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There is a common joke among physicists that fusion energy is 30 years away … and always will be. You could say something similar about artificial intelligence (AI) and robots taking all our jobs. The risks of AI and robotics have been expressed vividly in science fiction by the likes of Isaac Asimov as far back as 1942 and in news articles and industry reports pretty much every year since. “The machines are coming to take your jobs!” they proclaim. And yet, all of us here at Audit International still head to the office or log in from home each weekday morning.

The reality is less striking but potentially just as worrying. Most people expect that one day some sort of machine will be built that will instantly know how to do a certain job—including internal auditing—and then those jobs will be gone forever. More likely, is that AI and smart systems start to permeate into everyday tasks that we perform at work and become critical parts of the business processes our units and companies conduct. (Indeed, many professions and industries have already been greatly disrupted by AI and robotics.)

Technology companies have been so successful over the last 30 years because of the common mantra of “move fast and break things.” And that was maybe just about acceptable when it meant you could connect online to your friend from high school and find out what they had for breakfast or search through the World Wide Web for exactly the right cat meme with a well-crafted string of words.

When the consequences now might mean entrenching biases in Human Resources processes, or mass automated biometric surveillance, not to mention simply not even understanding what a system is doing (so called ‘black boxes’), the levels of oversight and risk management need to be much higher.

The Regulatory Environment :
There is some existing regulation which covers aspects of this brave new world. For example, in the European Union, article 22 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on automated individual decision-making, provides protection against an algorithm being solely responsible for something like deciding whether a customer is eligible for a loan or mortgage. However, the next big thing coming to a company near EU is the AI Act.

The proposal aims to make the rules governing the use of AI consistent across the EU. The current wording is written in the style of the GDPR with prescriptive requirements, extraterritorial reach, a risk-based approach, and heavy penalties for infringements. With the objective of bringing about a “Brussels effect,” where regulation in the EU influences the rest of the world.

Other western jurisdictions are taking a lighter touch than the EU, with the United Kingdom working on a “pro-innovation approach to regulating AI,” and the United States’ recent “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights” moving towards a non-binding framework. Both have principles which closely match the proposed legal obligations within the AI Act, hinting at the impact the regulation is already having.

Much of the draft regulation is still being discussed, with a final wording soon to be agreed. There are disagreements across industries and countries on whether some of the text goes far enough or goes too far. For example, whether the definition of “AI” should be narrowed, as the current wording could encompass simple rules-based decision-making tools (or even potentially Excel macros) or even expanded to greater capture so-called “general purpose AI.” These are large models which can be used for various different tasks and therefore, applying the prescriptive requirements and risk-based approach of the AI Act can become complex and laborious.

The uncertainty over the final wording has given companies an excuse to not make first moves to prepare for the changes. Anyone who remembers the mad rush to become compliant with the GDPR will remember the pain of leaving these things to the last minute. The potential fines, which may be as high as 6 percent of annual revenue depending on the final wording, could be crippling and have a cascade effect on a company’s going-concern.

What Can Internal Auditors Do?
As internal audit professionals we can start the conversation with the business and other risk and compliance departments to shine the light on the risks and upcoming regulations which they may be unaware of. It is our objective to provide assurance but also add value to the company and this can be done through our unique ability to understand risks, the business, and provide horizon scanning activities.

Performing internal audit advisory or assurance work, depending on the AI risk maturity level at the organization, can highlight the good practice risk management steps that can be taken early to help when the regulation is finalized. These steps could include:

1) Identify AI in Use: To be able to appropriately manage AI risks throughout their lifecycle stakeholders need to be able to identify systems and processes which make use of them. Agreeing on a definition of AI and developing a process to identify where it is in use is the first step. This would include whether it is being developed in-house, is already in use through existing tools or services, or acquired through the procurement process.

2) Inventory: Developing an inventory which includes information such as the intended purpose, data sources used, design specifications, and assumptions on how and what monitoring will be performed is a good starting point and can be added to, based on your company’s unique characteristics and any specific legal requirements that are implemented in the future.
3) Risk Assessments: Since a key aspect of the AI Act is it being “risk-based,” it is important to have a risk assessment process to ensure you take the necessary steps as required in the regulation, based on the type of AI used. For example, what level of robustness, explainability, and user documentation is necessary based on the risk tier provided. It is also important to consider the business and technology risks of using the AI. For example, machine learning using neural networks requires large training datasets, which can raise issues of data protection and security, but may also perpetuate biases that are contained in the datasets. Suitable experts and stakeholders should be involved in the development and assessment of the risk assessment process.

4) Communications: One area that is often forgotten is communication. It is all well and good having a policy or a framework written down but if it isn’t known and understood by the relevant stakeholders it’s worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Involving key stakeholders during the development of your AI risk management processes can help develop a diverse platform of champions throughout the business who can act as enablers as the requirements are communicated and regulation finalized.

5) On-going monitoring: Risk management is not a one-off exercise and this is no exception. Use cases, technology, and the threat landscape change over time and it is important to include a process for on-going monitoring of AI and the associated risks.

The machines may not be coming to take our jobs just yet, but the risks are already here and so are the opportunities to get ahead. There may be a long and winding road in front, as we all prepare for a world where AI is commonplace and new regulations and standards try to shape its use, but each journey starts with a step and it’s never too early to get going.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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In this final article of the series, Audit International focus on the third element of ESG- Governance risk. This differs from the first two elements – Environmental and Social – in that several governance risks have long been recognized and included in our audit plans. However, many more have recently gained prominence. Therefore, it is important that internal audit understands these risks and is well positioned to provide assurance.

Governance risks :

Some governance risks are broad in nature. Others, are very narrow. Some have little in terms of universal benchmarks, while others have well-established frameworks or regulations. Here are some of the main risks that should be considered:

– Shareholder rights and engagement – are there any limitations on certain classes of shareholders, and does the business engage effectively on important issues?
– Board structure and diversity – are there independent directors, and does the board have sufficient diversity of experience, style, and background? Increasingly, neurodiversity is a consideration, and in some countries a workers’ representative is a requirement.
– Executive compensation – is this structured to be in line with corporate objectives, and is it consistent with peers in comparison to the wages of other staff?
– Anti-bribery and corruption – many countries have a comprehensive legal framework.
– Tax transparency and policy – what is the organization’s approach to tax, and particularly the jurisdictions it operates and pays taxes in?
– Ethics and culture – a broad topic, ethics encompass all the above and more. Culture has become a hot topic over the past 15 years with the link between a strong organization-wide culture and performance becoming increasingly apparent.
– Data protection – often also included as a social risk, good information governance is relevant here as well.
– Typical impacts for the organization will be reputational, legal and regulatory, people, financial, and ultimately strategic.

Getting started – Determining the key risks :
Compared with environmental and social risk, it is much more difficult to take a holistic approach to governance risk, given the breadth of topics. However, it is likely that many activities and risks are already in your audit universe. A governance code may have been adopted by your organization, although these may only cover some of the issues described above. Understanding the relevant governance code(s) –mandatory or optional – is a good starting point. This will depend on jurisdiction(s), market listings, regulators, and industry practices. Governance codes can be principle-based or more prescriptive, and will typically define some or all of the following, often on a “comply or explain” basis:

– Clarity of purpose
– Leadership
– Integrity
– Board composition and division of responsibilities
– Board effectiveness
– Decision making
– Risk management, internal controls, and audit
– Accountability, transparency, and reporting remuneration

In understanding governance risks, you should also take into account what specific legal or regulatory requirements there are around any of these issues. This may include reporting requirements around diversity or executive pay or matters which must regularly be reported and considered by the board. Also, consider what other stakeholder expectations are relevant. This is likely to focus on investors, as they have been increasingly vocal and prepared to vote against boards that do not adequately address specific issues.

With this background information, along with your consideration of the issues highlighted earlier in this article, you can ensure your risk assessment incorporates relevant governance risks.

How internal audit can make an impact :
As always, we should leverage work done by the first and second lines in considering where we can make the biggest impact. We should consider our risk assessment alongside any new information we have about regulatory changes, emerging issues in our sector, or jurisdictions, and investor interest.

Some Examples :
– Governance framework
– Governance codes were mentioned earlier in this article. Whether your organization has adopted a code in full or developed its own framework, it will need to produce a regular (typically, annual) report of compliance with the code. Assessing the processes supporting this reporting is often a good way to execute broad audit coverage of governance risks. Such reports are expected by regulators, provide assurance to the board, and are sometimes published (at least in part in the annual report). – Therefore, it is important that they give an accurate picture.

Reports may take many forms and will often include qualitative assertions and specific data or examples. It is important that any data reported is accurate, but equally as important that narrative assertions or examples are supported by evidence. Internal audit can provide assurance over the processes to collate this evidence, ensuring it is complete and accurate and that the right oversight controls are in place. We can also review the report and verify that the conclusions reached fairly reflect the evidence available. Generally, we take a combined approach to provide comprehensive and broad assurance.

Board composition :
Board composition has been under the spotlight, and while practices have improved there is often still a lack of transparency in recruitment, objective evaluation, and diversity. This is a sensitive audit which needs to be conducted by experienced auditors. When done well, it provides real insight and impact.

It is important not to make this about the individuals currently serving on a board, but about the effectiveness of processes around recruitment, structure, skills-determination, and performance evaluation. Consider some or all of the following:

Is there an evaluation of the skills required on the board and an up-to-date skills matrix? Is this specific enough to ensure the board members possess the right range of skills and experience but sufficiently flexible to attract a diverse pool of candidates?
Do recruitment processes include defining an ideal candidate profile, pre-determined selection criteria, and stakeholder involvement in the exercise? Are candidates sourced in a way that ensures a wide pool of candidates, recognizing that there may be a need for confidentiality?
How are conflicts of interest identified and managed?
What are the rotation policies/term limits for non-executive board members?
How is board performance evaluated? Is there a self-assessment process and a periodic independent assessment?
Is there a training plan for the board and individual board members? Is there an individual appraisal process?
Does the committee structure support effective delegation but ensure the board maintains its responsibility for strategy and oversight?
How effective is the relationship between executives and non-executives? Does the structure facilitate both support and challenge?
Is there an effective process for succession planning?
Do boards allow time for open discussions and strategic thinking, as well as formal meetings?
Some of this can be done by document review — including board papers and minutes, skill matrix, recruitment process documents, etc. But much of this will also require interviews with board members and those who support the board, such as the corporate/company secretarial or corporate governance team.

This article concludes the series on what internal audit should know about ESG risks. If you missed the first two articles, be sure to go back and read our previous blogs, to get you up to speed on our suggestions on how internal audit can approach environmental and social risks.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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Transit systems. Healthcare facilities. Financial services firms. What do they all have in common? Organizations within these sectors — and essentially all industries, for that matter — have been hit by ransomware, a type of malware where cybercriminals demand a ransom payment to unlock access to your private and confidential systems and files.

While many cybersecurity risks exist, ransomware is often one of the more pressing challenges. Not only can it bring operations to a screeching halt, but it can also cause issues like data leaks and reputational damage. A global survey by cybersecurity software company Sophos finds that 66% of surveyed organizations suffered ransomware attacks in 2021. “It took on average one month to recover from the damage and disruption,” Sophos adds.

Given the severity of ransomware risk, internal auditors should aim to help their organizations reduce these threats, along with overall cybersecurity risks. How? As Audit International will examine in this article, internal audit departments can take steps such as conducting IT/cybersecurity audits and using technology like internal audit management software to improve internal controls and collaboration.

Review IT practices and controls :
Even though internal auditors generally aren’t responsible for choosing cybersecurity software and establishing employee training to recognize ransomware risks, they can still provide assurance over IT practices and controls, such as with an IT audit.

When IT teams conduct phishing tests to see whether employees are tricked by email scams that can cause ransomware issues, internal auditors are then able to review those results and ensure that the organization is meeting a sufficient standard to prevent social engineering. If the results demonstrate gaps in employee preparedness on ransomware risk or other cybersecurity risks, then internal auditors would likely want to communicate that risk to other stakeholders, like boards and senior management.

Internal audit leaders might also review remote work policies to ensure that IT teams are appropriately managing these with ransomware risk in mind, rather than just focusing on the functionality of work-from-home environments. While internal auditors often rely on guidance from IT leaders, they can still audit areas like access logs to ensure that only approved devices, with the appropriate threat intelligence and data protection technologies, are connecting to their networks.

Align key stakeholders :
Improving ransomware protection also means internal auditors need to align key stakeholders, rather than just collaborating with IT. That means pulling together information from multiple departments to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Internal auditors should check with finance teams to see how they’re accounting for the potential costs of a ransomware attack, and then ensure that other key stakeholders, like boards and senior management, understand and agree with this approach. Otherwise, issues like not having a sufficient budget to recover from a ransomware attack may arise.

“Regardless of their size or revenue, organizations should assume they will be targeted with ransomware, and they should examine their prevention, detection, mitigation, response, and recovery measures,” notes Zachary Ginsburg, research director for the Gartner Audit and Risk practice, in a Gartner press release.

Leverage internal audit management software :
Internal auditors can mitigate ransomware risk by leveraging internal audit management software. Many technologies are designed to assist with cybersecurity risk management, but from an audit perspective, internal audit management software is important for gaining assurance.

Overall, internal audit teams have an opportunity to make a significant impact when it comes to ransomware risk management. Planning ahead and focusing on internal alignment can go a long way toward reducing ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity risks.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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This week Audit International are taking a look at the 4 ways how Internal Audit can get a seat at the table.

When it comes to risk management and compliance, most organizations operate on a 3 Lines of Defense (3LOD) model, in which operational management, compliance, and internal audit work together in tandem to assess and mitigate risk and manage controls and compliance.

This model may be successful in theory, but as the risk management and compliance functions have grown more complex, it doesn’t always work as well as you might hope. Given the rising sophistication of cybersecurity threats and incidents of fraud, and the increasing compliance requirements posed upon organizations of all sizes, it can be difficult to keep an organization-wide pulse on threats and breaches in compliance as they arise.

The problem is, the three branches don’t always collaborate effectively, which may leave internal audit out of the loop and unable to provide much value to the organization. They may not have access to the data they need to generate effective recommendations. The internal audit team’s focus may be simply on checking boxes and ensuring compliance, rather than providing strategic insights that will help your organization understand and take steps to mitigate new threats.

If you want your internal audit team to move the needle at your organization, you need to get the ear of executives who can advocate for your work. By partnering with leadership, you’ll be able to spearhead new initiatives and gain critical access to data that will help your organization save money and reduce risk, proving your team’s value.

Here are four strategies for doing that effectively:

Identify the key people who can support you, and make a plan to build relationships with them
Your audit team will naturally be in touch with the managers who can provide key information needed to conduct your audits—but by focusing only on these contacts, you’re missing out on building relationships with the leaders who will be able to help you gain a more visible role in the organization. Build a plan for conducting periodic outreach to higher-level executives within your organization, such as your chief risk officer or your CTO. You can solicit feedback from them on any open questions they may want your team to review in your audits, or provide high-level executive briefs showcasing work that you’ve done and issues they may want to explore in further detail. Make sure that they know you and your team are available to support them and open for feedback.

Proactively address organization-wide trends
Rather than focusing solely on issues identified in individual audits, start looking at your audit results in aggregate to identify trends. Is a single department or office location having trouble resolving a specific compliance issue, or is it an across-the-board trend that should be shared with your executive team? Review your data frequently to understand risks that should be mitigated, and come up with step-by-step action plans for how they should be addressed, including who’s responsible and what the benchmarks for success are.

Pay close attention to third-party risks
Many audit teams take an insular view of risk management, failing to uncover the external risks brought on by vendors and technology partners. Make sure that you have policies in place to carefully vet and automate compliance on your third-party vendors, pulling in external data that will alert you to any financial or legal issues they may face. Regularly track all of your solutions and technology partners for red flags, and ensure that you have a strategy for mitigating them. You can showcase your findings in sessions with executives and other partners throughout the business, and collaborate to come up with a plan for any of your scenarios. Keep in mind that risks from big providers such as Amazon or Facebook may impact a lot of your customers or partners as well, so ensure that you map out all of the variables that may impact your company’s business model across the board.

Use best-in-class GRC technology to automate compliance and analyze data
In order to provide the most useful insights to your leadership team, it’s important to integrate your entire risk management function across an easy-to-use GRC platform. Your GRC platform should come with pre-built content that will help you automate your controls framework, regardless of your industry. It should make it easy to monitor compliance status and risk levels across the organization at any given time, with triggers prompting action when control levels are not being met. You should be able to easily drill down into your data and generate executive dashboards, so that you can share insights to justify recommendations and help your leadership team make better informed business decisions.

By building a cohesive strategy for integrating with the 3LOD, backed by in-depth data analytics, real-time data feeds, and workflow automation, your audit team will be able to generate insights that can help to identify new risks, and develop new strategies for mitigating risks across the entire organization. This will help you to become a highly visible, influential, and trusted partner to the business.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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Audit International were in awe to hear this revolutionary news from the billionaire founder of the outdoor fashion brand Patagonia. He has announced just yesterday he is giving away his company to a charitable trust.

Yvon Chouinard said any profit not reinvested in running the business would go to fighting climate change.

The label has amassed a cult following due to sustainability moves like guaranteeing its clothes for life and offering reasonably priced repairs.

The brand’s website now states: “Earth is now our only shareholder.”

Mr Chouinard has always said he “never wanted to be a businessman”.

A rock climbing fanatic, he started out as making metal climbing spikes for himself and his friends to wedge into rocks, before moving into clothing and eventually creating a hugely successful sportswear brand with a cult following.
Founded in 1973, Patagonia’s sales were worth around $1.5bn this year, while Mr Chouinard’s net worth is thought to be $1.2bn.

He claimed that profits to be donated to climate causes will amount to around $100m (£87m) a year, depending on the health of the company.

“Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” the entrepreneur said of his decision to give up ownership.
The Californian firm was already donating 1% of its annual sales to grassroots activists and committed to sustainable practices. But in an open letter to customers, the apparently reluctant businessman said he wanted to do more.

Mr Chouinard said he had initially considered selling Patagonia and donating the money to charity, or taking the company public. But he said both options would have meant giving up control of the business and putting its values at risk.

Instead, the Chouinard family has transferred all ownership to two new entities. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, led by the family, remains the company’s controlling shareholder but will only own 2% of its total stock, Mr Chouinard said.

It will guide the philanthropy of the Holdfast Collective, a US charity “dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis” which now owns all of the non-voting stock – some 98% of the company.

“Each year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,” Mr Chouinard said.
Patagonia combines high-end outdoor fashion with its own brand of environmental and social activism. It’s a heady combination that certainly appeals to a loyal, if predominantly well-heeled following.

Part of the attraction comes from the fact that its environmentally conscious stance isn’t new. It was preaching eco-awareness years before sustainable fashion became fashionable.

But it’s still pretty hard to save the planet, if your business depends on selling stuff, however many recycled or renewable products you use.

By ringfencing future profits for environmental causes, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has done his best to square that circle.

But he is also clearly trying to ensure that Patagonia brand is future-proofed and can never fall into the hands of the kind of companies he has accused of greenwashing in the past.

It’s nice to bring a good news story to you readers, and it will be interesting to see if any other climate conscious companies will follow suit. The bar has well and truly been set.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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The world of internal audit continues to advance. In recent years, audit teams have increasingly used data analytics and cloud technologies to increase efficiency and improve assurance. Now, emerging technologies like AI and robotic process automation (RPA) are further making their way into internal audit. Audit International take a look at what effect this will have on Internal Audit and Financial Services in the future.

It’s still early days, but the trend toward automation is clear. In fact, when asked about emerging technology, 20% participants of a recent audit teams survey said they’re already using RPA. In addition to that, 12% said they’re using AI, 3% said they’re using blockchain, and 15% said they’re using more than one type of emerging tech.

These technologies, particularly RPA, have the potential to enhance audit quality. For example, RPA can enable internal audit teams to spend more time collaborating with other departments and sharing results with boards, rather than getting bogged down in repetitive, less strategic tasks.

And in data-centric industries like financial services, these technologies can make a particularly large impact, as we’ll examine in this article.

What is RPA?
Physical robotics can perform motions that automate repetitive tasks, like putting a cap on a bottle or moving a box from one place to another. Similarly, RPA automates repetitive tasks, but the difference is that RPA is centered around software, not hardware.

“Robotic process automation (RPA), also known as software robotics, uses automation technologies to mimic back-office tasks of human workers, such as extracting data, filling in forms, moving files, et cetera. It combines APIs and user interface (UI) interactions to integrate and perform repetitive tasks between enterprise and productivity applications,” explains IBM.

What does RPA mean for internal audit?
One way that RPA can be used for internal audit is to make data-related tasks more efficient.

“If we cut to the chase, the job is straightforward: we download data, analyze it, and use it to discuss processes and controls…The issue is that we waste a lot of time obtaining and formatting data for each audit—the same tables and charts repeatedly,” writes Jean-Marie Bequevor, Expert Practice Leader Internal Audit at consultancy TriFinance, in an article for Internal Audit 360°.

RPA can also help to automate periodic reporting. If you know certain information is needed in every report, then an RPA program could potentially be set up to obtain and fill that information.

That said, RPA can also carry risk, both in terms of the use of RPA in audit programs and the use of RPA across other departments. Internal auditors need to consider RPA internal controls to make sure that RPA is being used appropriately. You wouldn’t want to end up with a misprogrammed bot that creates errors or security holes.

What does RPA mean for financial services?
In addition to being used for auditing, RPA can also play a role in corporate finance and the financial services industry more broadly.

Finance professionals — ranging from corporate treasurers to wealth managers to mortgage lenders — deal with large quantities of data. With RPA, financial services professionals can automate data-related processes like data collection, data cleansing, and analysis.

For example, an investment analyst might use RPA to improve their research process. Instead of manually creating and assembling a clean spreadsheet full of financial data, an RPA tool could automate that, freeing up time for the analyst to engage in more complex, nuanced tasks.

RPA in financial services can also help when it comes to client service and marketing tasks. For example, banks could automate activities like identifying customers that are a good fit for credit card offers or loan products. Rather than sending out these offers to all customers or manually reviewing every client file, an RPA program could be set up to compile a list of customers that meet certain criteria.

These are just a few of the many ways that RPA can be used in financial services and internal audit in general. A repetitive, data-oriented business process tends to be a good candidate for RPA. Many of these types of tasks exist in the financial services industry in areas ranging from compliance to customer onboarding.

With automation, financial services firms can free up time and focus on higher-value work, like building customer relationships and identifying new revenue opportunities. Meanwhile, internal audit professionals can use RPA to efficiently provide assurance.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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Audit International have been following this news closely for the past few months and we are all interested to see what will unfold for the Big4 giant over the next few months and perhaps years. Just this week, the EY bosses have approved the radical split in largest shake-up of Big Four accountants in decades, with the Big4 Auditor planning to create ‘two distinct, multidisciplinary organizations’ amid regulatory pressure.

Bosses at EY have agreed to push ahead with a split of its audit and consulting arms in the biggest shake-up of a Big Four accounting giant in decades.

The firm said on Thursday that it will ballot its partners on a plan to separate the 312,000-strong business into “two distinct, multidisciplinary organizations” following a strategic review.

EY’s partners will vote on the proposal in the coming months, with the process set to conclude in early 2023, the firm said.

The voting rules will vary by country, but in the UK, the firm will require 75pc of its partners to back the plan if it is to be ratified.

Hywel Ball, EY’s UK chairman, said: “The needs of our clients, people and stakeholders are changing and I’m proud that we are reviewing the shape of our business in the UK and globally so that EY is well positioned to build on its success into the future.

“We believe the creation of two strong, independent businesses would help us to better meet the needs of our clients; create compelling careers for our people; and serve the public interest by providing greater choice in the market and a global response to regulatory concerns.”

The plan could see EY publicly list its advisory division or sell a partial stake in the 312,000-strong firm in a move that would result in bumper payouts for partners, similar to Goldman Sachs’ flotation in 1999 and Accenture’s in 2001.

However, Mr. Ball said no decisions have been made about how the split might occur.

EY is proposing the split amid severe pressure from regulators worldwide over concerns around conflicts of interest at the Big Four firms.

EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PwC have been heavily rebuked by regulators in the UK and US over a perceived lack of independence in their auditing divisions because of the fees they also earn from advisory work.

In the UK, the Big Four have already been forced to start ringfencing their audit and consulting arms in a bid to reduce conflicts of interest following major corporate collapses such as Carillion and BHS.

The Financial Reporting Council has given the firms a deadline of 2024 to operationally split their audit arms from the rest of their advisory businesses.

A decision on the split at EY has been held up for months due to disagreements over how billions of dollars of liabilities should be split and regulatory issues in certain countries, including China.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that senior staff at EY were seeking to defect to rival firms in a sign of growing internal strife over its proposed break-up.

KPMG and PwC are among firms that have seen a significant increase in the number of applications from senior managers, directors and even new partners at EY in recent months.

In July, EY held a briefing on the proposed split for its UK partners at the five-star Royal Lancaster hotel near Hyde Park in west London.

Mr. Ball said views expressed in that meeting showed that partners were “proud” that EY was the first Big Four firm to try and split, adding: “We’ll redefine the profession in the coming years.”

Deloitte, KPMG and PwC have said they have no plans to engineer a similar split of their advisory and audit arms.

Separately, Deloitte posted record revenues on the back of a boom in tech consulting last year.

The firm reported revenues of $59.3bn (£51.5bn), a jump of nearly 20pc on the previous year.

Whatever happens with the split, Audit International will be following this story very closely and bringing you the latest updates on it.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
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E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Audit International recently came across a very interesting article, on improving Internal control systems, in the Wall Street Journal, and thought we’d share it with you.

Increasing business complexity and regulatory requirements are driving continual change to the risk environments for many organizations, and historical approaches to risk and controls may not be suited for the current atmosphere of digital transformation, persistent change, and uncertainty. As the business landscape continues to evolve, the risk of accounting and reporting misstatements rises, often due to the inability to respond to internal and external circumstances and adapt quickly to business changes.

Developing an internal controls framework with upgraded operating models, advanced technology integration, and new processes to monitor, implement, maintain, and optimize a risk and reporting structure can position an internal control program to stay ahead of risk and increase value. First, we will explore some of the internal and external factors driving challenges beyond traditional remediation and restatements in accounting and reporting, including considerations receiving attention from the SEC and AICPA. These critical change drivers, along with internal controls and automation opportunities, inform a new risk and controls framework empowered by more proactive and data-driven solutions.

External Factors Driving Remediation and Restatements

Remediation and restatement drivers include external challenges such as new accounting rules; the SEC and regulatory guidance; and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting. Some of these external drivers were highlighted at the recent AICPA conference and featured prominently in recent SEC comments—including SEC reporting and rulemaking, ESG matters, auditor independence, and digital assets.1 2

Data quality and the importance of modernized reporting supported by new technology were prominent features at the AICPA conference, with an emphasis that organizations evaluate their standards, processes, and technologies to create accurate and easily accessible reports. In addition, responding to market demand for ESG information was a key theme throughout the conference and SEC comments. ESG is the universe of topics that reflect areas of performance management around the impacts and dependencies of the business on society and the environment. It is a dynamic and interactive process that will likely have far-reaching implications for an organization, and the overlap between sustainability and financial reporting is inherent. Still, given the scope and possible market share of ESG activities and resulting data volume, multiple possibilities of future regulatory requirements may cause uncertainty around developing a new reporting framework that can mitigate remediation and restatements and optimize the controls environment.

Internal Controls and Automation Opportunities

Understanding both the external and internal drivers to risk and reporting structures helps inform the structure of a new internal control program to be more resilient, efficient, and agile through a changing risk profile. In addition, developing the new program using a change framework that identifies what to monitor, implement, maintain, and optimize in the controls program implementation may further enable a more resilient and efficient framework.

In addition to the external challenges to remediation, addressing internal challenges and opportunities is also necessary when developing the new control program. Disruptions from new technology and digital transformation are potential examples of prevailing internal challenges that may lead to restatements and remediation. However, the digital transformation also enables opportunities with automation, enhanced analytics, artificial intelligence, and data-driven solutions for the evolving risk and controls landscape and reporting lifecycle.

Automation Opportunities Across the Reporting Lifecycle

Process automation—includes manual, repetitive, rules-based processes and enables transaction automation, dynamic data manipulation, and streamlined communication. Examples include report generation, data reconciliation, and trend tracking.
Shared services process automation—includes processes with multiple interactions across different systems that enable process synergies. Examples include payroll, onboarding, education and training, and IT functions such as infrastructure, directories, and file management.
Outsourcing process automation—can be built for outsourcing contracts using robotic process automation (RPA) solutions. Examples include reconciliations, claims processing, inventory processing, production support, and network monitoring.
Developing a New Internal Controls Program

This five-step guide to developing a new internal controls framework can be considered to help address the external and internal challenges and utilize automation and data-driven solutions to move a control program forward and reduce the chances of accounting and reporting remediation throughout the transformation.

Conduct dynamic risk assessment and scoping updates that are periodically refreshed to remain agile, identify fraud risk considerations, and create a communication plan.
Develop internal control program methodologies, update operating models, and ascertain control owners and operators, including areas to automate.
Introduce technology to help automate and monitor the control environment and obtain electronic evidence with data and analytics.
Establish automated control methodology, develop a digital testing approach to control automation, and evaluate and update protocols for data security and cybersecurity.
Lead with the process, data, and user experience, all enabled by advanced analytics, data visuals, automation, and intelligent technology integrated within the framework.
Potential Benefits of an Updated Control Framework

Using remediation and restatement drivers to create a modernized controls framework may offer benefits beyond mitigation of risks in controls reporting. Developing a framework for a changing risk profile built on a foundation of new technology elevates the quality of reporting by increasing transparency and visibility into business processes with meaningful insights into managing risks. These deeper insights allow the function to refocus efforts and move away from point-in-time solutions to address issues continuously with more transparent monitoring and visualization capabilities.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

The role of an IT Auditor within an organisation is to maintain the security of the company’s IT systems, ensuring they are efficient and cost effective. They must maintain the firm’s internal controls, records and data as well as to help organisations operate within the law to guarantee they’re not in breach of compliance and regulatory standards.

When it comes to the types of questions an individual can expect upon applying for IT Audit jobs, Audit International got the inside scoop when they sat down with a Company Director, to get his insights on what candidates can expect.

The likelihood is that the interviewer will start with questions aimed at getting a good sense of a candidate’s technical background. Questions around certain controls within a tech environment, networks, routers and so on.

The purpose of these questions is to get a sense of a candidate’s technical background, as well as their understanding around IT governance, IT general controls and IT risk management. This is your chance to demonstrate the way you evaluate IT and your examination of it in relation to IT risk and IT control frameworks.

Other questions will be focused on drawing out whether a candidate is right for the role in question as there are so many different specialisations within IT Audit, including cyber security, IT General Controls and applications, infrastructure or data. So, the interviewer is hoping to see where a candidate fits best within the business as well as getting an idea of the types of technologies they’ve had exposure to. This could be directed at the different types of environments you’ve had experience with, such as Linux and UNIX or it could be broader in terms of the networks and databases you’ve worked on.

In this day and age employers are definitely looking for individuals who are more technically competent and SME specialised rather than being IT generalists.

The next thing interviewers will want to assess is a candidate’s soft skills, as well as their ability to cast a helicopter view across the business as a whole, which could prompt more situational questions:

How do you face off to senior executives?
How do you deal with stressful situations?
What is your tactic for delivering negative feedback to the business or to a colleague?
If you encounter a difficult stakeholder, how would you go in and manage their expectations?

You will also be asked questions regarding your communication skills, specifically when it comes to relaying information to non-IT people. They want to see that you’re comfortable breaking down the technicalities of IT into layman’s terms in order to make it accessible to those non-technical people both at board level and elsewhere in the business.

Tell us about a project you’ve worked on.

A lot of IT Audit shops will run audits as projects which may lead to questions around specific ones you’ve worked on and other questions around project management.

Tell me about a technical problem you’ve encountered.

This is your opportunity to talk about an issue you’ve gone in to evaluate and how you’ve interacted with a non-IT user, built that relationship in order to identify the problem and worked with them to resolve it.

Moving on from soft skills, the interviewer will likely want to broach a candidate’s awareness of risk and controls. The line of questioning may be centred on databases for instance:

What types of controls would you be looking for?
Where do you think the weaknesses might be? What about areas of resilience?
Are there any security or compliance issues based on that?

Candidates really need to show how well they can evaluate these issues. It’s about providing enough detail so that you cover all the relevant points an employer would be looking for, while also contextualising your answers within the broader scope of the business’s needs. You need to show industry awareness beyond your technical qualifications.

Why do you want to work in IT Audit?

Some candidates may be coming from the Big Four, which is a fairly classical move into IT Audit, though of course other people will be coming from different backgrounds and disciplines, so the interviewer is going to want to understand the motivation behind your chosen career.

IT Audit is different to business audit, for the latter you need to be an SME in a particular area. If you’ve been working in manufacturing for 10 years, it would be very difficult for you to move into banking audits for instance. However, as an IT auditor perhaps within the cyber security space conducting third party assessments looking at cloud security and so on, though that is a very specialist area, you would have an easier transition between industries. Overall, the important thing an interviewer will be looking for is valid and researched reasons for wanting to work in that industry.

What is your perception of IT Audit, specifically with regards to this business?

This is where you can demonstrate that you’ve done your homework on the company and explain how you see the role of IT Audit and its subsequent benefit to the business. This can also lead onto a discussion around where you see your career in IT Audit progressing, whether that’s moving up the ladder of IT Audit itself or using it as a platform to move into another area of the business.

Where do you see your career going in the next 3-5 years?

The interviewer doesn’t expect you to know exactly where your career is going to go, but they do want to understand your ambition. Having a clear vision for your own professional development is reassuring for your potential employer and certainly helps them better place you within the business and collaborate in order to create value both for your personal progression and for the business itself.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Any company operating successfully in this day and age, no matter its capacity, needs to effectively leverage its technology systems and make effective use of data. It is inevitable now that if a company wants to progress it must make a significant investment in technology. While these technology investments and innovations are required, it comes at a cost. This increased dependence on IT by extension increases the level of technological risk that an organisation faces, which has the knock-on effect of therefore increasing the relevance of IT audit.

The necessity of conducting IT audits within an organisation comes from its role in supporting effective risk management, particularly with regards those risks posed by weak cyber security measures. Data breaches and cyber-crime have escalated in response to the world’s digitalisation, an issue not limited to the financial services industry as world leading sports technology brand, Garmin, became one of the most recent victims of hacking. Thus proving that businesses large and small are equally vulnerable to attack.

The need for a strong IT audit function, while critical to the way businesses are now utilising technology to better navigate the market, also affects the way they relate to their staff. Since our daily lives are greatly integrated into our devices, that coupled with existing technological advancements, and the current professional climate means that businesses have been forced to interact with their employees very differently. Numerous processes have been digitalised, from annual leave forms to team meetings, paper and people have been replaced with electronic alternatives. Thus as the adoption of technology adoption increases, we see a knock-on effect of introducing risk into the environment.

IT audits focus on the gamut of risks associated with a business, identifying and evaluating them with a view to implementing the proper controls needed to action them in the best way. In helping an organisation understand the potential risks it faces, IT audit gives an organisation a clear strategy on how to action those risks, whether they can be eliminated, mitigated or tempered by the use of proper controls.

The IT auditors are there to guide the ‘implementers’ of the organisation through the resulting internal and external changes effected by the increasingly technologically-driven working environment. Many companies have struggled to adjust to the changes, falling short of successful strategic execution on the big money-making projects. This is where IT audit has proven its relevance as being that objective voice in the room to play devil’s advocate and advise on where those people implementing the changes may need to refocus their attention.

Applying regular and thorough IT audits keeps the relevant systems in check by raising potential security risks and actioning any solutions. Looking at the areas of company performance, business resilience in the face of crisis planning, compliance with existing and emerging standards and regulations, and financial health; the IT audit function exists to weed out any inaccuracies or inefficiencies within both the organisation’s management and the way it’s conducting itself as a business.

“Audit International are specialists in the recruitment of Auditors and various Corporate Governance Professionals including Internal Audit, Cyber Security, Compliance, IT Audit, Data Analytics etc across Europe and the US.

If you would like to reach out to discuss your current requirements, please feel free to reach us via any of the following:
Calling
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”