Oliver Marnet is the Director of Accreditation for the Southampton Business School, the former Programme Director of the MSc Accounting and Finance degree, and the former Head of the Accounting Department. He joined the Southampton Business School in 2013 from the University of Exeter. He has a PhD (University of Bath), an MA with Distinction (Carleton University) and another MA with Distinction (University of New Brunswick), with degrees in Economics and International Affairs, and a research focus on behavioural decision-making applied to audit and corporate governance. He gained a Postgraduate Certificate of Teaching in Higher Education (Aberystwyth University) and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).
My research investigates the role, contribution and effectiveness of boards of directors and external auditors, and the contribution of these governance agents to society, with a particular focus on behavioural, cognitive, social and psychological factors (‘bias and heuristics’) that affect their quality of judgement and decision-making. This work has been applied to listed companies, not-for-profit organisations, Higher Education Institutions, and regularly informs UK and EU corporate governance and audit policy, as well as education practice in the UK.
Application of this research focus to education produced a commissioned and grant supported high impact text on learning and teaching best practice in HEIs for the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education/Advance HE.
With regard to audit research, my work emphasises the importance of audit as a social function. It places audit in the context in which it operates, particularly in terms of the interactions between and differing responsibilities of key actors, and how this can be improved to make for more effective audit to enhance trust in the audit function and corporate business itself. The primary aim of this work is to help make audit a more informative process, and to re-establish the purpose of audit in maintaining confidence in companies and organisations, their directors, and reported information, including the financial statements.
Investigation of behavioural and cognitive factors that contribute to the occurrence and spread of fraud within organisations, and failures to implement the correct ‘tone at the top’. Currently engaged in major reviews of the value of joint audit in corporate governance, and the potential use of this tool as a mandatory requirement across the EU.
My research, and resultant body of publications is noted by academics and practitioners and, inter alia, has led to invitations to contribute to key conferences and round talks on corporate governance, audit, and pensions (EC, PIRC, EABIS), as presenter and keynote speaker, invitations to speak at company AGMs (e.g. on ‘The Importance of Financial Security’ at the Co-op Group AGM), and to provide insights to policy and law makers and professional bodies on issues related to corporate governance and audit through formal reports and submission of written evidence, and an invitation to join the board of directors of a Housing Association.
My book on bias and heuristics in corporate governance led to an invitation to contribute to the 2011 review/update of the 2003 Higgs Guidance by the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) on behalf of the Financial Reporting Council, subsequently published by the FRC as the ‘Guidance on Board Effectiveness’ (FRC, 2011, 2018), which forms an integral part of the current UK Corporate Governance Code framework. Behavioural factors which affect the quality of board decision making is a key focus of the FRC’s Guidance on Board Effectiveness’. I am the fourth most cited Google Scholar for ’behavioural decision making’.
In 2019, I was asked to submit written evidence to investigations on audit quality and the structure of the audit market held by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
In spring 2021, my work on joint audit led to an invitation to join a project with a global auditing firm on EU audit reform. As a result of this collaboration and an independent report of 84 pages on ‘Joint audit and audit quality’ specifically exploring the role of joint audit arrangements in bias mitigation, I was invited as keynote speaker and panel participant to a high-level policy event on joint audit on 29th November in Paris, organised by the Haut Conseil du Commissariat aux Comptes (H3C), the audit regulator of France. The event was attended by senior EU national audit regulators, central bank representatives, stock market authorities, listed company representatives, members of parliament, institutional investors and the audit profession. This allowed showcasing the research excellence of the Southampton Business School, informed top level EU audit policy makers, resulted in significant networking and follow-up research opportunities, including interviews with participants on audit policy in the EU. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcm59Ok8dcU for a recording of the event. The 2021 report on joint audit and H3C event was followed up by research gathering the insights of practitioners and regulators on a potential contribution of joint audit arrangements to enhance the quality of audit, leading to a 67 page report on ‘The role of joint audit in audit quality - Practitioners’ insights’ (2022).
Together the 2021 and 2022 reports on joint audit form the top ten percent of SSRN downloads with over 625 verified downloads as of January 2022. This research on joint audit is being cited by relevant professional publications (Accountancy Europe, regulators, the industry, academic publications, and formed the basis for the submission of written evidence to the 2021/2022 consultation on joint audit by the European Commission. I am the second most cited Google Scholar on ‘joint audit’.
As Director of Accreditation, I am responsible for obtaining and maintaining the Southampton Business School’s three main accreditations (AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS), with focus on the design, practice, development, impact, and delivery of education, the quality of courses and the alignment of learning outcomes, research, impact, enterprise, internationalisation, student engagement, with accreditation standards and their contribution to society of and by SBS with regard to a wide range of accreditation standards, principles, guidelines and expectations.
In the role of DoA, I establish and maintain close relationships with national and international stakeholders in education, international accreditation bodies, lead key activities in education across SBS, make a sustained contribution to academic leadership at discipline, School and faculty level, and inform and influence the strategic direction in the provision of educational excellence of the School and wider afield. Each accreditation and/or re-accreditation application crucially depends on wide and in-depth liaison with internal and external stakeholders, including the SBS Directors of Research, Enterprise and Internationalisation, the REF team, the impact lead, FOS, Student Services, the Education Development team, all Heads of Departments, Deputy Heads of School (Education), a wide range of individual faculty members for details on their impact, enterprise, research, education initiatives and innovations, all official representatives at AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA and members of visiting teams, and requires regular attendance of the international conferences, training sessions, seminars and workshops of these international bodies.
EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA are comprehensive institutional accreditation systems for business/management schools, acknowledged worldwide by students, faculty, employers, corporate clients and other stakeholders as proof of rigorous quality control and excellence in education delivery, benchmarking the school against international standards in terms of governance, programmes, support, research intensity, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability, impact, and engagement with practice. Only about one percent of business schools globally are triple-accredited, and the achievement of triple-accreditation is a strategic goal of the School of paramount importance to the continued success of the SBS and the University’s Triple Helix strategy.
As of late 2022, I am a member of the UoS Honorary Degree Advisory Committee, chaired by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton.