Four (4) keys to be­com­ing a pro­fes­sional in­ter­nal au­di­tor

Zambian Business Times - - BUSINESS REVIEW -

The role of chief au­di­tor has changed over the years, mov­ing from pri­mar­ily a watch­dog func­tion to one of a trusted ad­vi­sor and part­ner. To­day, CEOs se­lect chief au­di­tors who are not only pro­fes­sion­ally qual­i­fied but also em­brace in­dus­try stan­dards, demon­strate eth­i­cal behaviour and gen­er­ate re­spect across key stake­hold­ers and teams. Just think about it this way, the most trusted physi­cians or ac­coun­tants are ones that are most qual­i­fied for the job.

That same think­ing ap­plies to to­day’s chief au­di­tor role.

There are four im­por­tant el­e­ments that any pro­fes­sional in­ter­nal au­di­tor should take into care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion if they want to build con­fi­dence among their var­i­ous stake­hold­ers.

1. Stand firm on the Stan­dards.

Be­ing a pro­fes­sional in­ter­nal au­di­tor re­quires that you stand firmly on solid pro­fes­sional ground, a sign to stake­hold­ers that they can trust you to get the job done. Doc­tors, lawyers, and ac­coun­tants all have pro­fes­sional af­fil­i­a­tions, groups that set in­dus­try stan­dards that they rely on to per­form their work. So it is with in­ter­nal au­di­tors. The In­ter­na­tional Pro­fes­sional Prac­tices Frame­work (IPPF) has served in­ter­nal au­di­tors for decades as a fun­da­men­tal guid­ing light in their day-to-day au­dits. Con­form­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Stan­dards for the Pro­fes­sional Prac­tice of In­ter­nal Au­dit­ing (Stan­dards) – and ap­ply­ing them to your au­dits – is the most ba­sic re­quire­ment to be con­sid­ered a pro­fes­sional in the in­ter­nal au­dit arena. When in doubt, I al­ways go back to the Stan­dards.

2. Dis­play the mark of the pro­fes­sion: Cer­ti­fied In­ter­nal Au­di­tor.

When you visit a doc­tor or an ac­coun­tant, chances are you’ll see a diploma or train­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion promi­nently dis­played on the wall in their of­fice. Those signs of pro­fes­sional ac­com­plish­ment as­sure you that you are deal­ing with some­one who pos­sesses the skill and ex­pe­ri­ence ex­pected in that par­tic­u­lar field. Teams should ex­pect the same level of ac­cred­i­ta­tion from their in­ter­nal au­di­tors. And in our world, that means some­one is des­ig­nated as a Cer­ti­fied In­ter­nal Au­di­tor (CIA). The CIA tests your abil­ity to ap­ply prin­ci­ples that are em­bod­ied in the IPPF, as well as to demon­strate other skills and knowl­edge re­quired to prop­erly dis­charge your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. If you as­pire to be a Chief Au­dit Ex­ec­u­tive in your or­ga­ni­za­tion, most, if not all, re­quire the CIA as a pre­req­ui­site. So, take the op­por­tu­nity now to ad­vance your pro­fes­sional ca­reer by get­ting this pro­fes­sional des­ig­na­tion.

3. Be eth­i­cal.

It is a no-brainer that a code of ethics is nec­es­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate for the pro­fes­sion. As an in­ter­nal au­di­tor, you pro­vide a qual­i­fied and in­de­pen­dent opin­ion about the con­trols your or­ga­ni­za­tion needs to pre­vent risk. You typ­i­cally as­sess whether teams have the ap­pro­pri­ate con­trols, test­ing their ef­fec­tives, and pro­vid­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for new ones. The re­sults of your au­dit are then re­ported to many stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing your au­di­tee, man­age­ment team and Board Au­dit Com­mit­tee. Very of­ten, this also ex­tends to in­dus­try reg­u­la­tors. If any of these peo­ple have rea­son to be­lieve that you have a con­flict of in­ter­est or that your re­sults were bi­ased in any way, you can be sure that the con­trols you rec­om­mend will not be im­ple­mented and that these teams will not want to work with you again. It is for this rea­son that you must con­duct your­self in an eth­i­cal and pro­fes­sional man­ner at all times. Be­cause in do­ing so, your stake­hold­ers will be en­cour­aged to trust your judge­ment and to­gether, you can min­i­mize risk to the com­pany.

4. Build your brand by earn­ing re­spect from your stake­hold­ers and team. Do you think your stake­hold­ers and au­di­tee will lis­ten to you just be­cause you are their au­di­tor? Stop blam­ing them if you are not get­ting the time and re­spect you think you de­serve. Your au­di­tees and stake­hold­ers are care­fully as­sess­ing you to de­ter­mine if you un­der­stand their busi­ness or pro­cesses and if you pos­sess suf­fi­cient com­pe­tence and ex­pe­ri­ence to be help­ful to them. You and the rest of your au­dit team need to work hard to pro­duce qual­ity re­sults and con­tinue to com­mu­ni­cate ap­pro­pri­ately to your au­di­tee and stake­hold­ers. Only then will they rec­og­nize and value your con­tri­bu­tion as their trusted ad­vi­sor. Re­spect from your stake­hold­ers has to be earned; it is not given.

We have to com­mu­ni­cate, en­gage and work end­lessly across the com­pany to help col­leagues un­der­stand how an au­dit team can help bring ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. By em­brac­ing these key el­e­ments, it can help you on your path to build­ing trust as a qual­i­fied and pro­fes­sional in­ter­nal au­di­tor.

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