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The business of trust

Peter Mandich reports from the Audit Quality Forum on its latest thought provoking debates.

Do we still need auditors? That was the challenging question that the Audit Quality Forum (AQF) addressed when it recently convened for an evening of debates at London’s Mansion House.

The event was the culmination of three years’ work by the AQF in helping business to get it right. The debates, which form a core part of its events, centred around four key areas of prosperity, security, fairness and integrity. They examined the role of auditors in helping business to do the right things, and asked whether (by the end of the evening) we could confidently answer yes to that very big question on auditors.

The event was opened by the new Lord Mayor of London Charles Bowman, who is also chairman of the AQF. Bowman set the context for the debates by highlighting how, despite improved corporate behaviour and stronger regulation, business was still seen to be failing in one key area – trust. He said that trust was the single most critical asset in ensuring the long-term survival and success of a business, which is why he had made the ‘business of trust’ the key theme of his term of office. Bowman told the audience – made up of audit practitioners, business, academics, investors and regulators – that he had received a letter from Margot James MP, minister for small business, consumers and corporate responsibility, describing the event as timely and important.

Chi Onwurah MP, shadow minister for industrial strategy, spoke of the challenges that business faces in adapting to the new digital environment. She said that today it was not only the financial health of a company that mattered but also its cyber health. She challenged auditors to ask themselves how they could play an effective role in supporting business.

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