What it involves
The words ‘Internal Auditor’ are no longer an accurate description of the people who today carry out a range of internal consultancy roles for hundreds of major Plc’s and multi-national groups. These large companies retain top quality external auditors to undertake statutory compliance audits, they do not need the same functions duplicated by their own staff. Todays Internal Audit Department is a roving consultancy group, highly visible and with real power to initiate and implement change. As a resource, it is drawn upon by senior management for crisis or adhoc work, as well as to perform more regular business reviews.
What will I be doing?
The exact nature of the duties involved in internal audit obviously depends, to a certain extent, on the organisation within which one is working. Having said that, the Internal Auditor can expect to become involved in some or all of:
- Evaluation of operating systems – not limited to accounting systems;
- Identifying weaknesses in management information and reporting systems;
- Secondment to departments / divisions to stand in for a line manager;
- Special project work such as pre-acquisition investigations;
- Recommending and implementing improvements in any of these areas.
Depending on the position obtained and the size of the company, the internal auditor may benefit from the extensive expenses paid travel. Many auditors enjoy ‘seeing the world’ at their employer’s expense.
What will I gain?
Internal Auditors are well placed to develop quickly an in-depth knowledge of the business they are working for. Since they see every operating division of the company, the range and depth of their expertise can be considerably more than that of an accounting line manager in the same organisation. The Auditor often has to report his / her findings and recommendations directly to the senior managers or the Board itself, and staff can only gain enormously from this early exposure to the highest levels within a company.
For candidates moving into internal audit from public practise, the work will sharpen their commercial acumen, develop their business skills and probably stretch them technically. In addition, candidates who have trained with a smaller practice will gain exposure to larger accounting and computer systems than they have probably met with so far.
The transition from external to internal audit is a move from historic, reactive work to proactive consultancy; it adds strength and depth to the professional experience which candidates already have.
Where will it leave me?
Internal auditors are in the best position to develop careers within their company since they will quickly gain experience working in many different divisions and with many different line managers. Prospects to move on are usually excellent; internal audit staff are often approached by line managers for whom they have worked on a project to join their department permanently. The department itself is normally seen as training ground for young professionals who will, after 18 months to 2 years in the department, have developed into candidates for middle and senior management positions. IT is significant in that most internal audit departments have a low average staff age: Qualified accountants join in their mid-20’s and have moved on within the company well before 30.
If a move within the company does not appeal, the internal auditor has several other choices. He / she can move into a line position or analysis role in another commercial organisation. Or a move back into the profession is a real possibility – not into audit, but into managed consultancy. Increasingly, the big accountancy practises recognise that commercial internal audit experience is an ideal training for own consultancy groups.
What do they want from me?
There are excellent opportunities to join internal audit for both newly qualified candidates and part qualified or time-barred staff. Obviously you need to have the qualities which make a good auditor – an inquisitive and analytical approach, innovative ideas and the ability to communicate effectively. Interpersonal skills and personal credibility are of paramount importance and technical accounting knowledge is essential. The correct internal audit position for you will depend on what development prospects the company offers, how much travel is involved, how the department is structured and many other factors.