Vanderbilt Business

Everything That Rises Must Converge

by Seth Robertson | Faculty in Focus, Fall 2009 | Comments | Print Print |
Willis has studied the effect of investor sophistication in interpreting analysts’ stock recommendations, among other topics.

Willis has studied the effect of investor sophistication in interpreting analysts’ stock recommendations, among other topics.

If accounting is the language of business, then it might come as a surprise just how much is lost in translation from one country to the next. For years countries have been following their own reporting standards, making it difficult for accountants and investors in one part of the world to understand the financial statements of companies in another.

All of that is changing, though. There is a movement underway called the Global Convergence of Accounting Standards, which aims to unify reporting standards under one set of rules—the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Richard Willis, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker Jr. Associate Professor of Accounting, is making sure that his students are prepared for these coming changes.

“It’s an interesting time to be in this field,” Willis says. “I see accountants becoming more mobile geographically. To think that we can teach someone the principles of accounting here at Owen, and then that person can practice elsewhere in the world is really exciting.”

Since companies are afforded more discretion under IFRS, Willis expects there to be a rise in accounting scandals—and, consequently, an increased need for capable ac-countants. “Accounting discretion helps managers provide information to investors in the most meaningful way, but the flip side is that managers can misuse discretion to obscure the truth,” he says. “Auditing and enforcement will continue to play an important role, and I expect accountants to be even more in demand.”

photo credit: John Russell

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