- The likelihood of misconduct and poor outcomes for customers, employees and other stakeholders is higher with a poor culture.
- Chartered accountants are uniquely placed to both lead and advise in this renewed age of accountability.
- Chartered accountants are members of a professional community and can call on this community for guidance and support.
I recently caught up with some old audit colleagues and we started to trade audit war stories. As the conversation progressed (aided by some excellent Central Otago pinot noir) we got more philosophical and the discussion moved on to “auditor gut feel” and “the warm and fuzzy audit feeling”. In my experience, how warm and fuzzy I felt was usually correlated to the quality of the processes and controls I was auditing ... and the willingness of the client to discuss them. As auditors and accountants (and professional sceptics) we know that if something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t.In the late 1990s, we didn’t have the phrase to describe what we now know as “corporate culture”.
Culture is about the traditions, the language that you speak, and the value placed on each individual in that organisation.
Although we now have far more sophisticated techniques to audit culture and the measures and reporting are more evolved, the conclusion remains unchanged. The likelihood of misconduct and poor outcomes for customers, employees and other stakeholders is higher with a poor culture. We are now operating in an environment in which the rules of what is acceptable behaviour are far more stringent and the question business leaders must ask themselves is not “Can I?” but “Should I?”
Chartered accountants are uniquely placed to both lead and advise in this renewed age of accountability. Leadership, however, may mean challenging colleagues, having difficult conversations and having a heightened focus on your own behaviour. Leadership means constantly focusing on the shadow you cast and the path you set for others to follow. We are members of a professional community and can call on this community for guidance and support. The community also offers more formal structures such as the Chartered Accountants Advisory Group, mentoring programs and discussion groups. Perhaps more importantly, we also can give back to this community through sharing our own experiences.
Culture is the key determinant in the performance of an organisation and its ability to achieve its objectives. It goes to the heart of the openness and transparency needed for effective stewardship and informed decision-making.
Every day of my working life I use brand Chartered Accountant. My fellow members are the brand. The integrity of the brand is only as strong as the behaviour of the membership. As a group, we have a strong culture because we share an ethical framework and values. Our profession is built on this foundation and therefore membership also brings responsibility. Upon joining, our members take the Membership Charge and make a public commitment:
In all practices, to uphold the profession’s high standards of duty and service and keep your name above reproach. To be scrupulous in your adherence to professional ethics and thus preserve and enhance the profession’s high reputation.
Therefore we expect that the organisation that supports us operates an efficient, transparent and fair disciplinary process and that any members who fail to meet the ethical standards will be appropriately sanctioned. We also expect that our professional standards remain current so that Chartered Accountants may continue to lead.
I recommend the joint publication by CA ANZ, The Governance Institute of Australia and The Ethics Centre, Managing Culture – A•good practice guide, which is available on the CA ANZ website.
Connections for life
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