Posts Tagged “audit”

With one in five people pledging to pursue career goals and ambitions in their New Year Resolutions, Audit International have researched career experts advice on achieving these in 2023.

New Year, new (career) you! More than 20% of people toasted the start of 2023 with some form of New Year’s resolution and one in five of those pledged to pursue new career goals.
But with January now over, many of those good intentions may have already fallen by the wayside. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, people will typically ditch their ‘New Year New Me’ resolutions by the second week in January.

If that strikes a chord, don’t despair. Audit International has taken some insights from careers experts on their top tips on getting your career back on track.

Re-evaluate your current career choices :
For those with an established job, or who have taken time out of work to start and raise a family, it can be daunting to consider a new industry or completely change career path. However, it’s never too late to take your role in a different direction or re-enter education.

“If you’re looking to change careers in 2023, it’s important to evaluate your previous experience up until now. Consider which parts of your current or past job roles have brought you the most satisfaction or fulfilment, as this can help guide your new career path,”.

Adopt a continuous learning mindset :
Passing all of your exams is an amazing achievement, but that’s when the real learning starts. “Don’t assume you know everything now. Listen and ask questions and make notes and look things up. Every day is a school day!”

Work on your soft skills :
To get ahead in your career it’s also important that you develop soft skills that complement your technical prowess. “As part of your role, you will be expected to provide advice to clients and companies on any number of specific issues they may be experiencing, so developing strong soft skills including clear and concise communication, empathy, and the ability to make decisions to help resolve conflict will be key to your continued success.”

Develop a killer network:
Natural networking is everything. LinkedIn bombing everyone you think might be useful to you is annoying and will rarely achieve anything. Show an interest in everyone you meet and connect in a more genuine way. Try not to just focus on people you think are ‘important’.

Be authentic :
As an accountant, you are well-organised, a skilled number-cruncher and have a keen eye for detail. But as your career progresses and you become a team leader, you will need to focus more on management and people skills. If you get promoted to a management role without any formal training, it can be easy to act like the type of manager you’ve seen in the past. “People buy people, so be yourself, not the manager you think you should be”.

Focus on developing relationships :
Accountancy is a task-oriented job and it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind of completing tasks and hitting deadlines. But the real value you add as a manager is building relationships with staff and being an enabler and facilitator for the team. That means getting to know your colleagues on a personal level and understanding their strengths and capabilities.

Keep your eyes open for growth opportunities :
Don’t get bogged down in short-term deadlines and tasks. “These need to be done for sure, but you should also look more widely to find new areas of growth and challenges that can help you advance in your career”. That could mean studying for a qualification, taking on new responsibilities, or joining a cross-functional team. “Always look for ways to build your skills and contacts and your career will progress nicely.”

Don’t limit yourself to one area :
One of the best ways to elevate your career is by making sure you don’t limit yourself to just one part of the accountancy industry. “Gaining experience in a variety of roles – especially during the first few years of your career, as you decide the areas in which you thrive and most enjoy – will build your confidence and will provide you with essential skills that help boost your long-term career prospects”.

Connect with a mentor :
Regardless of where you are in your accountancy career, having the advice of someone more experienced than you can be invaluable. If you are unable to secure a mentor through work, it is also worth approaching people that you work with who could help you, or you could even look at joining an association that could pair you with someone.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself :
It’s always good to be ambitious when it comes to your career and education, but avoid putting too much pressure on yourself when it comes to achieving all of your goals or training courses by the end of 2023. “Comparing yourself to others or putting pressure on yourself can lead to you feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. Take as much time as you need and find flexible options that work for you, especially if there are other important childcare or work commitments to take into consideration.”

Be ready to flex. Having a long-term career plan is great. However, things change and you will get frustrated if you can’t adapt or sometimes go with the flow.

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”

Let’s face it. Even here at Audit International, we understand Internal audit still suffers from some rather negative stereotypes. There are plenty of companies or units where internal auditors are not welcomed with open arms. Audit clients may view internal audit with suspicion, expecting a “gotcha” mentality or may feel like they are under surveillance.

Sure, it’s often undeserved and some of it comes with the territory, but we may even be perpetuating such negative views with the words we use. Words and phrases that internal auditors consider just a normal part of the profession’s vocabulary may actually be words that trigger negative reactions in our audit clients. And often, internal auditors don’t realize they are contributing to the hostility by using them.

Words matter and good internal auditors choose them carefully. But auditors are also as prone to using professional jargon as anyone. These are words that have become so commonplace that we might not think too much about what they really mean, especially to others. We all use them. Yet, how they might be interpreted may not be how we intended. So, what can we do about it?

Here are seven words that we should consider their meanings more closely and either use them more carefully or strike them from our vocabulary completely.

1. “Finding”
Most internal auditors call what we consider reportable (in writing and verbally) a “finding.” Think about that for a moment, though. It’s not as if the vast majority of our audit observations were hiding or lurking in some hard-to-discover, dark and foreboding place, and it took our best Indiana Jones skills to unearth them. Lo and behold, ah ha! We have a “finding.” The word relates a context of sleuthing and uncovering things that were hidden, perhaps intentionally.

So put yourself in the shoes of your audit clients. We come along and have all these “findings,” as if they weren’t doing their jobs and it took us to find these gems of reportable conditions. Worse yet, we are often reporting as “findings” what audit clients told us directly. How would you feel if someone walked through your house and told you at the end of their visit that they found the carpets needed vacuuming, the furniture needed to be dusted, and relayed a few other of their insufficient housekeeping “findings.” You’d likely be inclined to never invite them back.

Try using the words “observations,” “conclusions,” or “conditions,” rather than “findings.” You may find they work better in your organization. Audit clients will feel less like they are being accused of hiding information or that they didn’t see something that the auditors later uncovered.

2. “Weakness”
When we observe an issue, we also sometimes couch that issue by using another troubling word, “weakness.” We may not be able to avoid calling breakdowns in internal controls, as they relate to SOX-like work, “control weaknesses” if the controls are not working as they should (or at all). But we should avoid calling observations outside of controls “weaknesses,” if possible.

Think about it. You go into the manager’s office during an audit, and you say, “excuse me, if you have a few minutes I’d like to go over a few weaknesses that have come to our attention during our review of your area.” Expect immediate defensiveness. We might as well be criticizing their first-born by pointing out weaknesses in how the child looks or plays with others. The word connotes physical ineptitude and can strike a visceral blow to any manager’s ego.

Like weaknesses, “deficiencies” isn’t any better for all the same reasons. So, perhaps, try “opportunities,” or “matters for attention,” rather than “weaknesses.” Even “challenges” or “difficulties” will garner a better response from audit clients.

3. “Material”
While the term “material” has been part of auditing language forever and, although tough to really quantify, is an important and meaningful word. I mean, if it’s not material why look at it or consider it at all? We also have the SOX-related nomenclature of “material weaknesses” (which people want to avoid as best as possible). Look, if you tell someone something is “material” and it truly is agreed that it is “material,” that’s a big deal.

Yet when we tell someone who is the owner of something that we want to talk with them about a matter that is “material,” what would be the natural reaction of the person on the receiving end of that word? Disbelief, denial, and outright defensiveness are natural human reactions when told something is “material,” in a bad way, which affects them or their responsibilities. Think about being in the doctor’s office because you have not been feeling well. After a bit of consultation and tests, the doctor comes in the room and tells you that there is something “material” to discuss. You are likely to act with disbelief, denial, and defensiveness, naturally. The word conveys an urgency we might not intend. Do we really want our clients to react that way, now or in the future?

Note that “material” has an important legal context. The Securities and Exchange Commission defines “materiality” as anything a reasonable investor would deem relevant to their decisions about whether and how to invest. While it’s important to use this word carefully in this legal context, it’s also easy to adopt the word and use it outside this context, which can result in misusing it. Another problem with “material” is that it implies that everything else isn’t important or that other aspects of an audit client’s work are meaningless, which is not a great sentiment to convey.

So, perhaps, when you don’t really have to use the word “material” (or “significant” for that matter) in consultation or in writing, maybe consider some different language. Hey, there’s something important I want to run by you when you have a moment, and maybe we can write about the top matters for attention without calling them “material” (unless, of course, we must).

4. “Disclosed” or “Uncovered”

Like the word “finding,” the word “disclosed” (or the word “uncovered’) has a similar connotation. It’s as if the issue was hiding and no one knew about it or would ever find it without you, and your brilliance—the internal audit superhero with x-ray vision. OK, sometimes things were truly hidden, unintentionally or, worse yet, purposefully, and we did use our internal audit superpowers to uncover it and then we get to puff our chest and—cue music here—disclose it. But, come on, that’s rare.

Yet, we use the terminology all the time. For example, resulting from of our testing, it was disclosed that blah, blah, blah. Or, based on our review of the area, it was uncovered that yada, yada, yada. Now, if you’ve got sneaky and underhanded clients, who are going around hiding stuff from you that you truly uncovered and want to disclose to the world, then fine. But most clients don’t do that, and you want to collaborate with them in the future.

Imagine how you’d feel if the external team you hired to do your Quality Assurance Review (QAR) started telling everyone, verbally and in writing, what their work (and only their work) disclosed and uncovered in your internal audit department? How would you react to that? “Disclosed” implies that something was formerly a secret and now you are airing the dirty laundry out for the world to see.

So, maybe we need to back off the “disclosed” and “uncovered” language, at least a bit. Options might include, “along with management, we identified …,” “taking full stock of the evidence, it can be concluded that …,” “testing demonstrated that …,” or similar language. Just don’t use “revealed” instead. That’s just as bad.

5. “Entrance” and “Exit”
OK, you may need to bear with me a bit on this one.

We’re going to start an audit project, and our first meeting with the client is called, in many companies, an “entrance meeting.” Then, when we’ve concluded all our fieldwork, what do we call the last meeting with the client to wrap things up and ride off into the sunset to work on the audit report for weeks on end? The “exit meeting.” They are decent terms, descriptive of exactly what they are … our entrance (ugh, the auditors are here) and our exit (yes, they are leaving, let’s party).

Let me ask you this, though. Is this audit, the one you are doing an entrance into and an exit from, the first and last time you will ever see these folks? I sure hope you have an ongoing relationship and are interacting all year long, or at least on occasion. If that’s the case, there is no entrance and there is no exit because, like the song Hotel California, you may never leave. And, if you’ve done your relationship management right, they are happy about that.

The point is that “entrance” and “exit” are old-school terms from when we did things on a cyclical basis and may or may not come back. Back then, relationship-building was less important and audits had a fixed beginning and end. So, maybe we need to stop calling them “entrance meetings” and “exit meetings,” and just call them something else that isn’t so clinical and auditor sounding. Schedule your Project Introduction Meeting at the beginning and, maybe, your Project Wrap-Up Session at the end, or something like that. And, if you are well down the path of an agile implementation, all that entrance and exit stuff becomes moot anyway.

6. “Consulting”
Back in 1999, the Institute of Internal Auditors introduced the well-accepted and globally codified definition of Internal Auditing as: “An independent, objective assurance and consulting [emphasis added] activity designed to add value…” Back then, the word “consulting” was viewed positively. And, for internal audit to be positioned to not only provide assurance, but to also be viewed as a consultant? Well, to borrow a ’90s term, that would be “da bomb!”

But, somewhere along the way, the word “consulting” came to be viewed less positively, and we’ve started to insert the word advising to soften the term. Should we blame consultants for tarnishing a good word, and making people view consultants and, in turn, consulting, negatively? Perhaps, but that’s not the point.

We all want to be advisors, and the gold standard, the place to be, the coolest accolade, would be to be trusted and be an advisor. So, in our pursuit of being that vaulted trusted advisor, let’s drop the word consulting from our vocabulary, once and for all. Look, your clients might want to “consult” with you, but hopefully you are “advising” them.

7. “Satisfactory”
Often, we as auditors don’t want to overcommit, and use words that might get us into trouble later if something is determined to be different than our work concluded. There is just so much we can evaluate and then we must draw a conclusion and move on. So, we settle on words like “satisfactory,” even if things are notably better than the word implies. From an internal audit perspective, we are hedging out bets. We don’t want to be overly flowery with praise, and just conclude something is either “satisfactory,” “needs improvement,” or “unsatisfactory.”

Put yourself on the other side of the table. Let’s say, for instance, you’ve worked hard at something, gone the extra mile, and made sure it was done exceptionally well. Then, someone comes in, looks it over, and decides that things seem “satisfactory.” Ouch, gut punch! You put in a ton of effort, expected to get an “A” grade, and the professor gives you a “C.” That’s kind of deflating.

Let’s not forget that the word “satisfactory” means acceptable or good enough, but not outstanding or great. Yes, there are reasons to fall on the crutch of concluding, placing our highest auditor grade on something, that it is “satisfactory.” But, perhaps, if we can avoid it, we take the risk, rely on our work, and conclude that something better than a measly “satisfactory.” Don’t be afraid to say if something is exceptional, great, works well, or exceeds the requirement.

The Last Word
There is a lengthy list of good reasons, justifications, and rationalizations for why we use the words we do as internal auditors. Many of them have stood the test of time. Many are in use, and still exist, because we are hearing the world through our own ears, and not our clients’.

If we stop for a minute, and consider what these words sound like and what they actually mean, and the impressions they may leave on the ears of our clients who hear them, perhaps they are not the best words to use. Perceptions are reality, and if you want to change perceptions, maybe one way to do that is to change our vocabulary. In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say.

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”

Here at Audit International, we understand that virtual interviews have become the go-to method of interviewing. So how do you prepare?

Lights! Camera! Action! Are you mastering virtual interviews in your job search?

According to this survey, 33% of employers have an exclusively remote interview process with 21% holding in-person interviews for the final round only.

Audit International might be being “Captain Obvious” here, with a list of the five ways to avoid sabotaging your interview:

1. COMMUNICATE YOUR CALENDAR
If you live with others, let them know when you have a scheduled interview to prevent any interruptions. Take a step further with a sign on the door, locking the door to prevent people from barging in and closing windows to prevent outside noise.

2. FIND A NEUTRAL BACKDROP
Create a distraction-free environment. Test the audio and video to ensure sound is clear, lighting is strong, and the laptop is the right height. In addition, consider purchasing a ring light that attaches to your laptop for optimal lighting. Best to use a natural background rather than a filter.

3. CLEAR YOUR SCREEN
Close all windows and applications on your laptop. Mute any default notifications on all nearby devices so your interview is uninterrupted by pings or ads popping up on open tabs.

4. ESTABLISH GOOD EYE CONTACT
Make eye contact during the interview to establish trust, convey confidence, demonstrate professionalism, and indicate interest.

5. PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED
“If you take these steps to rid your interview space of potential distractions, you’ll be able to focus on what really matters—connecting with the interviewer across the screen, demonstrating your qualifications, and learning more about the opportunity to determine if it’s right for you.”

Are there any other top tips you can think on to add to the list?

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”

With businesses facing the strongest economic headwinds in years, the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors is urging internal auditors to embrace data analytics to navigate more risky, uncertain, and volatile times ahead.

To support their call to action the Chartered IIA, a professional organization for internal auditors in the U.K. and Ireland, in partnership with AuditBoard has published a new report “Embracing data analytics: Ensuring internal audit’s relevance in a data-led world.” The report is aimed at encouraging internal auditors to fully embrace data analytics in the age of systemic risk.

The aftermath of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and now a recession has all magnified and exacerbated a multitude of business-critical risks. These major risk events are having compounding downstream effects on supply chains, inflation, growth, costs, Forex rates, cybersecurity, and workplace mental health. Creating an adverse business risk environment of a kind not seen for decades. Making it challenging for boards to keep pace with the myriad of risks they now face.

“Data is key for organizations to navigate more risky times ahead and it is key for the future of internal audit. Understanding what the data shows about risk resilience in today’s complex environment will help ensure organizations’ success. We urge businesses and internal audit to embrace data analytics,” says John Wood, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors.

However, in these challenging times harnessing and embracing the power of data analytics can enable internal audit to deliver faster and more incisive insights on fast moving risks, that boards can then act upon swiftly. Helping organizations to quickly identify, manage, and mitigate emerging risks during rapidly evolving situations.

Needs Improvement
The report is based on a survey of 298 internal audit executives from the private, public, and third sectors across the UK and Ireland. The survey revealed:

60% of internal audit functions are already using some for of data analytics, an additional 7% having advanced to AI. However, this still leaves a third yet to adopt data analytics.
The top three risk areas for using data analytics are financial (62%), fraud (17%), and legal and compliance (6%).
The top three benefits of using data analytics include greater level of assurance (48%), 100% audit coverage (21%) and enhanced efficiency (14%).
The top three barriers to fully embracing data analytics include lack of skills (49%), lack of resources (24%) and lack of time to implement (12%).
Only 17% expressed concern that internal auditors could be replaced by robots in the future. Instead, data analytics and AI can free up internal auditors’ time to focus on strategic and systemic risks that could be coming down the track.

The report makes several recommendations for boards and internal audit, including:

– Boards and internal audit should ensure that senior management has defined the organization’s top five risks, and that the data support this view and is correct and reliable.
– Boards and internal audit should ensure that the organization has its own data strategy in place.
– Boards should work with internal audit to identify what data is available to improve risk assurance, and how data analytics could be applied to this data to improve assurance coverage across the organization.

– Boards and internal audit should work together to champion a data analytics culture and promote a data-first mindset.
“Given the warp speed at which risks can emerge and wreak havoc, embracing data-analytics is non-negotiable for boards and internal audit if they are to stay on top of the multitude of risks that organizations are now wrestling,” says Richard Chambers, Senior Internal Audit Advisor of AuditBoard, and former President of the Global IIA. “Data analytics enables faster and higher quality assurance for boards to then act on. In stormy economic times a data-led approach has never been more urgent.”

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”

Audit International believe effective communication of information on risks associated with hazards and control measures, is an essential and integral component within the risk assessment process. The fundamental goal to communicate the outcome of your risk assessment thereafter to the rest of the organization, contributes to the health and safety of your (peer) employees.

A risk assessment is usually executed by you as a safety professional, being part of the safety department of an organization. For you, the outcome of the risk assessment is often quite clear and simple to follow. However, struggles do arise to communicate about risk outside the safety department. How do you communicate to different organizational levels effectively? How do you make sure everyone in your organization is not only aware of, and but also understands the risks they are dealing with? Audit International have these tips.

In this short blog, we will focus on the Communication and Consultation step. You must communicate about your risks and its treatment, but how do you handle this? If you communicate too much no one will know what to listen to nor remember it. If you communicate too little, no one will understand the context or details of the information. Use the tips below to overcome such struggles.

Tips for effective risk communication:
1. Have a common ground
Before talking about risks, people need to understand the basic concepts of safety. Do not assume that everyone is on the same page regarding risks. Define concepts clearly to avoid confusion. Make sure that there is a common definition of risk established, so employees manage risk based on the common concept and view of what constitutes as risks. Inform your organization about the nature of the risk management and why you are doing it.

2. Make sure everyone can understand
As you communicate to different levels and departments in de organization, it is convenient to tailor your message to the one who receives the message. One of the goals for risk communication is to provide meaningful, relevant, and accurate information in clear and understandable terms. Be aware that these criteria can be different for people on the operational work floor than for higher management. Adjust your information to your target audience, so everyone in the organization knows their role in managing the risks they face. This will help you filter the information effectively.

3. Consider the form of communication
How often do you want to communicate to your colleagues? Depending on which colleagues, this could be every day, every week, monthly, or yearly. If the frequency is yearly, writing a report will not be too much trouble. If the frequency is weekly, writing a report will likely be too time-consuming to create and read. It won’t be long before your employees are demotivated which will likely lead to less clear communication – or worse, confusing communication! Think about other ways of communication, such as videos, posters, or interactive means. A one-sided communication strategy is likely to be less effective.

4. Build a sense of inclusiveness and ownership
You know that managing risk is not a one-person job. This process involves different departments and colleagues. It is impossible to manage risk effectively if there is no communication and consolation with each colleague that is involved – with each stakeholder. To optimize the communication and consultation you need to make sure that each stakeholder understands, knows and agrees what is expected from them in relation to the management of risk.

By communicating on risk management, you will involve your colleagues and create inclusiveness and ownership. Ownership is important, because let’s face it: risks that are not owned are often not managed. Clarity on personal responsibilities is very important to prevent incidents from happening. There is no need to have accidents that could have been prevented through effective communication between stakeholders.

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”

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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As the threat of climate change mounts, Audit International know that businesses must take steps to counter its damaging effects. This is in order to meet ambitious government Net Zero targets, which aim to halve emissions in a little over a decade.

The promising news is that the majority of organisations now understand that sustainability must be made a priority when it comes to devising their overall strategy.

However, companies are often left in the dark as to how best to report on their ESG credentials in a way that’s impactful and means something to shareholders and other stakeholders. It’s clear that what’s needed is a uniform set of standards for measurement and reporting, just as there is for financial performance. This is particularly prevalent in the Accounting sector, where calls are increasingly being made to introduce universal and transparent ESG standards.

However, the world of sustainability reporting is a confusing and often disparate mass of names and frameworks. They include the Climate Disclosure Standards Board (CDSB), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).

The good news is that a forerunner has emerged that promises to offer a single source of truth when it comes to ESG reporting. It is called the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB). The ISSB will do for sustainability reporting what the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) does for financial reporting. That is, develop standards for companies to report their performance to investors. Both will be under the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation umbrella.

Where did the new framework originate and what exactly is it?

Created at 2021’s COP26, ISSB will provide a global baseline for high-quality sustainability reporting that supports the work being done in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the European Union (EU)’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).

The ISSB is focused on ‘single materiality’ or the ESG information that drives valuation and matters most to investors. This is also the focus of the SEC and so the mandates are consistent. In contrast, the CSRD has a broader ‘double materiality’ mandate, which means it will cover information of interest to stakeholders, even if it is not of interest to investors. Linking the two is the concept of ‘dynamic materiality’, meaning that more light can be shed on ESG issues – such as climate change – moving forwards.

The ideal outcome is that ISSB becomes a global standard which integrates the work of all previous standards and frameworks focused on investor needs. Ideally, the SEC and EU can use its standards. The EU can then top these standards up with those covering double materiality. As dynamic materiality makes these relevant to investors, the ISSB can then take over responsibility for the standard setting process.

How can ISSB success be achieved?

The corporate community has a key role to play in ensuring the success of the ISSB. Investors are increasingly demanding information on a company of interest’s sustainability performance. At the same time, companies are increasingly being accused of greenwashing their sustainability reporting by making it appear more environmentally sound than it is.

Having standards, with proper audits, addresses both issues. That said, it’s important to note that standards aren’t targets for issues like carbon emissions or diversity and inclusion. Rather, they provide credible information on the reporting done by a company on its progress in achieving whatever targets it decides to set, if any.

While ensuring that ISSB is a success, companies can also take steps to secure their own long-term viability. The first way is to participate in the standard setting process. As with financial standard setting, exposure drafts for proposed standards will be published in the public domain. Companies need to join investors in providing their input, including constructive critiques. If a company has an opportunity to participate in any advisory councils and working groups or share its views in comment letters, it should make the effort to do so.

The second approach is to proactively adopt these standards. There will be an inevitable lag between when the standards are published and the country in which the company is headquartered making them mandatory. However, those who wait will likely lose out.

As some companies quickly adopt ISSB’s standards, investor pressure will mount for others to follow suit so they can compare companies’ performance and do their own analysis. Failure to report won’t give a company the benefit of the doubt. Rather, investors will likely assume the worst, all to the possible detriment of the company’s stock price.

Ultimately, the ISSB will make life better for any company which cares about having a sustainable, long-term corporate strategy. Therefore, companies should give their full support to make these standards the best and most accurate they can be.

​“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”

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:
Calling
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– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

Here at Audit International this week, we are are all talking about the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors dropping their ‘Risk in Focus 2023’ report. The report compiles the results of 9 in-depth interviews, 4 round table events with 39 participants, and responses from 834 Chief Audit Executives (CAE)’s from across 15 European countries. In a nutshell, the report has some solid contributors, meaning, the top 10 areas which are concerning other CAE’s, might be worth you thinking about also – especially as you prepare your 2023 annual plan.

The Risk in Focus 2023 report has had a great refresh and shows the movement of each of the risks over the years. This year’s report shows 15 categories worth consideration:

– Mergers and acquisitions

– Health, safety and security

– Communications, reputation and stakeholder relationships

– Fraud, bribery and the criminal exploitation of disruption

– Organisational culture

– Organisational governance and corporate reporting

– Financial, liquidity and insolvency risks

– Supply chain, outsourcing and ‘nth’ party risk

– Business continuity, crisis management and disasters response

– Climate change and environmental sustainability

– Digital disruption, new technology and AI

– Changes in laws and regulations

– Macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty

– Human capital, diversity and talent management

– Cybersecurity and data security

The report finds that the greatest movers, in terms of focus / attention given to this particular topic by CAE’s, found the following four categories had the most increased attention and focus since 2020:

– Macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty

– Human capital, diversity and talent management

– Supply chain, outsourcing and ‘nth’ party risk

– Climate change and environmental sustainability

This years report also highlights the impact the war in Ukraine has had on many of the businesses and risks highlighted in the report.

For each of the risks, the report provides suggestions on how Internal Audit can help the organisation.

“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
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– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”

A recent study revealed that 82% of finance and business leaders must comply with sustainability requirements or ESG regulations. Even without mandatory regulatory standards in place, Audit International would bet their bottom dollar that more companies would voluntarily take on sustainability initiatives and thus, produce ESG reports.

Why? Because more stakeholders are looking.

The number of parties with vested interests in ESG performance has dramatically increased. The tendency is to think of investors as the sole consumer, judge, and jury of ESG reports, but that’s changing, especially as other stakeholders find themselves subject to ESG expectations.

So, who’s really looking at your ESG reports? And why do they care?

Investors
Let’s start with the obvious: investors! Today’s investors want to ensure their money supports organizations that align with their values. Increasingly, those values are moving further and further away from brown stocks. Investors are leaning away from companies that might risk damaging the environment, operate with inequities, or are vulnerable to corruption.

While sustainable investing is value-based for many investors, it’s also the safer, more lucrative investment in many cases.

A study by Nordea Equity Research reported that, over three years, companies with high ESG ratings outperformed the lowest-rated companies by as much as 40%.

A Bank of America Merrill Lynch study found that firms with a healthier ESG record yielded higher three-year returns. They were also more likely to become high-quality stocks, less likely to experience significant price drops, and less likely to go bankrupt.

All this to say, an ESG score isn’t just a number. It indicates to investors that your company is a proactive, forward-thinking entity that will satisfy the investor’s need for ROI and their conscience.

Internal stakeholders
Many stakeholders within a business can benefit from ESG performance data.

For example:

Sales and marketing can use ESG data to showcase a company’s sustainability performance in their efforts to entice new customers.
IR and PR teams can tout ESG successes to improve the company’s reputation.
HR reps can use social data to attract talent.
Finance teams and chief executives can use ESG insights to improve profitability, contain costs, identify new business opportunities, and recognize areas of investment and divestment when ESG data is connected to financial performance.
Organizations can put ESG performance data to work in many ways. Regarding business value, ESG reports can give every department leverage in furthering the growth and goodwill towards an organization.

ESG scoring bodies
A good ESG score is a golden ticket to a favorable ESG reputation. To receive one, you’ll have to complete surveys or create reports designed by third-party providers, who then calculate ESG scores based on the metrics and ESG performance you reported. Like a credit score or a bond rating, an ESG score demonstrates your company’s ability to meet its ESG commitments, performance, and risk exposure.

Notable ESG scoring organizations are Bloomberg ESG Data Services, Sustainalytics, ESG Risk Ratings, JUST Capital, MSCI, Refinitiv, Dow Jones Sustainability Index Family, and RepRisk.

Banks and financial institutions
Banks, capital markets, and wealth managers are moving towards ESG agendas. This is not just an ethical move but one of demand, risk, and reward.

In terms of demand, millennials lean significantly towards sustainable investments. A survey by EY found that millennials are twice as likely to invest in a fund or stock if social responsibility is a component of the value creation narrative. (Might I remind you millennials are the demographic soon to be society’s primary wealth holders.)

In terms of risk, the liability to banks is two-fold. First, banks are subject to the same sustainability scrutiny as other businesses — customers want to bank with sustainably responsible banks. And second, banks face similar challenges to investors: lending to companies that aren’t sustainable could also pose threats to their business. Will a coal mine be able to repay its debts when sustainable alternatives take over? While banks might not be in this scenario just yet, in the future, it’s possible that businesses could see requests for funding denied if they don’t prove to be sustainable enough.

In terms of reward, again, we see companies with strong ESG performing better than those with weak ESG. An analysis completed by global investment manager BlackRock found that up to 88% of sustainable funds outperformed their non-sustainable counterparts between January 1, 2020, and April 30, 2020. Why would a wealth manager allocate funds to an unsustainable stock when a more sustainable and equally (if not more) profitable alternative exists? Why choose to lose/win when you could choose to win/win?

Regulators
Incoming! A stampede of regulations is making its way into the ESG reporting arena. Two regulations of note are:

The EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD)

In February 2022, the European Commission published a draft of the CSDD. If passed, the CSDD would require companies to disclose the impacts of their operations on human rights and the environment.

The US’s new climate-related disclosures

In March 2022, the SEC proposed expansive new climate-related disclosures related to greenhouse gas emissions, climate risks, transition plans, and governance.

Sullivan and Cromwell LLP has a great round-up of the latest (up to May 2022) ESG regulatory advancements here. The bottom line: ESG is being written into everything from litigation to financial institutions, disclosure and governance, and law. While your particular flavor of ESG regulation will be subject to your jurisdiction and industry, you can bet on increased regulatory scrutiny coming your way soon.

Consumers
B2C companies find themselves with a consumer who cares about their product, how it’s made, and who’s making it. Recent PWC research found that:

Consumers aged 17 – 38 years are almost twice as likely to consider ESG issues when making purchasing decisions than others.
Over half of consumers surveyed said that a company’s purpose and values played a role in their purchasing decisions.
49% of consumers and 66% of millennials use the internet to learn more about a company’s ESG practices before buying a product or service.
From this, we can conclude a few things. The future of the sales will be dependent on ESG performance. And consumers aren’t satisfied with marketing promises — they want the ESG evidence, and your reports will be front in center of their investigations.

Everyone’s looking at ESG
Don’t make stakeholders struggle to seek out your ESG performance. By using a corporate performance management approach to ESG reporting, you can tell your sustainability story, disclose according to multiple new and evolving frameworks, and connect financial outcomes, operational activities, and ESG performance to ensure sustainability is always tied to doing good for the earth, people, and your bottom line.

“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”