“Following paths as yet untrodden will take you to destinations as yet unreached.” This aphorism originally penned by German publicist Peter E. Schumacher also applies to the supposedly rigid world of auditing which is dominated by myriad standards. Because if auditing is to continue asserting itself within the economic interplay of businesses, stockholders, authorities and other stakeholder groups in the future, it needs to seek out new paths and redefine itself. That new path will involve more individualized auditing and advisory work, both outwardly and inwardly. It will allow the sector to make a lasting contribution to Switzerland both as a business location and particularly as a financial hub. These efforts revolve around not just technology but committed, motivated individuals, as well.

Critical questions desired

We owe our standing as one of the leading providers of audit and advisory services in Switzerland and around the world to many talented, committed specialists and experts. At KPMG they find an inspiring environment where they are given the opportunity to develop to their full potential. A focus on performance is deeply entrenched in the KPMG corporate culture and this high standard significantly exceeds the expectations of our clients on a regular basis. Clients have every right to expect a critical counterpart who also asks unpleasant questions and challenges even well-established attitudes within the company.

Broad-based insights

In today’s world, businesses are operating within a framework characterized by fierce competition on globalized markets, numerous regulations under public and private law as well as high expectations in terms of how they engage in efficient public communication. While the longstanding approach to business audits used to involve standardized checklists and an auditing strategy based on spot checks, modern audit methods satisfy demands for comprehensive analyses of data and business processes. This development has been driven in part by vital technological advances made in the area of data analysis. Enormous computing power and sophisticated algorithms make it possible to gather all of a company’s facts and figures in their entirety and identify potential irregularities. This broad database is then used to draw up and implement audit processes that are specially tailored to a particular company and its industry. Thanks to new technologies, we have the ability to underpin our audit and advisory activities with a broader base of figures and data which gives clients the certainty that we understand all aspects of their situation and business. The important thing is that this comprehensive data analysis not only facilitates the actual auditing work but also yields more detailed insights on company-specific processes and payment flows which could generate added value for management.

Renewed focus on people

Regardless of technological achievements, audit and advisory activities focus on people. Personal contact with the management and employees has sometimes been neglected in the past in an effort to comply with ambitious time and resource constraints. The popular approach called for checklists that were much too standardized. Yet in the tangled web of countless new and planned laws, the insights gained through such interpersonal contact are often those that provide the crucial impetus for the work being performed. The IFRSs are the dominant set of accounting standards in Europe and these leave vital scope for interpretation; this, in turn, puts an extremely high priority on the human factor, on the expertise and experience of audit and advisory specialists.

Investments in continuing education

Every client is unique, every problem different. Experienced auditors and advisors address this aspect specifically and it is this focus, in particular, which offers clients true added value. It goes without saying that drawing on this caliber of expert knowledge and incorporating sophisticated data analyses is both time consuming and requires considerable human resources. On top of that, individualized approaches such as this also call for auditors and advisors with a more broadly-based specialization. Or in other words: individualization and ongoing efforts to bring the services provided in line with clients’ needs both call for the same philosophy with regard to how we treat our staff and handle their training and continuing education. Our role is that of a trainer and we are happy to take on this responsibility. At KPMG, employees can tap their strengths individually and develop their potential in line with their own skills and interests – within the scope of our corporate strategy and in keeping with the needs of the market, of course. Our training and continuing education modules specifically include interdepartmental courses and internships. They not only promote an understanding of other disciplines but also give young people a chance to seek out where they fit within the company. Consequently, investments in employee advancement and the promotion of both innovative thinking and entrepreneurial actions are one of our top priorities.

Lifelong employee loyalty

This extra effort put into training and continuing education, investments in providing a wide range of practical experience and our personal commitment toward our employees establish extremely close ties between the company and its staff. If good, well-qualified colleagues leave us with the goal of gaining new experiences and broadening their horizons, then they should go in the knowledge that they received strong support and encouragement at KPMG. Maintaining the alumni network is not only a noble task, but one that is also economically important. Former employees are the very best brand ambassadors, not least on the highly competitive job market for young and talented university graduates, and can help identify and tap new market segments.

An eye on the big picture

Yet the idea behind offering targeted individual support only works if the focused perspective can be followed up by stock-taking of the situation as a whole. It is thus vitally important that we not only train specialists in narrowly-defined fields but also teach them to keep an eye on the big picture. In highly technical and specialized careers in the fields of auditing and taxes or in areas like M&A or corporate finance, this is not always easy. The ultimate goal of the many specifications and guidelines of the regulations that form part of public and private law is to guarantee one pivotal value: trust.

The philosophy of individual promotion also entails certain risks, one of which being that an employee could get bogged down in the details rather than striking a healthy balance between internal and external perspectives. Here, too, we rely on our clients and our communications with them. Their input is valuable and helps us advance – both as a company and as individuals.

 

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Stefan Pfister nahm 2005 seine Tätigkeit bei KPMG als Leiter des Sektors Real Estate auf. Darauf folgte 2009 die Leitung des Dienstleistungsbereichs Transaction and Restructuring. 2011 wurde er zum Head of Advisory, Partner und Mitglied der Geschäftsleitung ernannt. Seit 2014 ist Stefan Pfister CEO von KPMG Schweiz und führt das Unternehmen erfolgreich in einem zweistufigen Governance-System. Vor seinem Eintritt bei KPMG im Jahr 2005, war Stefan Pfister Direktor und stellvertretender Leiter der Real Estate Corporate Finance Abteilung von Ernst & Young in Zürich. Zuvor war er Präsident des Verwaltungsrats und Vorsitzender der Geschäftsleitung einer Generalunternehmung in der Ostschweiz. In dieser Funktion verantwortete und führte er als Totalunternehmer, Projektleiter und Finanzmanager verschiedenste Bauprojekte im In- und Ausland. Stefan Pfister verfügt über mehr als 24 Jahre Erfahrung in der Immobilienbranche.

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