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Inspiring TV for Auditors: What We Can Learn from Blake Shelton and Kim Kardashian

Kim KardashianAs individuals and as a profession we continuously strive to enhance our value proposition and improve the quality of the audit. It’s hard work, and we all need to find time to relax and recharge. Sometimes, while unwinding, I discover unusual parallels between what is portrayed on the TV shows I admittedly watch and the issues facing the profession. I thought I’d share some of my favorites in hopes that you’ll find in them a useful--if not amusing--way to consider the challenges at hand.

  1. The Voice of Learning and Competency

I never cease to be amazed by the talent on each season of NBC’s The Voice. As each season progresses, we see that it’s not enough to have a great voice. Contestants must learn from seasoned pros like Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton to apply their talent to different types of songs in varying high-pressure situations.

We’ve recently seen a substantial increase in the number of young people graduating with degrees in accounting. Many are opting for careers in auditing. These young professionals are extremely talented, but they need great mentors to harness that talent and teach them the secrets and tricks that seasoned auditors employ, like skepticism and professional judgment.

Like the show’s finalists, practitioners learn from their mentors that the audit is a high value service that helps maintain confidence in financial reporting. At the AICPA, we recognize that the new generation of CPAs learns and works differently--and their expectations can be very different from prior generations. Our Future of Learning initiative is addressing these needs by developing new ways to convert talent into professional competence, both prior to licensure and in ongoing practice.

  1. Monitoring the Modern Family

If you’ve had the opportunity to watch the ABC series Modern Family, you know this blended family faces challenges that make the Brady Bunch seem simple. In each episode, smartphone technology has a feature role, often complicating the lives of Modern Family members. Technology also provides them with a way to communicate and resolve problems in real time.

Several of the AICPA’s efforts acknowledge both the challenges and opportunities technology brings to the modern business and auditing environment. The Practice Monitoring of the Future project envisions real-time monitoring and communications that would give firms a perpetually updated performance snapshot and allow them to make corrections and resolve issues in near real time.  

Additionally, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee and the Auditing Standards Board, are determining how to better integrate analytics into the audit to promote quality, audit effectiveness, and value add for clients. Through the work of CPA.com, we are advancing a private company financial information clearinghouse, which will modernize the delivery of the audited financial statement to clients. Currently in pilot, the clearinghouse will significantly improve the security and credibility of private company information, which has been a growing issue for some banks and private equity firms. 

  1. Keeping Up with the Kardashians

According to the Forbes 2015 Celebrity 100, Kim Kardashian has monetized her fame better than any other celebrity has, with her 2015 earnings nearly doubling to $53 million from 2014's $28 million. Although the Kardashians’ show on E! may seem superficial, experts attribute their success to the masterful planning and organizational skills of Kim Kardashian and mother Kris Jenner. Years before she began making big bucks from fashion design and endorsement deals, Kardashian made money as a professional organizer revamping closets for Hollywood's elite.

Although we don’t expect to see auditors on the red carpet, we need to be sure they are developing the strategic planning and critical thinking side of their skillset as they assess the contents of their clients’ financial “closets.” An auditor on an engagement needs to take stock of what's in the work papers, but just as importantly, what's not and what should be. He or she also needs to analyze the relationships between items--those that go together and those that don’t -- brown shoes never go with a black belt. The AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee and Auditing Standards Board collaboration on developing a new Audit Analytics Guide will help provide something akin to Kim K’s fashion dos/don’ts guidance.

  1. Investigating Like NCIS

The CBS series NCIS highlights team dynamics and personalities. Like any team, the NCIS investigators are far from perfect, but they work together to apply the unique strengths of each team member to solve puzzling cases.

I hope that you won’t encounter an actual crime during your audit career, but it’s essential to use the particular strengths and specialties of each audit team member in terms of both technical expertise and personality. Auditors need to have a problem-solving mentality, a desire to get to the root of issues and a skeptical outlook. They need to recognize that fraud or material irregularities typically result from cultural dynamics--the control environment--within an organization and that good auditing involves analyzing people as well as data.

What are you watching on TV these days and how does it relate to your role as a CPA?

Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, is Senior Vice President, Public Practice & Global Alliances at the American Institute of CPAs.

Kim Kardashian courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.


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