Kristin Stubbins FCA

PwC partner Kristin Stubbins looks at digital disruption, AI, the future of audit and why agility is essential for today’s CAs.

PwC partner Kristin Stubbins works with key clients as well as focusing on developing support for mental health.

“I am a partner at Price Waterhouse Coopers in Sydney, and I perform a number of roles looking after some of our largest clients,” she says. “I have quite a strong focus on innovation and so I lead a joint venture between PwC and the University of Sydney around commercialising mental health technology. I also head up our innovation and disruption function in our assurance business.”

Working on a wide range of areas gives Stubbins job satisfaction.

“My typical day is quite varied, which is what I love about working at PwC,” she says. “It could involve meetings with senior client executives, attending board meetings or board audit committee meetings as well as coaching and helping staff and other partners, which I love doing.

“I meet lots of different people. Diversity and inclusion are something I am very passionate about, so I am really able to live that in my everyday life here at PwC. I am on a mission to get rid of admin as much as possible though — including timesheets, which are not the highlight of my job.”

"Everyone in the profession is thinking about how to evolve audit, and my challenge is how do we not only evolve audit but smash it open."
Kristin Stubbins FCA, Partner, Assurance Innovation & Disruption Lead, PwC Australia

Although Stubbins has been with PwC for 25 years, she still views her career as being as diverse as if she had moved around through different businesses.

“I started off as a graduate in 1995 at Coopers & Lybrand, where I was heavily focused on audit,” Stubbins says. “I did some time in Boston in the late 1990s, which was a very formative experience. I made partner in 2004, and shortly after I had the opportunity to lead a consulting business.

“Following the success of that business... I moved back into audit and took a role on the assurance leadership team to head up our markets function.

“Most recently I have taken on this important role, which is about innovation and disruption, basically looking at our traditional audit business and how that should look for the future.

“Everyone in the profession is thinking about how to evolve audit, and my challenge is how do we not only evolve audit but smash it open,” she says. “What’s more exciting is how the core function of an audit can be executed using quite different technology like blockchain or artificial intelligence. For example, can we foresee a time where blockchain facilitates the audit of large companies on a real-time basis?

“How does artificial intelligence actually give humans a much better insight into the judgements that are being made both on a historical and a predictive basis? I think the auditor of the future is going to look quite different.”

Nevertheless, a very specific joint initiative to change the mental health system gives her the most satisfaction.

“I am probably most proud of the joint venture between PwC and the University of Sydney to commercialise technology that will change our mental health system,” Stubbins says.

“What we want to do is see what magic we can create by taking the academic excellence of the university and combine it with a professional layer of project management, commercialisation skills, the business school skills and finance skills in general.”

Being a Chartered Accountant has been one of the most important building blocks of Stubbins’ career. She only has to look at the best executives in Australia to know that the designation carries immense responsibility.

“I see being a Chartered Accountant as the foundation of what I do,” Stubbins says. “Some of our top CEOs in Australia are CAs by training and I think that being ‘Chartered’ means you have a level of professionalism. Most importantly, the commitment to continuous education is really central to being a CA.”

The heady heights of the top of the business world haven’t been achieved just through application. If she were to speak to a younger version of herself, she would let her know that her uniqueness will carry right through her career.

“Firstly, I would say the fact that you are a country bumpkin would hold you in very good stead for your whole career so don’t try to hide that,” she says. “The second thing I would say is that listening is the most important skill a leader can develop.”

“The age-old adage about working hard still remains true, but in the modern world we need to be agile. Technology is changing the way we work, what we do, the employment cycle and the types of jobs that are available. So bringing an agile mind-set – a learning mind-set – to everything you do is more important today than it was 20 years ago.”

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