditors. The business has become increasingly more sophisticated as the world has got more complex. Obviously, there are auditors whose name everyone knows, like John McGill. But there are also people at work quietly behind the scenes, such as Philip Ashton of PwC who has done a great deal to promote the development of modern auditing and its methodology.
Head of Audit,
Rodger Hughes is a name which springs immediately to my lips. I admire his down-to-earth approach and his sound appreciation of the issues facing the auditing world. He will also get straight down to the point, no messing around. There's also Roger Davis, again from PwC, who has tried to grapple with the issue of liability. He has the tenacity necessary to get certain issues on the government agenda and see the big issues through. If I were to look within Grant Thornton, I would pick out David Spence for his vast range of experience and Steve Maslin who is shortly to take over as head of audit. I rate his ability very highly. He's down to earth and has a no-nonsense approach to individual jobs.
Head of Corporate Services
As far as I'm concerned, the people with influence within auditing these days are those involved in corporate governancy like Nigel Turnbull who is finance director of the Rank Group whose most recent reports concern controls and systems within organisations. He emphasises the fact that businesses need, more than anything, to assess risks. He's had a big impact on the way auditors work and what they do. Before we worked according to historical statements, now we're looking forward and this has a lot to do with the assessment of people such as Turnbull. No one else really stands out for me. What I am impressed by is the way he has impacted on the way auditing works.
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