Drivers of change and the future of audit

Wondering how your organization can harness the power of change? Edie Weiner, a futurist who runs a trend consulting firm, can help. Find out more in this Q&A and at the 2017 Conference for Audit Committees.

With your diverse professional background, it’s clear that you have mastered the art of adaptability and thrive on change. How has embracing change helped you to continually evolve in your career?

I have kept my vision and purpose, even as methods and media have changed. In some cases where it made sense, my firm, The Future Hunters, has embraced new technology. In other cases, we use change as a counterpoint with a low or no technology component. For example, at our quarterly trend summits, clients and thought leaders still engage with each other around a long conference table. I sometimes speak before audiences for as long as three hours without a single PowerPoint.

This year’s Conference for Audit Committees is focused on drivers of change. What would you identify as the top three significant changes on the horizon that will impact the future of audit?

First: a lack of clear boundaries. Audit committees need to consider everything from cybersecurity risks, enterprise risk and the role of new technology such as cyber currencies and blockchain, to intangibles like intellectual property and the crash in asset value as new disruptive competitors arise.

Second: the lack of diversity on audit committees, often with members who only provide a traditional financial perspective. There need to be more people who bring a broad understanding of the changes taking place in the world in order to make sure committees are asking the right questions, and are capable of understanding the possible answers.

Third: the ability to adequately assess reserves. In the future, there will be inevitable challenges to the integrity and availability of resources in supply chains and business processes, along with people availability, reputational stability and infrastructure – which includes financial, energy, transportation and communications grids.

How can audit committees improve their strategic foresight to help organizations take advantage of new opportunities in times of rapid change?

There should be at least one non-financial futurist on the committee who is willing and able to raise the unexpected questions. Members of the committee should be given a steady diet of reading that scans changes taking place in the world at large to prepare them for discussions about impending change. The goal is to create an environment where these become regular points of conversation at meetings as opposed to random or crisis-inspired discussions.

Financial acumen is important, which is why many audit committee members have a strong CFO and CPA background. But a varied skillset is essential to good governance. How can we inspire leaders with diverse expertise to play a more active role with audit committees? 

It’s the other way around. I doubt that boards would have a tough time recruiting other professionals if they tried. For example, there are at least half a dozen high-level organizations working to hire more talented women on boards, and there is no shortage of women with well-rounded experience and credentials.

What are some highlights we can look forward to in your keynote address this fall?

A discussion of how to put all the changes we are seeing in context. What is really going on here? Where is it all heading? We are going through two profound transformations at once, which I will expand on at the conference. What they are and what they mean will help shed light on the uncertainties of both the audit function and committees.

To learn more about futurism, trend forecasting and what’s driving change in Canadian business, and to hear Edie Weiner speak live, register soon for this upcoming professional development event:

Conference for Audit Committees
In-person conference | Toronto, ON
Nov. 30 to Dec. 1, 2017 | CPD: 14 hours
Optional pre-conference workshop Nov. 29