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5 questions with: Dushyant Sookram managing partner, KPMG
1. The company has spent a lot of time focusing on the threats that exist in the cyberspace. Why is this such a big deal for KPMG?
Every business competing in today’s market is undergoing a digital transformation. Customers’ expectations and a multitude of evolving technologies are forcing companies to reorganise their business and operating models. These factors have swayed companies to improve connectivity to their customers through digital channels, which increases the volume of sensitive data accessible on the Internet.
Even though this transformation leads to increased opportunities, it also escalates the cyber-risk profile of the organisation.
In recent years, KPMG has seen a significant increase in cybersecurity incidents affecting companies, governments and other public entities. The majority of these cybersecurity incidents resulted in large financial and reputational losses to the affected organisations, due to their under-preparedness for a cyber-attack.
Analysis of these incidents and CEO surveys conducted by KPMG revealed that organisations need to adopt an extensive approach that views cybersecurity as a strategic issue and not just a tactical problem.
For this reason amongst others, KPMG has acknowledged that cybersecurity has strategic value to all organisations. We have identified that for organisations to keep up with the pace of digital transformation and prevent cyber-attacks, executives need to view cybersecurity as a pervasive organisation-wide risk.
2. KPMG has been in T&T for almost a half century. How would you say the landscape for tax, audit and advisory services has changed since then?
There have been several changes within the landscape for these services One driving force has been the expectation gap between the public and audit professionals regarding the scope of a financial statement related audit.
The industry has been responding to the concerns of the users of the financial statements and the increased professional risks faced by practitioners. Improving audit quality has been the impetus behind many of the fundamental changes to the profession.
For example, the requirements for second partner reviews for certain audits have made the sole-practitioner model obsolete in some instances, the required communication between the auditor and various stakeholders have become more robust and verbose.
The skill set of those entering the profession has also changed to cater for the increased technical and ethical demands of the profession.
We have seen how technology has benefitted the tax regime and the work of the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR), albeit the developments are not as fast as it could be. The BIR is now embracing technology with the electronic filing of income tax returns and the utilisation of an integrated tax processing system with real-time information.
We utilise an automated system to prepare our clients corporate and income tax returns and, via our global network of firms, we have access to the latest developments and intelligence in tax which we share with our clients.
For example, at a click of a button we know the tax rates in any territory in the world thus developments in technology in tax is also critical and a priority for us.
Many of our clients have become more self-sufficient with many advanced functions now being performed in-house eg project management, strategic planning, IT assessments, internal audit etc. Clients are now demanding more sophisticated services to keep abreast of the many changes in technology and the regulatory landscape.
Advisory services now being more frequently requested are cybersecurity assessments, process automation, data analytics, valuations and AML (anti-money laundering) compliance assessments to name a few.
3. In line with the generally subdued economic conditions, has the firm seen a shift in terms of the services being required/demanded from both private and public organisations with whom the company engages?
We continue to see a strong demand for essential regulatory compliance services such as assurance, AML and tax services, as our client base continues to comply with all appropriate laws and regulations.
However, demand for some of our other more discretionary service offerings continues to be driven by our client’s specific strategic aims though we have seen an increased emphasis from our clients regarding value for money, as they manage their costs during tough economic times.
Companies are increasingly strengthening internal capabilities in order to manage costs whilst continuing to engage service providers in targeted projects within specialist and niche areas such as business continuity planning, policy and procedure creation, cyber security, data integrity and protection and data analytics.
Other areas where demand has increased relate to companies looking to divest of assets, raise capital or expand regionally into new markets; they require tax and advisory services to support their teams in executing complex deals, ensuring new companies are integrated financially, operationally and culturally.
Within the public and private sector, the drive to rationalise the company structures and effectively manage costs has led to an increased demand for restructuring services.
Additionally, forensic and fraud investigations continue to be in strong demand.
4. How is technology influencing the space in which a firm like KPMG operates, more so from a productivity perspective?
Emerging and disruptive technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI) means that KPMG has had to be innovative both in terms of what services we offer our clients as well as how we deliver services to our clients.
Clients are demanding forward-thinking technology and KPMG’s strategy is to leverage technology to provide a differentiated experience for all our clients. We embed technology in everything that we do.
KPMG globally has made significant strategic investments across audit, tax and advisory, focusing on information and technology driven services, particularly in data and analytics, cyber security, robotic process automation and digital labour, to help clients with their challenges ie how to leverage the “right” technology for the organisation while managing the inherent IT-business risk.
We also strategically employ new technologies internally at KPMG. For instance, we employ collaboration and communication technologies, which have allowed us to deliver our client engagements more cost-effectively.
5. Many companies are more conscious than before about sustainability and leaving a positive impact on the environment.
What role does KPMG play in T&T as far as its outreach initiatives are concerned?
One of KPMG’s core values is that we are committed to our communities and environment, it is a part of who we are. An example of our commitment to our community was clearly evident in the selection of our new office at Savannah East which is a true “Green Building”.
Our commitment to the environment now and for future generations, made the decision to move to this building an easy one. In the US, for example, 32 of KPMG’s offices were in LEED certified buildings and now our Trinidad office joins that group.
Our commitment to our environment does not stop there. It is an everyday focus as we recycle all paper, plastics and bottles used in our work environment. A couple of years ago KPMG collected telephone directories for recycling and the revenue earned from this venture was given to a worthy cause.
When we moved offices we had a stock pile of paper which we used for audit computations before our new technology platform. This was donated to a children’s therapy centre. Even our laptops are restored, recycled and donated to schools and NGOs.
We also regularly work with many NGOs to assist in caring for and helping the underprivileged.
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