Andy Haldane (Executive Director for Financial Stability at the Bank of England) has recently been working with Long Finance/ACCA/CISI on a new method of accounting – Confidence Accounting.
In a world of Confidence Accounting, the end results of audits would be presentations of distributions for major
entries in the profit and loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Accountants would present uncertainties
as ranges to investors and managers, rather than as discrete numbers: ‘the balance sheet of Company X is
worth £Y, plus or minus £Z, and we are 95% confident that it falls within this range’. Auditors would verify these
ranges. This would move auditing towards ‘measurement science’, in line with the way most laboratories report
measurements. Audited accounts would be presented in a probabilistic manner, showing ranges. Over time,
investors could evaluate an audit firm on the basis of how closely historic accounts fell within the stated ranges.
Such evaluations might conclude that firms were too lax or too strict. Clients would be able to make their own
decisions about audit quality on the basis of historic evidence rather than having to rely on assertions of quality.
This sounds like a good approach to me, especially for larger businesses where lots of assumptions are taken in preparing the accounts.
Economic prosperity requires businesses to be financially robust and that requires sound financial reporting, this could definitely play a key role in achieving that.