Audit committees in the age of transformation

We sat down with Alex Benay, chief client officer of MindBridge AI and former chief information officer of the Government of Canada ahead of his keynote address at our 2019 Conference for Audit Committees.

The digital landscape keeps evolving at a rapid pace in every area of life – business, politics, the economy and culture too. You aren’t a big fan of the buzzword “transformation”, though. Can you explain why?

I used to think it was ok to use the word, until I realized that due to the speed of change the work was actually never done. Once you got to the “end”, things change and you need to adjust, time and time again. Transformation implies an end state, we now live in a world where there is no end state, the only constant is change.

There’s a huge need for leaders who can help steer companies in the right direction. What steps can board members, directors and other executives start taking now to better prepare for the future?

The power model has changed, three people created Air BnB and now almost double the revenues from Hilton, right under the nose of the hotel giants who all thought this was some kind of digital fad. Boards and CEOs need to understand that they need to bridge the gap between technical knowledge and traditional management approaches. Uber, Air BnB, Alibaba, all came quickly and changed everything because they leveraged digital approaches to break the traditional industrial aged models of doing business. 

Professional accounting, finance and the audit industries have, at least historically, favoured precision and detail over speed. What’s your advice to CPAs who want to adopt more digital-first business models, policies and strategies at work?

The question implies you cannot have both. Machines have proven to be able to do “0”s and “1”s better than any human for close to a decade now.  My question back to you would be why auditors, for example, would conduct an audit using sampling methodologies when an AI engine can help them see ALL the data - why wouldn’t one use modern tools? I’d argue precision in sampling is weaker than precision in addressing 100% of the data. We live in an age where data certainty is available, we should use it.


We’re excited to have you join us at the Conference for Audit Committees this year. What can attendees look forward to in your keynote?

I hope I can create some conversations, pull on some emotional strings of a few people, trigger a fierce debate, or at minimum make people pause for a second to think about how they can adjust to the changing world. We will see how machines have already taken over and how we should ensure we understand the implications as board members, CEOs or C suite executives.

Learn more about the “Future Canada” from Alex Benay at the Conference for Audit Committees from December 9-10, 2019 in Toronto. You’ll also have the opportunity to explore other top issues facing the future of audit and assurance and earn up to 21 CPD hours.