The Adventure of Standard Setting: Reflections from a Chairman

Prof. Arnold Schilder | October 26, 2016 |

Recently the IAASB met for a full week in Hong Kong. What a week! All key subjects came along: fair value estimates, risk assessment, quality control, group audits, professional skepticism, agreed-upon procedures, the COSO framework, and auditor reporting. Most evenings were filled with several working dinners, graciously hosted by the Hong Kong Institute of CPAs.

I always see these meetings as an adventure because I never know from the outset how the discussions will go, let alone when it comes to voting for approvals. Board members come to the meeting well prepared. This requires more than just having read the agenda papers (which, by the way, can be useful for all those interested in audit and are always publicly available). Board members, together with their technical advisors, also prepare by engaging with many stakeholders around them. This can vary from national standard setters to firms and practitioners, regulators, audit committees, and investors.

So I know that many perspectives and well prepared comments will come to the table. I look forward to hearing those as if they were my birthday presents: nice surprises. And then I must give thought to how will this impact the direction of the discussions guided by our leading principles: the public interest and high quality. Based on such discussions, revised papers may come back later in the week, often after hard and late work in task forces meetings and with tremendous staff support. Again, I see this as potential adventure: will the Board now like it? Do we make progress? Will we be able to stick to planned deadlines for publication of Exposure Drafts?

During our meeting in Hong Kong, yes, we made good progress. But why? A new technical advisor wrote me an email afterward and put it quite clearly: “As discussed with you during the week, [our national standard setter] can take great comfort in knowing what a robust discussion is held at the international level. Discussions were thought provoking and challenging, and very clearly the public interest is foremost in everyone's minds. Congratulations to the Board, task forces, IAASB staff, and all involved for the great level of detail and effort.”

That says it all. As long as we have the public interest so clearly in our minds, we can adhere to our shared passion: high-quality standards. No matter what it takes. I love it!


Prof. Arnold Schilder

Chairman, International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board

Prof. Arnold Schilder is the Chairman of the International Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, a position he has served in since 2009. Prior to leading the IAASB and its development of global standards, Prof. Schilder held various positions in central banking, audit, and academia. In 2001, he was awarded a Knighthood in the Order of Orange Nassau. In 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Accounting Bulletin.


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