The future of audit: break up or shape up? 

Held on Monday, April 30, 2018


  • Natasha Landell-Mills (Sarasin & Partners)

  • Jim Peterson (author)

  • Michael Lafferty (Lafferty Group)

  • Mark Babington (FRC)



Every time there is a high-profile corporate failure – and some argue that there have been too many of these – the spotlight falls on the auditor. It has invariably signed off the previous year’s accounts as being within both accounting rules and the law of the land, and providing a ‘true and fair’ view.

Carillion’s collapse has led to a classic round of criticism, including of the auditors, KPMG, and the Financial Reporting Council, which is the UK’s audit regulator. Some believe that the ‘Big Four’, which also includes PwC, Deloitte and EY, offer insufficient competition and choice in the market. Others worry that the place of audit alongside consultancy activities can lead to conflicts of interest. 

Defenders of the current model say that the complexity and geographic reach of their multi-national clients require huge investment in a global network that can account for all the parts. They point out that the mid-tier firms have blinked at the prospect of expanding into this demanding space. Some say that talented young people prefer to work for a firm with career options beyond audit.

So, we are delighted to bring together some of the protagonists to discuss the issues. They are:

  • Natasha Landell-Mills CFA, Head of Stewardship at Sarasin & Partners and a member of the Disclosure and Transparency Committee of the International Corporate Governance Network. Prior to joining Sarasin, Natasha was the Senior Analyst on ESG matters at the Universities Superannuation Scheme’s Investment Management arm. 
  • Jim Peterson, author of Count Down: the Past, Present and Uncertain Future of the Big Four Accounting Firms. A US-trained lawyer, he has represented both global companies and the international accounting firms, and spent 19 years as a partner at one of them. Since 2009, he has been teaching at business and law schools in Chicago and Paris. 
  • Michael Lafferty, Founder and Chairman of the Lafferty Group, which publishes reports, provides training and runs events on retail banking, cards and payments and financial reporting. He is a qualified accountant and a Fellow of the ICAEW. Earlier in his career, he was a Financial Times journalist.
  • Mark Babington, Deputy Director of Audit Policy at the Financial Reporting Council. Prior to joining the FRC, Mark had a twenty year career in audit, most recently as a director at the UK National Audit Office and audit engagement partner for HMRC.

If you (or a colleague) would like to join us for what I am sure will be a lively discussion, please let us know by emailing or phoning the Centre (0207 621 1056). As usual, there will be wine and sandwiches.

Many thanks,

Sincerely yours, 

Andrew Hilton