By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
PwC U.S. Chairman Tim Ryan recently appointed Maria Moats to lead the firm’s key Assurance business. The 22 year PwC veteran who was previously responsible for the firm’s Diversity efforts becomes the first woman and person of Hispanic descent in this crucial role.
How does it feel to be the first woman and person of Hispanic descent to lead PwC’s Assurance and Audit practice?
I’m honored to have been chosen to lead the 17,000 professionals resident in PwC’s US Assurance and Audit practice. Prior to this role, I served as our Regional Assurance Leader, overseeing operations for offices from Boston to Florida, led diversity for the firm, and worked in our national office all while serving clients and leading teams. All these experiences prepared me for this position.
My appointment is also a testament to PwC’s commitment to diversity – to ensuring that we broaden participation, insights and cultural input across the spectrum of our work, starting at the top. This has been an important priority for me throughout my career and was my mission as PwC’s Chief Diversity Officer for the past five years. This area is very important to me both personally and professionally, and I’m focused on continuing to shape PwC’s drive toward greater diversity.
You’re a 22-year veteran auditor at PwC. What are some of the innovations you’ve seen in that time?
Cell phones, mobile devices, laptops, first the internet, now the internet-of-things, not to mention big data and the cloud are just a few of the innovations that have transformed how business and financial data are gathered, stored, transferred and examined. The accounting
profession and audit professionals are working hard to match these kinds of universal innovations with innovations of our own.
At PwC, we’re investing in leading-edge technology, significant process improvements, and leadership and performance development for our people.
The three big audit innovations that we’ve pioneered, and which our clients are embracing, are our global audit platform and workflow technology called Aura; our data auditing/analysis/visualization software called Halo; and our client-request management tool, we call Connect.
Each of these tools are proprietary to PwC and work to both simplify and streamline key tasks, making a more efficient audit process. That saves time, while also improving audit quality. These innovations also allow us to add more insights and analysis, giving our people more challenging and rewarding work and providing higher value to our clients.
What are your priorities going forward?
Delivering audit quality remains an important priority for PwC. It’s the foundation of what we do. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made in this area and believe our investments in audit innovation are laying the groundwork for the future.
To this point, I’m focused on continuing to lead the profession by innovating the audit with our investments in technology, the continued development of our people and enhancements in our audit processes.
And, finally, maintaining PwC’s culture of diversity and flexibility is an essential priority in our practice, to our clients and for our entire firm. I acknowledge we still have a way to go, but we’re making progress on diversity – our recent partner class was made up of 44% women and minorities. And flexibility for our people to achieve their personal and professional goals remains paramount to our success.
Tell us about your “Dream Big” philosophy.
At an early age, my mother instilled in me a drive to dream big. Fortunately, throughout my career, I’ve had mentors who echoed this approach, encouraging me to see over the next hill, to believe in my own capabilities and to push the limits of what I think is possible. That’s my philosophy.
I’m challenging our professionals to also dream big about our future together. I want us all to rethink the way we go about solving complex problems and help drive the profession forward, as we’ve done more than 165 years.
What are some of the financial reporting and other challenges you see going forward?
Changes in regulation and financial reporting standards are a fact of life in our profession. Right now, two sets of changes are top of mind for our clients, and for those of us who help them navigate these changes: the FASB’s new revenue recognition standards and their changes to lease accounting.
Separately, each is one of the most significant changes in financial reporting in decades. Together, they present an interlinked set of challenges that require careful assessment of their impacts on a company’s financial reporting.
It’s clear that clients are hungry for the guidance and counsel that we can provide to not only comply with these standards, but also develop strategies for longer-term business improvements. In both cases, we’re encouraged by the awareness among our clients, as well as the nature and depth of the changes taking place.