Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the SEC led a commission to examine the state of auditing and the accountants firms. One of the main topics in this investigation is the feasibility of the Audit-Only accountant firm.
In the European Union a similar discussion on transparency in accounting firms is going where a proposal is issued to reflect the “total audit fees as a percentage of total revenues” on accountancy websites (1).
The demand for more transparency comes from the side of investors whereas the companies and corporations themselves are against it.
As a case for business architecture, I would welcome the change where the large accountancy corporations split-up their business model: the audit-only will be separated from the consultancy business.
Steps in this direction have been taken previously when Accenture was split-up from Athur Anderson in 2001 in period where the same issue was at stake: the independency of the accountant (and subsequently the quality of the audit).
For both the consultant as for the auditor as for companies themselves this independence would be an improvement. Today it is hard to find a really independent consultant which leads to an inefficient situation. The problem with auditing or similarly the rating offices have been evident. One could wonder whether the current business model (without the split between auditing and consulting) – will ever be profitable for the economy as a whole. The investment market should be leading here: there, only more transparency will increase the benefits of the investment market which will in the end benefit the whole financial system.
For the accountant professional the split shouldn’t be a problem: accountancy experience (gained in the audit-only firm) can later be monetizes in consulting services… the only problem is: the same company will not benefit from it. For the accountant professionals there is no real change, only for the firm itself.