Talent in accounting audit firms

Attracting and retaining talent in audit firms

One of the issues that most concerns audit firms is attracting and retaining talent. This concern is shared by the two large professional corporations in the sector: the Registry of Auditor Economists, and the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Spain.

Recent analyzes of the evolution of the auditing sector reveal an enormous crisis of vocations. The number of professionals joining the profession is reducing. As stated by Emilio Álvarez, president of the REA, in the article published by the newspaper “Expansión” on April 3, 2023, “There is a paradigm shift in what our young people want and a reduction in the population that makes it difficult to replace of account auditors, so necessary to undertake the new challenges that arise and which are very positive", and added that "We must continue rethinking all our processes with the aim of making our sector more attractive to younger talent."

It is evident that young people are no longer attracted to a profession that in other times was configured as a professional platform that allowed those of us who decided to dedicate ourselves to it to enjoy extensive practical training, access knowledge of multiple business realities with very different cases. , to be surrounded by very competent and prepared professionals who helped us as much as possible to obtain a great professional background that, when the time came, offered us various professional options to guide our professional career, ensuring our future as far as possible.

I remember perfectly that, in the 90s, when the first Audit Law was published, that of 1988, many students of Business and Economic Sciences wanted to dedicate themselves to a profession of great reputation, preferably in one of the large multinationals that carried out their activity at that time. moment, the then called Big Five: Arthur Andersen, Price Waterhouse, Coopers&Lybrand, Ernst&Young, and Peat Marwick. Of all of them, the benchmark was always Arthur Andersen, who knew how to differentiate himself from the others due to his positioning not only in auditing, but also in consulting.

The book “The Legacy of Arthur Andersen”, by Carmelo Canales and Francisco López, is very illustrative of what Arthur Andersen represented for the auditing profession. In it they explain the basic principles that explain the success that said company had: unity, integrity, cooperation, ambition, talent, service and results.

Talent was one of those basic principles. Arthur Andersen aimed to be the best place in the world to work (“the best place to work"), but it was only for the best ("the best people in the best job"). Only the best were hired, after a strict selection process, and they were thoroughly trained, respected, assigned responsibility and trust from day one, generously remunerated, and rigorously evaluated periodically. Competition was encouraged, although cooperation was key, so it was necessary to work interdependently and relate appropriately.

Another of the basic principles was service orientation, customer orientation, and this implied professional excellence that was easily observable in terms of professional behavior. One of these behaviors involved working hard to ensure that time commitments were met and that results were delivered on time, so that while a project was underway, there was no limit to the hours or efforts to meet the goals. agreed deadlines. Another of these behaviors consisted of giving an image of seriousness and professionalism, and ranged from physical attire (dressing standards) to the expected behavior both during stays at the client's facilities and in the firm's own facilities. What is said, knowing how to be. In a word, education.

There was a very clear value proposition for employees. The slogan was you make the effort, I will pay you. It is true that, from a personal perspective, the commitment to customer service can collide with the need to have a balance between professional life and family life and leisure. However, in my opinion, this situation is perfectly avoidable by delegating responsibility and using teleworking as a resource to facilitate conciliation.

Arthur Andersen has been a reference for all small and medium-sized auditing firms. We have tried to copy the good, and minimize the inefficiencies that led to its downfall. And we are at it. It was said that Arhur Andersen was not just a job, it was a way of life, a way of being. I believe that being an auditor is a profession and a way of life, and many ways of being, since the necessary professional profiles are increasingly multidisciplinary and eclectic.

Our profession is of public interest. We work in the market of peace of mind, we provide confidence to investors, and we generate value for our clients. I firmly believe that it is up to both the regulator, the Institute of Accounting and Auditing (ICAC), and our professional corporations, the Registry of Auditor Economists (REA), and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Spain (ICJCE), to assume leadership when it comes to publicly disseminating the benefits of our profession and the figure of the auditor, and that it is up to the leaders of audit firms to adopt a proactive position, leave our comfort zone, and reach students to convey our activity, our day-to-day life, in an accessible, close, and easy-to-understand way, so as to stimulate their interest in the profession, and reverse the situation that our sector is currently going through.

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