Internal Audit used to be a dumping ground of Finance. Meaning, those under-performers were moved to audit department in the past. Post Enron era the situation was changed when Internal Audit was positioned outside Finance in the organogram and started reporting either to the CEO or to the Chairman of Board Audit Committee. As part of our counselling activities in my chapter of the Institute of Internal Audit in Bangladesh, I interact a lot of with young professionals. Lately, many of them have been explaining us that they want to make their own decisions and be in the driver’s seat. They typically ask for assignments that allow them to discover new horizons, uncover their skills and find the right career fit. I think, they need to draw on their talents and passions to be able to connect the dots in a complex digital and global world.
I suggest them to work in Internal Audit where I spent most of my thirty-three years of career. I think, I am not that bright or talented as they are and if the talented young people join Internal Audit they will certainly gain through following five ways:
Advantage #1: You’ll know how business works
An internal audit cycle typically starts with an audit plan. Drafting such a plan, with the scope and the coverage of all the internal audits of the year, is a demanding exercise in coping with the constant flow of emerging risks that impact every facet of the business. An audit plan goes far beyond finance, but also includes operations, strategy, marketing and IT, with a growing focus on cyber security and data protection.
Do not be mistaken: the challenge is significant, but so is the learning potential.
When you work as an internal auditor, you will be exposed to a diversity of problems that teach you how a business really operates. You will learn to apply frameworks and map organizations, you will need to quickly connect the dots across sectors, cultures and functions, and you will gain experience in assessing the dynamics of priorities and obstacles that affect a company’s performance.
Advantage #2: You’ll build analytical muscle
The success of an internal audit relies heavily on the availability and thorough analysis of data, not only the gathering of the relevant balance sheet, income and cash flow statement items in the planning and scoping phase but also the interpretation of operational data until it is understood. The data is always there, but it is not necessarily easily available – you have to go after it.
In the quest for facts in all steps of an audit assignment, you will be able to develop and use the latest technology in analytics and develop a data-centric approach to problem solving. Data mining and big data solutions are increasingly becoming part of the internal audit toolbox, because they create transparency in operations and increase the level of assurance in any assignments by moving from sampling to full population analysis. Thus, you can provide positive assurance to management and Board.
Being exposed to those technologies and being challenged to navigate a massive amount of data will help you build analytical muscle.
Advantage #3: You’ll become a leader
Along your internal audit journey, chances are that you will face resistance from management to accept your audit findings. In some cases, they will even block your audit fieldwork by providing piecemeal data and information. You will have to deal with managers who disregard audit findings because they do not like to be told what to do especially by auditors who they consider outsiders to their daily operations. Or because they do not like to be under scrutiny.
In the end, your success will depend on your ability to create an environment in which managers are receptive to your recommendations and adopt a mindset where they act on the audit findings. You will learn how to deal with ambiguity, how to influence without authority and how to stay calm and handle objections without damaging long term collaboration. These are critical skills to become a leader, a business partner or an agent of change in a world of permanent transformation.
Related: A Beginner’s Guide To Audit
Advantage #4: You’ll become an excellent communicator
Highly effective communicators are good at asking questions, and then listen with both their eyes and ears and sense. As an internal auditor you will conduct interviews, perform walkthroughs, factory/site tours and interact with a large variety of persons in your quest to separate opinion from facts. Your success will depend on how good your questions are, how well you can read between the lines, and how well you can read body language. Internal audit is all about communication.
But that is not all there is to it. When you have listened with your eyes and your ears, you still need to get your message across: this is all about storytelling. Reality is complex, but stories help to give a comprehensive form. You will need to think about your message: who is the hero in the story, what’s the goal, which obstacles are there to overcome and what’s the moral of the story? You will need to adapt the story to your audience, play with tone and perspective, and make sure you do not lose the attention you have captivated. If you master that skill, you can easily interact and communicate with everyone in the business ecosystem: executives, customers, clients, co-workers, vendors, you name it.
Advantage #5: You’ll learn to keep on learning
Finally, a great thing about audit is that it forces people to acquire all sets of skills and attitudes they need. Auditors need to be able to quickly gain knowledge on a wide spectrum of topics, and they need to keep their proficiency up to date at all times. In order to stay effective, they need to stay tuned with industry standards and best practices in both financial and operational areas.
Good auditors are by definition relentless and avid learners. But then again, knowledge might have become a commodity by now. Access is just the beginning. What you really need to master, is how to manage and apply it. In a digital world of constant change, you cannot afford to stand still. You can learn this or that – but what you really need to do, is learn to keep on learning.
Investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you’. Learning does not end when school ends: broaden your mind, evolve your thinking, stay sharp. After all: complacency means extinction.
I think internal audit is a great role for talented young people.
What do you think?
Disclaimer: This is an Opinion Article and it only reflects the views of the author and not the company or institution that may be associated with the Author. This article also does not have any intention to undermine or attack certain individuals or parties.
Written by: Emadul Hannan
Emadul is the Head of Internal Audit for a Multinational Bank. He is a certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and has over 33 years of experience, spanning multiple solutions across the Advisory and Managerial domain such as internal audit, process reviews, enterprise risk management, SOX, Finance, Budget & Cost control. He has led internal audits that cover operations in Singapore, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and India.
Emadul can be described as a hands-on person and take pride on having a strong personal relationship with his team and customers. His management style is considered to be people orientated where he believes people are a company’s greatest asset.
This article is published on ProspectsASEAN.com with the writer’s consent and originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can read it here.
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