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5 Emerging Services Set to Transform the Accounting Profession

Shutterstock_515980906What’s on the horizon? How are changes in the business marketplace creating new opportunities for the accounting profession? What are the implications of up-and-coming technologies like blockchain?  These, among a host of other emerging trends were discussed recently at the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee (ASEC) meeting. The committee, composed of the profession’s leaders in assurance and advisory services, engaged in an insightful discussion about issues that are gaining traction internationally and in the United States.

In addition to discussing ideas for potential future projects, the committee also spoke about the projects they have currently underway that facilitate new opportunities for practitioners to provide value-added services to clients. These include five emerging service opportunities:

  1. Assuring sustainability information. Interest in sustainability has been on the rise around the world. In the United States, sustainability reporting by S&P 500 companies has increased from just 20% of the companies reporting in 2011 to more than 80% today. This provides an opportunity for CPAs to provide trusted third-party assurance on a client’s sustainability information, ranging from a sustainability report taken as a whole or a Greenhouse Gas Statement, to select environmental or social indicators that are most significant to the organization. The AICPA’s Auditing Standards Board Sustainability Task Force, together with the ASEC Sustainability Assurance and Advisory Task Force, is in the final stages of producing a guide that will assist practitioners when performing attestation engagements on sustainability information. The guide is expected to be released early this summer.
  2. Performing innovative data analytical procedures. Understanding how new and emerging technologies can be used throughout the audit process is an important step in advancing the profession. A joint ASEC and Auditing Standards Board Audit Data Analytics Task Force is currently developing a new guide that will cover the use of audit data analytics at a foundational level, and will describe how these techniques can be integrated into the audit process to improve effectiveness and bring additional insights.
  3. Providing attestation on cybersecurity. Security breaches are prevalent in today’s business environment, and as a result companies are developing cybersecurity risk management programs to help mitigate threats. The ASEC Cybersecurity Working Group is in the final stages of developing guidance for auditors on how to provide a new engagement to clients that will assess and report on the effectiveness of an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program. This new service will enable CPAs to instill confidence in their client’s efforts to address cybersecurity risks.
  4. Advising on cybersecurity readiness. Not all clients are ready for an examination-level attestation engagement on their entity-wide cybersecurity risk management program. Practitioners can use the cybersecurity risk management reporting framework as a tool to assist them in providing cybersecurity advisory services to their clients, including cybersecurity readiness engagements.
  5. Reporting on supply chain controls. In the near future, CPAs will be able to provide a new service to their clients who conduct business with manufacturers and distributors. A new ASEC working group will be developing guidance on the performance of attestation engagements on controls, similar to a SOC 2 engagement, to build trust and confidence in a company’s supply chain. This will be a valuable complement to the other system and organization control (SOC) services that CPAs can offer including SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC for cybersecurity.

These service opportunities will add to the already robust list of offerings that CPAs can provide to their clients. Whether your clients are looking for assurance on their sustainability information, interested in incorporating audit data analytics into their audit process, seeking advice on preparing for an attestation engagement on their cybersecurity risk management program, or wanting to build trust in their supply chain— you will soon have access to resources that will help you better serve your clients. ASEC will continue exploring and addressing emerging market needs and demand for assurance and advisory services in an effort to keep our members and their services in line with today’s rapidly evolving business environment.  

Amy Pawlicki, Director- Business Reporting, Assurance and Advisory Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Supply chain image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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