Deloitte’s annual Audit Innovation Campus Challenge has just wrapped up for its third year, which saw new elements introduced and incredible talent from US students who are looking to enter the audit profession.

The competition is focused on the future of audit and assurance, giving students across the US a chance to come up with an innovative idea to improve the audit profession.

Erin Shannon, managing director change management at Deloitte, spoke to Accountancy Age about her experience of judging the finalists for the past two years and how important the challenge is to the future of the wider audit profession.

“This is an event which is very near and dear to my heart. It’s been widely successful on both sides. The students are really excited about the opportunity to come forward with an idea and share it with seniors within a business organisation like Deloitte.

“Also the Deloitte professionals who are working alongside those teams are energised by the ideas they’re hearing from the students.”

The competition, organised by the Deloitte Foundation, was held at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas in April this year.

University of Arizona students won this year’s competition with their idea to develop and use an AI tool to conduct audits of corporate sustainability reports.

‘Deloitte Danni’ as it was named would help auditors measure environmental metrics and compare those readings to sustainability guidance.

What does the competition involve?

Through a merging of academia and business, students get the chance to apply the knowledge they have gained through their courses, learn from senior business people, and get an introduction to the complex challenges they might face in the working world.

The program attracts students and faculty from across the country. The university or college identifies students to be part of their team, and they also have a faculty advisor. On the Deloitte side, someone who has experience with innovation activities, a subject matter is assigned.

Everyone works collectively as a team to come up with ideas in response to the competition challenge statement. The teams then present at regional events, before the finalists are selected to present at Deloitte University.

Shannon said: “For me personally it’s just been an amazing experience to see the energy of the students at that event to see how poised they are in presenting their ideas. It’s really hard for me to imagine that they’re students and not Deloitte professionals because of how amazing their ideas are and how well poised they are.

Finalists must do a 15 minute presentation followed by a 15 minute Q&A session.

“Students not only deliver a quality presentation, but being able to respond to spontaneous questions from leaders is so impressive.”

This year a new element was added to the challenge, making the winning team present again to all the other finalists so the students could learn from each other.

Why is it important for the audit profession?

Shannon explained that through the competition, Deloitte wanted to show that they are thinking about the future of the profession and workforce.

“We want students who are thinking about joining our profession to be alongside us on that journey and getting to contribute their ideas, which will ultimate contribute to the way we do audits.

“It’s really meant to partner together to say students who are thinking of this type of career – you will have a voice in the future here. Demonstrate that early on before they even sign on with us.

“Our overall objective is really to engage students and the auditing profession and do it in an innovative way. We want to get students excited about the audit profession while they’re still in their studies.

“It’s not just at Deloitte – we do offer them to work there but we have a broader objective of also promoting the profession itself and how exciting it is with the hope we identify some really top individuals.

What about the future?

When asked about how the challenge is beneficial in the long term, Shannon said it’s important that today’s students are prepared to enter the workforce.

“This is why the challenge focuses on the topics it does. Technology and new service offerings are all things they will experience when they join Deloitte and we want to expose them to this early on as we start to think about the future of audit.

“We want a workforce that has a broad set of skills, not just accountants and auditors, but also those who are tech savvy, those that have STEM skills, and those who have experience with big data and analysing data and the use of data analytics and visualisations.

“These are all the types of skills and capabilities that are needed for audit and we want to expose students to this to the extent they’re not already getting it in their curriculum. We want to expose them to what it will be like when they’re working at Deloitte.”


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