Building a culture of challenge in audit firms - An independent perspective

A commitment to challenge, even when uncomfortable, lies at the heart of our professional obligations as auditors.  At a time when trust in audit is vulnerable, we believe it is essential for the profession to reassert its commitment to its cultural foundations to ensure that behaviours of scepticism and challenge are promoted across audit firms.

That’s why we commissioned Professor Karthik Ramanna of the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government to write an independent paper bringing a fresh perspective on what it takes for audit firms to build a culture of challenge.

Professor Ramanna’s recommendations encompass how auditors are trained and mentored throughout their careers by those more senior, how shared beliefs are created and conveyed, how the organisation is aligned to reinforce cultural values, and how audit firms can make robust processes and controls more visible to external stakeholders.

Professor Ramanna also makes the point that audit firms alone cannot achieve a culture of challenge, highlighting the need for audit committee chairs to work together with auditors to reinforce the value of external challenge that auditors bring.

“A culture of challenge is not something the firms’ leadership can simply mandate via pithy slogans in employee memos or manuals. People at all levels of the organisation must experience it every day for it to be real.”

Professor Karthik RamannaProfessor of Business and Public Policy at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government

We are now actively considering Professor Ramanna’s recommendations and how they impact our programme to enhance audit quality, which includes an additional £30m of annual investment in training, people, and technology.

We hope professor Ramanna's independent perspective will also prove useful to the profession as a whole as we work to rebuild trust in audit.

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Hemione  Hudson

Hemione Hudson

Head of Audit, PwC United Kingdom