, Malaysia

Digital transformation as an instrument to the advancement of the audit profession

Investing in technology and digital transformation supports the agility of audit professionals in an evolving business environment, says Deloitte Malaysia Audit Leader.

Stanley Teo has had a long and extensive career in the public accounting practice. His experience ranges from auditing multinational corporations to public and private companies, mainly in the real estate, manufacturing, and media sectors. 

He leads the Audit & Assurance practice of Deloitte Malaysia, providing services in statutory audit, assurance, reporting accountants, finance care, and Integrated Reporting, amongst others. Stanley is also a member of Deloitte Southeast Asia Audit & Assurance Executive Committee. 

Beyond his roles in private corporations, Stanley is an active member in various professional organisations including the Malaysian Institute of Accountants and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants UK. He is also a Council Member of the Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants, where he chairs the Financial Statements Review Committee. 

With a career spanning 25 years in public accounting, Stanley claimed himself a seat in the judging panel of the Malaysia Management Excellence Awards. Singapore Business Review had a chat with Stanley on how the audit and assurance practice has changed since the pandemic, as well as insights into the profession and its future leaders.

In your 25-year career as a leader in the Malaysian audit and assurance practice, what breakthroughs in the practice have you witnessed over the years, particularly in management?

Across the world, the pandemic has caused huge disruption to our daily lives. However, we have been able to adjust quickly to the new norm with the use of technology. Technology has enabled many audit procedures to be carried out remotely. Looking back on the last year and a half, it is indeed an amazing achievement that as auditors, we were able to deliver the audits and discharge our professional responsibilities, even with most of us, clients included, working remotely from home. That is the power of technology and human agility.

Are there issues in the audit and assurance practice/management you would like to address or change? If yes, please expound.

One of the biggest issues facing the profession is how we compete with other industries for talents. The level of regulation and compliance the profession faces today has, to a large extent, impacted the career decision of many young talents. Additionally, the mindset of audit being a good “training ground” where one joins for a few years after graduation and move on thereafter, just compounds the talent issue we face.     

What skills or attributes do you recommend for upcoming audit professionals to gain if they aspire to a leadership position in the sector?

As auditors, we provide assurance and trust to the financials published by companies. It is important to recognise this critical role we play in the entire capital market ecosystem. This makes integrity central to everything we do. 

The profession is constantly evolving, in line with the changing business environment. This requires us to constantly keep up with the new requirements and adapt to new ways of working. Hence, the mindset of continuous learning and improvement is essential to success.          

Did the audit and assurance sector practice experience any challenges during this pandemic period? How were these addressed? How do you see these challenges as having a lasting impact in the audit and assurance practice?

The biggest challenge the pandemic has brought about is that it has restricted our ability to have physical interaction with our clients and our people. Most of our meetings are now carried out virtually. A new workplace culture has emerged, demanding for a hybrid work arrangement between home and office, which is likely to persist post-pandemic. The challenge is for us to strike a balance between remote working and personal interaction.      

For sure many of the clients you serve are undergoing digital transformations. How is this transformation impacting the accounting practice?

We too, need to keep up with this digital transformation by investing in new technology and capabilities. At the same time, change is also needed on the approach of our audit, to uphold audit quality. With information now mostly digitalised, clients expect more insights from the digital data, with the use of analytics tools. 

Whilst companies embark on the journey of digitalisation, the issue of cyber security is also becoming increasingly important. Safeguarding our clients’ data is now one of our top business priorities.   

On a personal note, what legacy or inspiration would you like to leave to future public accountant professionals?

A profession that is capable of constantly transforming itself in response to the external environment.

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