Four (4) keys to becoming a professional internal auditor
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.