Big Four Make Big Plans for IFRS

Each of the top-tier firms is, in its own way, getting involved in college curricula for global accounting.

But other efforts had started earlier. KPMG’s “IFRS Institute,” a bit more quietly, had been
announced back on April 22. The Institute already has “at least several thousand members,” a KPMG spokesman says, and in addition to academia has been attracting a cross-section of members from companies, audit committees, the accounting profession, rating agencies, and shareholders, among other groups.

In fact, the KPMG effort was promoted in the press release by chairman and CEO Timothy Flynn, who said the institute would “give a voice to each participant in the financial reporting process.” An earlier discussion of KPMG’s thoughts about the coming of IFRS is discussed on its website in a November 2007 report titled “How the IFRS Movement Is Expected to Affect Financial Reporting in the U.S.”

Meanwhile, PwC claims it has not been outdone. In a statement, Jean Wyer, the PwC partner who leads its academic initiatives, says the consultancy “has been developing IFRS curriculum materials for students and faculty since last year.” It has been working through its existing PwC University for Faculty, which will introduce a new IFRS-related program in July. She adds that IFRS-related studies at PwC date back to 2002, when it was working with the British and the U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board on the development of international standards and how to treat them in the classroom.

As far as helping clients and the public understand the move to IFRS, among PwC’s initiatives on its website are an installment in its “10 Minutes” series titled “10 Minutes on IFRS.”

Second-tier accounting firms, too, are paying attention to IFRS education, each in its own way. And other offerings to help companies and others learn about international standards include “self-study programs” being offered in Europe, and in one case available through a U.S.-based company called ContractualCFO.

If the Big Four connections on IFRS with university instruction all sound well-organized, at least some people think it might be a bit too well-organized.

“While it’s in the self-interest of all the accounting firms to develop the university relationships that will get IFRS taught in the United States schools, is there a risk that they might have too much influence on the whole curriculum?” Jack Ciesielski asks in a recent blog post. “After all, the university system is not supposed to be the farm system for entry-level public accountants.” Rather, he observes, it should be “exposing students to other accounting disciplines: managerial accounting and tax, for instance.” There is a danger, he suggests, that if the Big Four imposes itself too deeply, “the pendulum could swing too far.”

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