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Christine Earley, associate dean and professor of accountancy in the Providence College School of Business, was recently chosen to serve in a two-year, rotating academic fellowship at KPMG’s Global Services Center in Montvale, N.J. She will take a professional leave of absence from Providence College to lead and support KPMG programs and processes designed to support academic research and researchers.
Earley has published articles in The Accounting Review and Contemporary Accounting Research. She holds a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Pittsburgh.
PBN: When you look to the future of financial services, what do you see or hope to see?
EARLEY: With respect to the accounting industry, I see the future moving toward use of technology and access to data (“big data” analytics) taking on a much greater role in how information is communicated and analyzed. One of the research topics [KPMG] is asking academics to consider is the topic of data analytics and implications for auditing. This is a very new and emerging area of focus for accounting firms, but holds promise for the future, and they are currently investing a great deal in data analytics capabilities.
PBN: Do you think mobile applications, computer-assisted audit tools and social media have a place in risk assessment and audit processes?
EARLEY: Computer-assisted audit tools (such as ACL or IDEA) are extremely valuable to firms and possibly will increase in value as data analytics take more of a center stage. Using tools such as mobile apps and social media in risk assessment and auditing is challenging due to security concerns and data integrity issues. That said, auditors need to be aware of what is happening [with] their clients, and if these technologies help them gain information about a client’s business and reputation, they should utilize these technologies to do so.
PBN: How do you think audit and internal controls can integrate with ethics and compliance?
EARLEY: As part of their testing of internal controls, auditors are required to assess the entity-level controls within each organization, and one major feature of this assessment is evaluation of the organization’s “tone at the top.” This is directly related to the ethics of management and its attitude toward compliance. Generally a highly ethical board and management team tends to value a strong compliance program, so the two go hand-in-hand. Standards allow auditors to rely on these entity-level controls and therefore reduce their control risk assessments. It is an organization’s best interest to strive for a strong ethical culture, combined with an effective compliance program in order to reduce the amount of controls testing required by the auditors and possibly reduce audit fees. •