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区块链如何重塑外部审计:全球四大审计巨头在区块链领域的布局

区块链国际资讯

区块链如何重塑外部审计:全球四大审计巨头在区块链领域的布局

全球四大审计事务所——德勤(Deloitte)、安永(Ernst & Young)、毕马威(KPMG)和普华永道(PwC),最近发起了一项行动,加入了由20家台湾银行组成的试点计划,测试区块链技术用于财务审计。

这一行动证实了外界对外部审计工作发展的预期。

尽管审计人员有时被批评缺乏在问题爆发前发现问题的能力,但无论对私人还是公共集团,外部审计都是国际集团的保证外围环境的基本组成部分。

审计可以被定义为对一个组织的账目、账簿、文件和内部过程进行客观检查的过程,以确定它是否呈现了一个“真实和公平”的财务表现和财务状况。它基于一套预先确定的准则——通常是国际财务报告标准或公认的会计原则——来验证公司财务报表的准确性。

那么审计和区块链之间的联系是什么呢?短期内什么会改变,什么不会改变呢?

能改变什么

尽管受到许多标准和实践的约束,外部审计往往是一个繁重的过程,需要专业团队花大量的时间来审查客户账簿的大量交易和账目。在这种情况下,区块链技术可能会扮演一个真正具有颠覆性的角色。

国际会计师联合会(IFAC)首席财务官Russell Guthrie表示:

“区块链和人工智能等新技术正在推动全球职业发展,它们提高了行业门槛,并推动了对新员工技能和能力的需求。”

由于区块链具有分布式分类账概念和密码学的基础,它保证了透明性、不可变性、安全性、可审计性、高成本效率和“永远可用”,区块链技术在审计验证中的即时应用与外部确认过程有关。

外部确认是所有审计过程的关键部分,因为它们使审计团队能够检查公司内部提供的信息的外部来源。但是,如果这样一个企业的总账是去中心化的、公共的区块链呢?

在这种情况下,审计师无需通过外部确认程序进行确认,就可以获得与公司财务交易相关的所有信息,从而节省了时间和资源。

在一个所有的账簿都可以很容易地访问的环境中,交叉检查交易仍然是可能的。例如,如果A公司对B公司有负债,审计师或任何利益相关者可以通过交叉检查各自的公共账簿,轻松地验证该记录是否正确。

随时存取的资料也将有助于银行细节的审查,其中外聘审计员审查与公司和商业银行有关的所有信息,包括银行帐户、贷款、担保和签署权。

不会改变什么

由于区块链的范围很广,需要集中精力和时间研究如何最好地使用它来构建实际应用程序,因此业务评估领域和相关的审计活动可能需要更多的时间进行更改,并受到区块链的影响。

常见会计概算的例子与资产公允价值的定义、收入确认和权责发生制的确定有关。确定概算的过程包括不确定因素,这些不确定因素通常会因业务知识、市场比较和历史数据的使用而减轻。

在区块链将被广泛采用的情况下,交易可随时访问并非常透明,产生会计概算的必要性,以及来自公司管理层和外部审计师的相关猜测可能会降低。

大型企业对区块链创新的反应如何

国际审计市场由所谓的“四大会计师事务所”主导:普华永道、毕马威、安永和德勤。

过去几年,由于经济复苏,德勤的收入一直在稳步增长。

在这种动态环境下,四大会计师事务所正在推出旨在提高审计活动效率和开发保证工具的具体举措。

2016年5月,德勤在都柏林设立了第一个区块链实验室,以便与那些希望在不同国家推出区块链解决方案的国际组织合作。德勤最近还发现,区块链技术将成为零售和消费品行业的关键资产。

安永成为首家接受比特币服务的咨询公司。自2017年初以来,安永瑞士公司的客户可以选择用比特币结算审计和咨询服务费用。

一家瑞士分行也宣布正式支持并加入瑞士比特币协会(BAS)。

2016年11月,普华永道推出了Vulcan数字资产服务,使数字资产能够用于日常银行、商业和其他个人货币和资产相关服务。该公司还收购了中国初创公司唯 链(VeChain)的少数股权。这家公司使用区块链技术,通过建立一个透明的供应链来保护客户的品牌和产品,从而保证产品的真实性和可追溯性。

普华永道瑞士区块链主管Pierre-Edouard Wahl分享了他的公司与区块链相关的活动:

“我们提供非常广泛的服务:我们与初创公司合作,也与成型的公司们合作,我们提供一系列服务,当然我不会说是整套的服务,因为现在仍然缺乏清晰性。但是我们想提供首次检查,以确保事情能正确地完成,且如果监管者允许我们这样做,我们有希望做出影响。

对于普华永道瑞士公司来说,我们的大客户向他们的客户提供加密货币,我们需要找到一种审计方法。但我们有办法确保资金掌握在合适的人手中。我们也在基础设施层面工作,在全球与许多ICO进行合作。

我们提供法律税务服务,保险服务,工程服务,一些代码审查服务——我不喜欢在这里使用‘审计’这个词,因为它听起来好像无懈可击,而实际只被另一方检查罢了。”

2016年9月,毕马威推出了数字账簿服务(Digital Ledger Services)——一套旨在帮助金融服务公司实现区块链的潜力的服务。在2017年11月,毕马威作为华尔街区块链联盟(WSBA)的成员签署了协议。

未来的审计

虽然区块链可以促进审计活动在某些关键领域的效力,并减少执行现有审计程序的需要,但外部审计员仍然需要在财务报表的许多领域使用其专业判断,特别是在确定会计概算时。

正如产安永瑞士公司首席执行官Marcel Stalder所强调的:

“对我们来说,重要的是每个人都参与进来,通过区块链为商界即将发生的革命。”

因此,审计预计会得到进一步的发展,采用新的程序来处理与区块链环境相关的风险。这些发展可能会重塑外部审计的工作。这些发展可能会重塑外部审计的工作,其中,对公共分类帐和IT控制的审查将获得更为关键的作用,以确保财务报表“真实且公平地”呈现公司财务业绩的状况。

The recent initiative of the world's four largest auditing — Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC — to join a pilot of 20 Taiwanese banks to test blockchain technology for fiscal audits, confirms how developments are expected in the work of external audit.

Despite the auditors have been sometimes criticized for their lack of capacities for catching issues before they blow up, an external audit is a fundamental part of the assurance environment for international groups, both private and public.

This can be defined as the process of conducting an objective examination of an organization’s accounts, books, documents and internal processes in order to determine whether it presents a ‘true and fair’ situation of financial performance and financial position. It is based on a set of predetermined guidelines — normally the International Financial Reporting Standards or generally accepted accounting principles — to verify the accuracy of companies’ financial statements.

So what is the linkage between an audit and blockchain? What could change in the short term and what might not?

What could change

Albeit regulated by numerous standards and practices, an external audit is often a heavy process that requires a team of professionals to spend a robust amount of time to review the massive number of transactions and accounts of the client’s books. In this scenario, blockchain technology could play a really disruptive role.

As defined by the CFO of International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), Russell Guthrie:

“New technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence are advancing the global profession, raising the bar and driving demand for new workforce skills and competencies.”

As blockchain has its foundation in the distributed ledger concept and cryptology — which promises transparency, immutability, security, auditability, high cost-efficiency and is ‘ever available’ — an immediate application of blockchain technology in the audit verifications is connected to external confirmation procedures.

External confirmations are a critical part of all the audit processes, as they give the audit team the ability to to check external sources of the information that are provided internally by the company. But what if the ledger of such an enterprise is in a decentralized, public blockchain?

In a scenario like that, the auditors would be able to obtain all the information related to the financial transactions of a company without the need to confirm them through an external confirmation procedure, hence saving time and resources.

An environment where all the ledgers would be easily accessible, cross-checks of transactions would be still possible. If, for example, Company A has a liability with Company B, the auditors or any stakeholders could easily verify whether that is correctly recorded, by cross-checking the respective public ledgers.

Ready-to-access information will also facilitate the review of bank details, where the external auditors examine all the information pertaining to a company and commercial banks, including bank accounts, loans, guarantees and signatory powers.

What will not change

As the scope of blockchain is wide and requires dedicated focus and time to research how best it can be used to build practical applications, the field of business estimation, and related audit activities may require more time to change and to be affected by blockchains. Examples of common accounting estimates are related to the definition of the fair value of an asset, revenue recognition and determination of accruals.

The process of determining an estimation includes elements of uncertainties that are often mitigated by the knowledge of the business, the use of market comparisons and historical data.

In a scenario where blockchain would be widely adopted, and where the transactions are accessible and transparent, the necessity of producing accounting estimate — and the related guesswork from the management of the company and external auditor — will likely decrease.

How the big players are reacting to blockchain innovations

The international audit market is dominated by the so called “Big Four”: PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG, Ernst & Young (EY) and Deloitte, whose revenues, thanks to the economic reprise, have been steadily increasing during the past few years.

In this dynamic environment, the Big Four are launching specific initiatives that are aimed to increase the efficiency of audit activities and develop assurance tools.

More specifically, in May 2016, Deloitte’s first blockchain lab was created in Dublin, in order to work with international organizations looking to roll out blockchain-enabled solutions across different countries. Deloitte has also recently found that blockchain technology will become a critical asset to the retail and consumer-packaged goods industries.

Ernst & Young (EY) became the first advisory firm to accept Bitcoin for its services. EY Switzerland clients have had the option to settle their invoices for auditing and advisory services using Bitcoin since the beginning of 2017. The same Swiss branch has also announced formal support and membership of the Bitcoin Association of Switzerland (BAS).

In November 2016, PwC launched Vulcan Digital Asset Services to enable digital assets to be used for everyday banking, commerce and other personal currency and asset-related services. The company has also acquired a minority stake ?in the Chinese startup VeChain. This company uses blockchain technology to protect client brands and products through the creation of a transparent supply chain that allows product verification and traceability.

Pierre-Edouard Wahl, head of blockchain at PwC Switzerland, shared his company’s activities related to blockchain with Cointelegraph:

“We have a pretty broad service offering: we work with startups, we work with established companies, we offer — I would not say full services yet, because there still is a lack of clarity, but we want to offer first inspections to ensure that things have been done correctly and hopefully that will enable us, if the regulators allow us to do that, to interfere. For PWC Switzerland, where we have big clients who offer cryptocurrency to their clients, we need to find a way to audit them. But we have ways to make sure that funds are in the control of the right people. We also work on the infrastructure level, we work with a lot of ICOs globally. We offer legal and tax services, assurance services, engineering services, some kind of review for code — I do not like the word code audit there because it makes that sound like it is bullet-proof, which actually has just been reviewed by another pair of eyes.”

In September 2016, KPMG launched its Digital Ledger Services — a suite of services designed to help financial services companies realize the potential of blockchain. And in November 2017, KPMG signed on as a corporate member of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA).

The Future of auditing

While blockchains could foster the efficacy of the audit activities in certain key areas and reduce the need of performing existing audit procedures, there is still the need for the external auditors to use their professional judgement in many areas of the financial statement, especially when determining accounting estimates.

As Marcel Stalder, CEO of EY Switzerland, confirmed:

“It is important to us that everybody gets on board and prepares themselves for the revolution set to take place in the business world through blockchains.”

As a result, further developments are expected, with new procedures to address the risks associated to the blockchain environment. These developments will likely reshape the work of external audit, where review of public ledgers and IT controls will gain a more crucial role, in assuring that financial statements present a ‘true and fair’ situation of companies’ financial performances.


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