Internal audit jobs are traditionally considered unpleasant work — business units see them as annoying cops, and management sees them as necessary evil.
But things have changed for the better. Internal auditors’ work has become more positive and strategic:
In many organizations now, internal auditors are seen less, or not at all, as ‘policemen,’ but as advisers, strategic partners and consultants… Management now looks to leverage internal audit as a strategic resource, recognizing that internal auditors’ broad and deep perspective of operations, risks and potential opportunities can help inform business decision-making.”
– Protiviti, Internal Auditing Around the World
Also, as internal auditors’ roles expand, the functions are now more specialized. Examples include IT audit, cyber-security and fraud investigation specialists.
Why Internal Audit Jobs could be Attractive
Many external auditors consider IA because of better hours and less stress. But there are more benefits than that.
1. Interesting work as internal consultants
For those who are interested in management consulting, internal auditor is a job cut out for you.
I know — it isn’t as prestigious, and you’re only working into one company. However, imagine how much deeper you can get because you are able to access internal (non-public) statistics that no other management consultants can ever dream of. If you work in multi-national companies, you can run analysis on different regional companies or by different business units.
It’s a great, fun way to have a unique look into the business and the diverse challenges facing companies.
2. Stepping stone for higher strategic positions
Internal audit is also a valuable opportunity for senior professionals, who look to build their business acumen in preparation for higher-level posts.
3. Great place for different talents
Many internal auditors didn’t start in IA after graduation. They are typically experienced professions in different areas: external audit, business units, IT, operations, etc.
This is a great place for those who grow tired of their existing jobs, and prefer to switch to a new challenging position that could at least make use of what they have learned in the past. Internal audit is a natural place to go to.
4. Increasing demand
Corporations, big and small, face an increasingly complicated regulatory environment. Any professionals that deal with risk and compliance and high in demand for years to come.
According to Pulse of the Internal Audit 2016 published by IIA, 25% of CAEs surveyed project an increase in terms of internal audit staffing, and 35% increase in terms of budget.
Why IA isn’t for Everyone
There are certainly limitations when it comes to internal audit jobs.
1. It’s not a glamorous job
First of all, being an internal auditor simply isn’t as cool as an i-banker, for example. It doesn’t help in some less-progressive companies, where internal auditors are still not as respected within the company. The management, or the CAE, needs to set the tone to highlight the value of internal auditors.
2. Compensation not catching up with responsibilities
As the role of internal auditors expand, the level of skills and experience required to perform the job increases. In order to attract talents, companies should pay for better salary and benefit packages. Not a lot of companies realize this, leading to a shortage of internal auditors.
3. There could be periods of heavy workload, plus frequent traveling
Although work-life balance is much better than external audit, there are times when IAs need to work long hours.
There could also be extensive traveling if the company has regional offices across the country, or around the world even. This itself could be exciting and attractive, but for those with family and dependents, this is an important factor to consider.
How to be a Star Internal Auditor
In a way, it is similar to public accounting — both hard and soft skills are important.
- Examine financial statements for accuracy
- Ensure compliance with regulations
- Perform data analysis
- Report and address risk management issues
- Recommend on best practices
- Active listening
- Persuasion and collaboration
- Critical thinking
- Presentation (e.g. public speaking)
I would emphasize that soft skills are equally if not more essential. Unlike external audit where projects and clients come and go, you work with business units and management on a long-term basis.
A successful internal auditor who maintains good audit committee relationship, able to suggest ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs, provides immense value-add to the organization.
Are you a internal auditor, or someone looking to jump in? Let us know in the comment section below.
For Your Further Reading