Our world is vast and continually expanding. In the last decade alone, the earth’s population increased by about 10%, totaling nearly 8 billion people by 2050, it’s expected to reach almost 10 billion. But this seismic growth belies the many ways in which the world is actually getting smaller.
Individuals separated by continents, language, and culture have found themselves impacted by common events. Monumental global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and escalating regional conflicts highlight our interconnectedness. They also point to the need to broaden our frame of reference and stay attuned to developments around the world.
More than ever, internal auditors’ perspectives are informed by global risks. When one region experiences a disruption or significant event, it often serves as a harbinger of things to come for practitioners across the globe. By sharing information and staying connected, we can help each other see around corners and better enable our leaders to manage emerging risks. And in doing so, we can be individual drivers of stakeholder trust while improving our collective profile as trusted advisors. When we act together and speak with a unified voice, we are far more powerful and impactful than when acting independently.
That is why, as the 2022–2023 chair of The IIA’s Global Board, I have chosen “One IIA: Building Trust Together” as the theme for my term. With the multitude of challenges facing today’s organizations, I am asking the world’s internal auditors to combine their energy and focus to uphold and improve foundational elements of our profession. And because The Institute serves as a voice for the entire profession, my message applies beyond IIA members — One IIA encompasses all internal audit practitioners, in every part of the world.
We are stronger when we act together and work from a shared, unified understanding of professional priorities and purpose. With that in mind, there are five areas of practice that are essential for us to focus on as a profession: integrity, transparency, courage, curiosity, and certification. These “non-negotiables” comprise the essence of what we do and are fundamental to effective practice. By coordinating our efforts in these areas, together we can build trust and better the profession.
Integrity is vital to establishing trust and credibility and to maintaining strong professional relationships. As internal auditors, we are charged with helping ensure our organizations meet business objectives and satisfy the expectations of key stakeholders. But we also need to help organizations uphold their core principles and conduct business in accordance with espoused values. Our leaders need to keep their commitments, demonstrate accountability, and hold to their promises.
To ensure success in these areas, we need to conduct our own work with integrity. Our efforts must be grounded in principles and rooted in our standards. Our boards, CEOs, and governing bodies must know that internal audit’s work output, guided by the International Professional Practices Framework, is based on acting responsibly and helping the organization shine. Integrity must be part of our identity as standard bearers of the internal audit brand.
Practitioners should remember that their actions and decisions reflect not only on their own audit function and organization, but also on internal auditing as a whole. Despite all the valuable work we perform every day, one bad actor or questionable decision can have reverberating effects across the profession. None of us wants to see the dreaded question, “Where were the internal auditors?” in news headlines, knowing the ripple effects it can have far and wide. By conducting our own work with integrity, internal auditors help ensure the integrity of the profession at large.
Integrity must be an everyday focus for practitioners. We should regularly ask ourselves: Are the leadership team and all other stakeholders exhibiting the values the organization needs to promote? Are my own actions in accordance with the standards and practices I’ve committed to following? Once we begin to evaluate the organization and ourselves from this standpoint, we become better positioned to add value as well as to be challenged more forcefully. It is up to all internal auditors to uphold their principles, and those of the organization, with integrity.
Transparency is a related non-negotiable that is also essential to strengthening our relationships with stakeholders. In fact, trust is nearly impossible to establish without a strong commitment to transparency.
While transparency has always been an important component of our work, it is perhaps even more crucial now in light of today’s socio-political movements. Stakeholders place increased value on environmental, social, and governance practices, making these areas subject to growing attention and scrutiny. Internal audit figures prominently in efforts to ensure organizational ESG practices are sound, as well as consistent with stakeholder expectations. In fact, The IIA’s 2020 OnRisk Report underscored this focus, stating that internal auditors “play a key role in the sustainable enterprise and … [have an] opportunity to coordinate on ESG and better serve the public interest through collaborative efforts.”
Transparency builds trust. For practitioners, it involves distilling internal audit deliverables down to the facts. And while determining what constitutes a fact today may be challenging in certain respects, there is no debate about facts in the world of internal auditing. Stakeholders must be able to trust that auditors come to the table with no hidden agendas and with unwavering objectivity. Internal auditors, in essence, are fact finders and those facts are supportable truths that stakeholders can rely upon to make informed decisions.
Sometimes, delivering unvarnished truths and maintaining honesty in client interactions requires another non-negotiable that all internal auditors must strive to possess courage. Practitioners need to overcome any fears they harbor about challenging existing ideas or commonly held beliefs and speak the truth, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient.
Courage comes in many forms, ranging from the ability to stand one’s ground under extreme pressure to upholding everyday responsibilities. We have seen examples of auditors exposing fraud, corruption, and other bad behavior, which certainly requires an act of bravery. We have also seen stories of auditors being fired or even killed while working to deliver their results to stakeholders. But in most instances, practitioners do not have to face life-threatening situations, or risk job loss, to demonstrate professional courage.
One of the more common ways I have seen internal auditors show courage is by working to overcome lackluster support from their organizations. For example, the audit function might report to a level in the organization that is too low, lacking the strategic perspective and influence to promote success. In situations like this, we must engage our boards and other governing bodies to make sure internal audit has a window to the organization’s strategic direction, performance, and risk appetite. Doing so ensures our work is geared toward mission-critical functions that improve productivity, focus, and investment of resources. We must have effective working relationships with our boards and establishing them often requires courage.
What we do as internal auditors has real value, but what we don’t do has real consequences. The ability to act and overcome any reluctance to speak out is where courage often comes in. As practitioners, especially in our third-line governance capacity, it is imperative that our courage does not fail us.
Some key practitioner attributes are called upon in moments of challenge, whether it’s integrity, transparency, or courage. They must be intact at critical times when making the right decision can be the difference between organizational success and failure. But there’s one non negotiable that must be at our disposal on a more continual basis curiosity. Especially given the rapidity of change and disruption in today’s world, curiosity is key to knowing clients’ and stakeholders’ evolving needs, and to understanding the latest technologies and audit best practices. Simply validating execution against established norms has limited value nowadays we must be able to question whether the established norms are positioning the organization for success.
Curious people naturally seek out new information. They ask a lot of questions, and they follow up on the answers. For internal auditors, the opportunities to explore one’s curiosity around organizational risks, processes, and governance are nearly endless. In fact, effective practice depends on it.
Doing our jobs well also relies on curiosity about the latest tools and methodologies available to us. Being able to meet evolving client expectations requires curiosity about professional development. And fortunately, knowledge resources are available in abundance to curious minds seeking this type of information. The IIA helps auditors stay qualified and current through its many courses, webinars, conferences, and publications. In fact, the quality and scope of educational resources available to practitioners through IIA offerings are second to none.
Curiosity must also extend beyond audit-specific knowledge. As mentioned earlier, internal auditors must be positioned and operate at the right level within the organization. Internal auditors should be curious and able to both understand and contribute to the perspectives of their boards, CEOs, and executives on strategy and risk appetite. An inability to engage at this level limits internal auditors’ potential to do work that matters. Finally, we need to maintain a keen interest in the world around us, a willingness to ask questions, and an attentiveness to emerging trends. Curiosity is foundational to building knowledge. And professional knowledge, in turn, helps build stakeholder trust.
AT THE HELM
I am fortunate to serve as global chair for an organization with such a rich legacy and robust history of service to the profession. As such, I want to help ensure The IIA continues to be positioned as the premiere source of information and support for internal auditors. The Institute’s educational, training, and advocacy resources are world-class, and I’m committed to keeping The IIA top of mind for all practitioners when it comes to their professional growth and development.
I am also committed to helping engage the world’s internal audit professionals by leveraging The IIA’s strength as a unifying force to ensure audit functions everywhere are optimized to best serve their stakeholders. As part of this process, I hope to meet and listen to as many internal auditors as possible to better understand how The IIA is serving them, and where it can improve. I also intend to ensure our volunteer leaders are challenged and energized to continue the great work they've done to make the profession we love even better.
The Global Board of Directors has a powerful platform from which to engage and inform.
As chair, I will look to advocate for the profession to ensure The IIA is appropriately recognized and leveraged by our organizations, stakeholders, and regulators. In part, we can accomplish that by making sure The Institute’s chapters and affiliates worldwide are unified in providing services and support to IIA members. Additionally, I would like to help continue forging relationships with global leaders in like-minded professions to identify where we can complement each other and strengthen our efforts to improve organizational governance. I also will work extensively with the board to help provide support and guidance for IIA President and CEO Anthony Pugliese and his fantastic staff at IIA Headquarters in advancing the organization’s strategies and achieving its objectives.
From where I sit, the future of The IIA, and the possibilities before us as a profession, look incredibly bright. I am thrilled to play a part in helping navigate a new era of challenge and transformation. It is our time to shine — together.
Another key tool for building trust, as well as a defining element of our profession, is internal audit certification. Getting certified can not only boost performance as a practitioner, but it also conveys a seriousness of purpose, commitment to the profession, and proof of competency to staff and stakeholders.
Many IIA members indicate that the process of preparing for an exam, successfully competing it, and earning a credential gave them more confidence in their roles. The IIA offers three globally recognized certifications: Certified Internal Auditor, Internal Audit Practitioner, and Certification in Risk Management Assurance. Its flagship certification, the CIA, is currently offered in 14 languages at testing centers and online testing portals in more than 100 countries (read “Recipe for Success” on page 64).
Certification demonstrates a commitment to upholding industry standards and continued learning. And when enough practitioners are certified across the profession, it elevates our stature by showing that, collectively, we meet a formally established standard of competence and expertise.
Strength in Unity
One IIA: Building Trust Together is more than a theme to me and more than just a prescriptive set of practices. It’s a mindset. If I do my job well, that mindset will not end at the conclusion of my term.
By working together, we can build a stronger, more influential profession. The five defining elements I have outlined form the bedrock of professional audit practice. With alignment on these key attributes, we will be better positioned to innovate, execute, and help our leaders succeed. Working as One IIA, we can deliver greater value and achieve better outcomes for the organizations we serve.