All companies including KPMG - one of the "Big Four" accounting firms - have come under heavy pressure from alterations in the global economic landscape and are forced to adapt to new challenges.
Ahead of the Asean Economic Community 2015, KPMG’s Thai unit embarked on a training scheme by sending its staff to other Asean offices. China and Japan were also included, as investors there are using Thailand as their Asean hub.
“This is primarily to serve Thai companies that are looking for investment opportunities in other Asean countries,” Kaisri Nuengsigkapian, CEO of KPMG Thailand, said in a recent interview.
“Before, we were sent to the US or Europe. The change fits our nature of business, geared towards Asean. Foreign investors don’t look at individual economies, but overall Asean.”
Since the scheme was initiated about three years ago, 20 people have served in an overseas office for a year and a half. Everyone showed better performance upon return, convincing her that they learn more from training than from a master degree.
However, these employees need to be trained before going abroad. Besides English proficiency, they are taught to communicate in English with confidence.
These employees are chosen under the “People Passion” initiative that was introduced to ensure that talents reach their full potential. Once overseas, they accompany their personal coaches to meet customers, investment promotion agencies and government agencies. Supervisors in Bangkok visit them to learn their problems.
“Human resource development is an individual issue. We need to know who is right for what,” she said.
Having the right talents assures the company that it has the right workforce with the right knowledge in the industries that its customers operate in.
“Everyone shows over 100-per-cent improvement. I call this an employee innovation,” she said.
Getting the right talents is important, but the number of graduates with required qualifications remains unchanged from 30 years ago, while demand is rising and not everyone wants to join an accounting company.
Auditing getting more difficult
“There are no longer natural places for talents. Choices are not just Thailand or New York. Some labour markets are not geographic but depend on the industry. People we demand are also demanded by banks and fund companies.
“We’re paid by the hour but some are paid by yields or returns. They have to love being paid by the hour,” Tham Sai Choy, chairman of KPMG Asia-Pacific, said during his recent visit to Bangkok.
Auditing work is getting more difficult. When most companies know the performance of a product even before its launch, auditors need to know better.
From individual challenges at the organisational level, a big challenge lies in the regulatory environment. Different sets of rules are imposed by different countries. As their clients, particularly international ones, have to comply with different rules, accounting firms must also constantly adjust to comply with different rules in scrutinising financial reports.
The latest change takes place in the European Union, which requires companies to replace their external auditor every 20 years. The UK Competition Commission is implementing rules that will place a 10-year cap on audit tenures. Under the rule, after using PwC for 120 years, Barclays will have to find a new auditor. KPMG could be a winner but it would also lose some.
Global regulators should push for the harmonisation of auditing standards, since recent financial crises – from the US subprime crisis to the banking crisis in Europe – did not stem from financial reporting.
Each country approaches regulations differently, while among companies, there are different types. Some pursue overseas investment and some focus on local business. Shareholders from many countries also need different information.
The pressure is mounting on auditors, to whom reliability is the heart of their service. Nobody remembers the 100 good things ever made, but they will never forget one big mistake.
“One mistake is a loss of credibility that takes years to rectify,” he said.
“You should not just respond to rules and regulations, but to what markets require, to help shareholders make good investment decisions and companies raise capital from the right kind of shareholders,” he added, referring what should be auditors’ main focus.