W. Robert Knechel, Frederick E. Fisher Eminent Scholar in Accounting at UF’s Warrington College of Business and certified public accountant, specializes in accuracy. After graduating from the University of Delaware in 1977, curiosity led Knechel to pursue a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. When he arrived at UF in 1981, researchers had been seriously studying financial accountability for little more than a decade.
“Most people pay no attention to the system of auditing and accountability until things go wrong,” Knechel said. “But the capital market, the economy and the world of business only succeed if all of the stakeholders – investors, creditors, customers, employees, the government and local communities – have accurate and timely information on which to base economic decisions.”
Author of more than 70 peer-reviewed papers and eight books, Knechel works with collaborators around the world to address modern challenges to auditing and financial accountability. His current research projects include a study of barriers facing women pursuing accounting careers in Sweden and how political influences can hinder effective auditing in the U.S.
“I see myself as a scholar who brings creativity to a field that isn’t really known for it,” Knechel said. “I’m also contrarian – if 10 people tell me something is true, I start asking why it might not be. There are always new questions that no one has thought of.”
He added that finding new methods for auditors to quickly provide accurate information that businesses can use to make sound financial decisions is currently among the field’s central goals. But the information superhighway zipping through the 21st century is complicating things.
“If financial information is a six-lane highway in Los Angeles, auditing today is one tollbooth – it’s too backed up, or people are just flying by,” Knechel said. “We’re dealing with a huge surge of information affecting how we make decisions in business.”
Knechel said auditing is “all about trust – a societal attribute that varies country to country.” He added that international collaborations are a key to his research, providing new insights and questions to be answered.
“Collaboration is the backbone of what I do. You find different problems and new ways to look at them when you talk to people – the field is always evolving,” Knechel said. “You have to be able to see beyond the horizon of what’s already been done”
Knechel is also a research professor at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He was first recognized as a UFRF professor in 2015, and his research on the effects of stricter auditing practices was cited in a 2013 New York Times article.
Learn more about Knechel’s research.