Posts Tagged “internal auditors”

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”

There is currently a misalignment in the world of Internal Audit. As Richard Chambers and AuditBoard’s 2023 Focus on the Future Report reveals, there are key areas where significant gaps exist between risk levels and planned efforts. The ability to attract and retain top talent, macroeconomic factors and geopolitical uncertainty, and business model disruptions due to the evolving risk landscape were all listed as top concerns for major organizations, yet only 13-20% of businesses have meaningful plans to devote substantial resources to these issues. Internal audit teams need to be ready to identify and address this kind of disconnect to ensure that their organizations are positioned for success in 2023. In this article, Audit International will identify three top internal audit trends, the challenges they present, and how internal audit teams can leverage software solutions to deploy team resources strategically against the most pressing concerns — setting themselves, and their business, up for success.

Trend 1: Velocity of Risk and Technology Change
Teams must continually provide assurance while adapting to evolving risks, digital disruption, and regulatory changes. Today we’re seeing significant contributions from the digital revolution, climate change, and stakeholder expectations, as the speed of decisions, the amount of connectivity, and the availability of data have all increased. Companies are learning that they have to balance pressures regarding what’s coming from governments, investors, and society as a whole. Stakeholders expect companies to act legally and with a conscience, and regulators are focusing on things like climate change, data privacy, and security.

Challenges in this area hit in numerous ways. First, there is an expanded purview required from emerging technologies and related risks. Second, there are repeated shifts to audit scope that put new burdens on teams. Third, there is an increased depth and breadth of data that brings along associated issues — including data reliability, related required team efforts, and resource constraints.

Technology can help audit teams develop solutions for these issues. Audit planning software accelerates risk and change responses from teams. With this preparation, teams can create risk-based audit plans with risk metadata to allow for efficient execution and continuous assurance.

Trend 2: Growing Internal Audit Talent Gap
Staff shortages, changing attitudes towards work, and a pre-existing skills gap are increasing talent risk and influencing how internal audit teams approach their work. Many teams are reporting that they are losing talent and struggling to replace them. Meanwhile, for the remaining team members, expectations are growing. They want to do more, and we need to keep them engaged. We have to support the folks that we have and give them opportunities to work in cybersecurity, sustainability, and other areas of interest.

The challenges created by the talent gap are as expected. Due to greater cost-cutting and efficiency demands often put in place by organizational leadership, teams are being asked to do more with less as headcount may be frozen or cut. There are the aforementioned difficulties retaining people and improving their skills, plus there are increasing specialization and training needs for team members.

A technology solution in this area is software with resource planning capabilities. This can help teams manage, optimize and retain talent by deploying resources more strategically, and it allows teams to improve individual and overall skills, efficiency, and experiences.

Trend 3: Align With the Business Objectives
The highly competitive corporate landscape and economic disruptions are driving the internal audit profession to refocus efforts on improved strategic alignment. Richard Chambers speaks often about auditors needing to become agents of change. When contemplating initiatives like cybersecurity, diversity, equity, inclusion, and third-party risk management, executive teams and audit committees all want better strategic alignment from internal audit teams. Internal audit must understand and embrace stakeholder needs and challenges so that we can better support their strategic initiatives.

The challenge for internal audit teams in this area is aligning audit with business priorities, which isn’t always as simple as that might seem. Plus, there is an increased requirement to validate internal audit resources. We have to start thinking in new ways, provide more value propositions, and be able to deliver more in less time.

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 2023, organizations may face new and expanded cybersecurity and compliance mandates, which could vary from location to location and from one industry to the next. As a result, your organization may be looking to obtain a certification or will need to pass an audit for a specific set of standards or requirements.

While recognition for demonstration compliance or receiving certification is a great reason to celebrate, the process leading up to that is often time-consuming and sometimes dreaded, especially if you must undergo an audit first.

But audits don’t have to be as frustrating as they once were. With the right resources and tools, you can pass your next audit with ease. Here are five tips from Audit International to help:

Know your current program state.
Don’t wait until the audit is underway to find out where you might have gaps or weaknesses. Go ahead and assess your current compliance state so you know what you need to address before your real assessment gets underway. Consider using a cybersecurity compliance platform that automates these assessments for you and look for a platform that gives you real-time compliance scoring, so you’re never caught off-guard if something isn’t functioning as you intended or you’ve overlooked an important control or other security measures.

Document and evidence.
You can do everything correctly and score 100 on your current assessment, but if you don’t have a document repository that puts everything you need right at your fingertips in one place, or if you can’t supply all the necessary proof and evidence an auditor may want, you likely won’t get credit for what you’re doing right. Put away those binders of dusty old printouts you haven’t looked at since your last audit. Instead, use a cybersecurity management platform to track and retain all of your evidence and documentation all in one place for easy, shareable access with your auditors.

Put teamwork to work for you.
Instead of chasing down who’s responsible for which compliance requirement and trying to understand what they’re doing and how well they’re doing it, use a compliance management platform to help you automate task assignments, track progress, send alerts when those tasks are complete, and assign new tasks as they pop up. A platform like Apptega can even externally alert your auditor when your team has completed an evidence request or other necessary task.

Communicate across your organization.
One of the challenges in building a compliance culture is often that program managers speak industry lingo and not the same language that people in different roles within the organization can understand and relate to their day-to-day responsibilities. Instead of scrolling through hundreds, maybe even thousands of rows of data to find what you need for your next compliance conversation, consider using a compliance management platform that has a pre-built library of reports you can quickly draw on for your next engagement, whether that’s your C-suite, an auditor, or your tech team.

Don’t go at it alone.
While you can meet all the requirements on an audit prep checklist, the reality is when you work on a program, it’s easy to overlook issues an outside eye might catch. Before your next audit, go beyond a self-assessment and consider working with an outside compliance consultant to take a closer look at your existing program and help you seek out and address issues before your auditor finds them.

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 are stating the main Risks and Actions companies are putting on their 2023 internal audit plans. The past year concentrated attention and shone a spotlight on the increasing fragility of organizations. With a complex set of risks manifesting simultaneously, audit committees are prioritizing some of the most serious implications resulting from the ongoing war in Europe and a triple squeeze of supply chain, workforce and inflation pressures.

According to data from Gartner’s 2023 Audit Plan Hot Spots report, which identifies the key risks and recommended actions for Audit to benchmark their efforts against in the coming year, 81 percent of Chief Audit Executives polled have cyberthreats on their agenda to cover in audit activities over the next 12-18 months, with an additional 13 percent tentatively planning to do so. Even in a year with a high number of varied and seemingly imminent risks facing organizations, cyberthreats remained an agenda topping item for Audit Committees and senior executives as the drivers of the risk shifted from a generalized focus on inadequate security controls to specific need to prepare for highly sophisticated state-sponsored cyberthreats and new cyber breach disclosure requirements. Even as some risks remain perennial threats, shifting drivers can change the nature of the risk and need for updated mitigation and coverage plans.

Cyberthreats, however, are not the only vulnerability an organization faces in an increasingly fragile world. In developing this year’s report, the need for Audit to support their organizations through rethinking their approach to resilience in the face of growing fragility became evident as a key theme underlying several top organizational risks. These risks are generally under-covered in audit plans for 2023, in some cases less tangible and immediate than the category of risks that have been urgently prioritized as a result of the headline events of this year.

Resilience-related risks are manifesting with real world and high-velocity consequences all the same, and Audit needs to understand the risk indicators, urgency drivers and the right questions to ask the business to ensure that rethinking resiliency is on the agenda in 2023.

Below I review three such risks and strategies for Audit on how to approach them.

Climate Degradation
Nearly six in ten CAEs have no specific plans to provide assurance over climate degradation next year. This in and of itself is a key risk indicator for most organizations, as a failure to refresh business continuity plans related to climate risks puts an organization at higher risk for a key infrastructure failure and related loss of productivity among other risks.

While CAEs generally express limited confidence in their climate coverage plans, rethinking resilience means going beyond sustainability reports and identifying vulnerable assets. Audit departments need to incorporate in their plans the inevitability of increasingly severe weather events and mitigation strategies for the loss of key infrastructure, both their own and that of key third parties, such as suppliers.

Culture
Even more challenging for Audit is culture, traditionally a key source of resilience for many organizations that now is fraying under the weight of new working models (hybrid/remote), social and political polarization and a general lack of connection felt by employees who are reporting witnessed misconduct at rates 30 percent lower than pre-pandemic.

Despite such challenges, only 16 percent of CAEs are revisiting culture in light of shifting sociopolitical expectations of their workforce, investors and the media for next year, and just 10 percent report they are highly confident in providing assurance in this area. Internal Audit needs to push the business on reassessing how employee expectations and engagement are monitored in a hybrid and remote world, while policies related to political and social issues need to be formulated now and not in real time during a crisis.

Organizational Resilience
Ultimately, rethinking resilience means covering organizational resilience as a dedicated risk that is part of the audit coverage plan. Organizational resilience, broadly defined, is an organization’s ability to withstand shocks. This is likely to become ever more important in the face of new and ongoing geopolitical tensions, which can abruptly trigger a set of interconnected but differentiated risks to manifest simultaneously. While refreshing scenario planning and mitigating against change fatigue are necessary steps in this process, building true organizational resilience requires a view into the interconnected risks facing an organization and developing resilience-related initiatives across the enterprise.

With less than half of CAEs definitely planning to cover organizational resilience next year and just 32 percent highly confident in providing assurance specifically on matters of resilience, it’s clear there is more work to do in establishing this as a top audit priority. Chief Audit Executives can regain momentum by launching activities that encourage collaborative discussions between business units on interrelated risks and reviewing plans to address change fatigue within their organizations at a time when events over the past two years have likely dramatically diminished capacity in this area.

While these resilience-related risks feel less tangible and urgent than mitigating against “clear and imminent” dangers like supply chain vulnerabilities and state-sponsored cyberthreats, they are important and increasingly acute risks in their own right. Viewing them through the lens of rethinking what it means to be a truly resilient organization can be a useful framework for starting the right conversations within the Audit Committee and formulating effective coverage in next year’s audit plans.

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 recommend five ‘Under the Radar’ Areas to Audit that May Not Be on the Audit Plan.

As internal auditors, we all have a “spidey sense” of what we should be auditing.

Sure, we should, of course, conduct comprehensive risk assessments that drive our audit plan, and many of the usual suspects will end up on that plan: cybersecurity, regulatory compliance, financial reporting, third-party relationships, and you know the rest.

But there are things, we would strongly profess, that should be audited, even if we aren’t formally auditing them and they never make it to the actual audit plan. Just by being aware—casting that web, if you will—you should constantly informally “audit” a few critical areas.

What might be some of those things we should (lower case) audit, even if we aren’t (upper case) Auditing them? Here’s Audit Internationals take on five:

1
Culture: Are Disconnects, Even if Subtle, Surfacing?

So much has been written and said about doing culture audits and internal audit’s potential role in doing such a review. Perhaps, however, your organization doesn’t support internal audit doing a full-blown culture audit. Does that mean you throw your hands up and do nothing with the topic? Heck, no!

Look, we are among the very few in the organization who have the benefit of both grasping the desired culture and viewing the entire company because of our day-to-day work. So, why not leverage that and tune into what is going on around us and notice the organizational behaviors, actions, and attitudes that are consistent with, as well as (importantly) counter to, the desired culture.

So, what’s an internal auditor to do?

Some caveats, though. First, be sure you completely understand the desired culture, both what is formally stated through things like the organization’s listed core values as well as what is implied in the “how things are done around here” subtleties. The formal and the informal culture are equally important. Then, as you go about your work in various departments and interact with people at all levels of the organization, be cognizant of behaviors, language, demeanor, protocols, and other elements that seem inconsistent with what you expected.

Now, if you witness such imbalances, and you’ll know because it will make you a bit uncomfortable, talk with close colleagues or discuss it amongst your team. If something seems amiss, continue to keep your eyes and ears open and provide your internal audit function leadership with examples of what you are witnessing. If there are culture issues in a particular area of your organization, it is likely manifesting itself in a number of other issues as well. Your internal audit function leadership will guide you on what to do and may provide guidance on the next course of action. Chief audit executives will need to consider when and how to elevate such delicate issues. Yes, it’s a sensitive topic, but something that might be critical to address. Your spidey sense will guide the way.

2
Employee Engagement: Are People Checking Out?

While it has been a topic in the corporate world for more than 20 years, at least since the Gallup Organization and their Q12 employee survey instrument brought it into the lexicon, “employee engagement” has re-emerged these days. By now, we’ve all heard the new buzz phrase “quiet quitting.” While it’s a catchy label that has been slapped on what is, in essence, just disengagement, it’s not to be taken lightly. Employees who have become disengaged in your company’s mission, vision, and values don’t have passion to do their best. This should be deeply problematic to executive leaders and, in turn, to you. It is a significant and costly drain on everything your organization does.

So, what’s an internal auditor to do?

Just like with the culture topic, we, as internal auditors, interact with more of the organization across all levels (along with HR) than most anyone else in the entire organization. Therefore, we have our finger on the pulse when it comes to engagement and its evil twin, disengagement. Do we have a general sense though the course of our internal audit work that people care or if they are they just going through the motions? Sure, we do.

We don’t need to be scientific about it, and we don’t have to call anyone or any function, department, or location out, per se, but if we see that there is a trend developing toward greater levels of disengagement, let it be known. Make it a part of what we absorb about the organization on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Elevate the concerns, whether to HR, department levels, or even the senior management. In other words, don’t ignore it.

3
The Physical Facilities: Are Things in Disrepair?

As much as we may not all be going into a physical office as much anymore, many employees will still spend at least some time in the office or at company facilities. And, the physical state of the office location, branch, facility, or building space is important. Not only can facility disrepair be unhealthy or unsafe, but it can also just negatively affect employee psyche or customer impressions. Pay attention to what things look like and what is the state of the physical environment around you. It may signal deeper problems or an overall neglectful view of the business.

We all have stories about what we’ve witnessed. I remember walking past a locked closet and smelling a damp odor. I could have just ignored it, thought it was just me, or figured that someone else was probably aware of it. Instead, I decided to mention it to the facilities manager of the location. And, lo and behold, behind the rightfully locked door a roof leak had infiltrated the space and it was a wiring closet. It could have been a big problem if it were ignored for any length of time.

So, what’s an internal auditor to do?

Keep your eyes and ears open as you go about your work. Does something seem amiss regarding the physical location? Mention it to someone who could do something about it. What’s the worst that could happen? They tell you “thanks, we are aware of it.” At best, you help address an issue before it gets out of hand. Sometimes we all become blind to our physical surroundings because we’ve just been there for so long. But a fresh set of eyes and ears might just help the organization out and make employees and customers even more appreciative of the physical space they show up to and that the organization spends so much money on. Internal audit can have a unique perspective of noticing what gets unnoticed.

4
The Parking Lot Check: Is Fraud Hiding in Plain Sight?

Closely related to the physical state of the facilities is the state of the employees. Ever see a change in someone’s habits that don’t sync-up with what has gone on in the past, and you wondering “what’s up with that?” Perhaps someone is showing up to the office in a new luxury car, expensive clothes, or talking about some lavish vacation they went on?

Most often, there is a great explanation, and it is none of our business. But, also, any of us who have been around the block a few times will also know that, occasionally, these changed behaviors are clues that something is amiss and that someone may be on the take. You could call this “doing a parking lot audit.” So many frauds and embezzlements have left a trail of these clues as the perpetrator wanted to channel their ill-gotten gains into the fruits of luxury and apparent success. It’s not an outright indicator or fraud, of course, but it might be a red flag to dig deeper, especially if things weren’t adding up already.

So, what’s an internal auditor to do?

Just keep your eyes and ears open, being observant to uncharacteristic behaviors, purchases, and chatter could provide clues to someone who is taking advantage of their position and situation to pilfer from your company. No, don’t go around accusing people of things where you have no proof, of course. But eyes open and be vigilant. And, if you see something, say something to a trusted colleague within your internal audit department. If necessary, elevate it within your department and, if warranted and approved, do some follow-up in a clandestine manner. You may just catch something in its preliminary stages and head it off at the pass, so to speak. Most people steal from the company in small increments, and it escalates from there if they feel they are getting away with it undetected. But, in hindsight, there were usually always clues … perhaps no further away than in the parking lot.

5
Hotline Activity: Is Volume Up, or Has Volume Decreased?

Most internal audit functions have some role in monitoring their organization’s whistleblower hotline for employees, and sometimes also third parties, to file complaints. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often small complaints (that point to bigger problems) go unnoticed. Your internal audit function may have complete ownership of managing what comes though, you may partner with someone else in the organization, such as compliance, human resources, or legal, or you just get things passed to you for review or investigation as needed from one of these organizational partners. Regardless, you need to have some role in monitoring the volume of activity. What types of activity are coming through? Are there recurring issues? What are the trends? It doesn’t take an audit, but it does take awareness. Changes in volume can be very telling, and that could be changes in either direction (increased or decreased volume).

Increases in activity might spell some brewing issues of a more macro sense and, alternatively, decreases in volume may spell a level of distrust in the confidentiality of the hotline or a perceived lack of seriousness with which reported items might be getting addressed.

So, what’s an internal auditor to do?

It doesn’t have to be you, so long as someone in your internal audit function is attuned to the trends, both in terms of volume and types of activity. And, if there are notable changes in the trends, up or down, it might be time for a deeper understanding of what might be going on. This could be a signal of troubles brewing that are inconsistent with the desired culture.
—-
To be clear, internal auditors don’t need a formal audit plan initiative to keep abreast of important developments in the organization. It’s not easy, I know, as the formal audit plan has us busy enough, but a little observation may go a long way. Head up, eyes and ears open, use all your senses and leverage your well-honed intellectual curiosity and professional skepticism. Do some ad-hoc auditing of things you might not be able to (upper case) Audit and don’t necessarily make it to the formal audit plan. The organization will be better for it, and you will enhance your engagement and contributions innumerably.

As popularized in the Spiderman comics of yesteryear and said in more recent movies, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Wield it judiciously!

“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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Here at Audit International, we have seen a significant shift in the way in which environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data has been perceived in recent years. It has gone from being an ‘add-on’ to being a vital opportunity for corporations to boost their competitiveness. As consumers become more discerning about environmental, social, ethical, and responsible business practices, organizations are increasingly starting to realize that reporting ESG data can have significant brand and reputational benefits.

However, this is just the beginning. The value of ESG data extends beyond reporting—when handled properly, it can unlock value for an organization in a variety of ways.

What is ESG and ESG Reporting?
It’s important to note that there is a distinction between ESG and sustainability. The terms are often used interchangeably, but there are important differences. Essentially, sustainability deals with how an organization’s operations impact the environment and society, whereas ESG has more to do with how an organization’s environmental, social, and governance initiatives affect its financial performance.

According to the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), “ESG reporting encompasses both qualitative discussions of topics as well as quantitative metrics used to measure a company’s performance against ESG risks, opportunities, and related strategies.”

How companies can use ESG data to their advantage
When organizations treat ESG reporting as more than a box-ticking exercise to meet regulatory obligations, they stand to reap a number of benefits, as follows:

● Profitability and sustainability: Including ESG data in an extended planning and analysis (xP&A) strategy allows an enterprise to see how that data affects financial and operational data, which is key to making ESG initiatives sustainable and profitable.

● Risk management: Neglecting ESG issues can result in financial or reputational damage. Thus, all organizations should ensure that they incorporate ESG data into their risk management strategies. By voluntarily disclosing this information, they will demonstrate that they are taking sufficient steps to protect themselves and their stakeholders from ESG-related risks.

● Competitive advantage: Focusing on ESG can help an organization gain a better understanding of what matters to its stakeholders while also identifying opportunities. Furthermore, reporting ESG data will help stakeholders compare the organization with its competitors. This works in the organization’s favour if it is outperforming peers on the ESG front.

● Uncovering critical operational drivers for decision-making: ESG data can help an organization see where sustainable changes could improve efficiency and make its business more ethical and equitable. This can greatly enhance the decision-making process.

What are the main challenges to effective ESG Reporting?
ESG reporting is continuously evolving as governments announce new standards that companies need to comply with, as well as a new mandatory International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) standard that is expected to be announced by the end of the year (2022). It also touches every financial process. For these reasons, companies can find the whole ESG journey intimidating.

The following are some of the main obstacles that need to be overcome:

● Several ESG optional frameworks: The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) are some of the more notable ESG frameworks, but there are plenty of others, many of which are specific to certain regions or industries. It can be challenging for companies, especially those operating in multiple countries, to know which ESG standards and frameworks to adhere to. This will all change when the mandatory ISSB standards are announced at the end of 2022.

● Complexity of data management: Whether meeting regulatory requirements or carrying out voluntary disclosures, companies need to be able to collect, translate, and process ESG data. This is a task that is complicated by the fact that the data is often siloed across different IT systems and is often stored in different formats. In addition, sustainability can be hard to quantify.

● Lack of ESG insight to inform decisions: Many organizations have difficulty seeing the connection between ESG data and financial results, especially when captured in spreadsheets, which means they are unable to use the data to improve their bottom line and sustainability initiatives.

“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”

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”

Amidst issues like supply chain complexity, economic uncertainty, and increased digitalization, Audit International are finding many organizations are adding vendors or changing their existing relationships with those they currently conduct business with.

Working remotely has prompted many companies to add cloud vendors. Supply chain backlogs might have prompted your business to switch to local vendors. Or maybe you’ve added marketing agencies or other types of consultants that have flexible capacity, rather than increasing headcount.

These decisions can help businesses adapt to changing conditions and build resilience, but working with vendors may also introduce new risks. While you might feel like you have a handle on issues like in-house data security processes, you need to be sure that vendors also align with your needs in these areas.

Internal audit teams can play an important oversight role when it comes to vendor risk management. While they might not be making specific vendor management decisions, they can still be involved in making sure proper due diligence is followed when selecting vendors. And once vendor relationships are in place, internal audit teams can monitor these arrangements to ensure organizations aren’t opening themselves up to new risks.

What are the top vendor risk management issues?
Working with third parties like software vendors, managed service providers, cleaning companies, etc. can help businesses fill gaps in current capabilities, increase efficiency, and more. Yet, internal audit teams also need to make sure that their organizations are accounting for any and all potential risks:

Cybersecurity: Internal audit teams should review vendors’ cybersecurity practices to assess whether these meet your organization’s expectations, for example, data security controls and remediation capabilities.

Compliance: Third-party vendors can also create compliance risks, such as improperly storing customer data or engaging in illegal business practices. Even if these vendor issues do not lead to legal action against your organization, internal auditors should aim to get ahead of these issues to avoid reputational damage.

ESG: Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scrutiny is increasingly extending into supply chains and can also create reputational risk. Internal auditors will want to assess how vendors align with their own ESG goals. This may in turn lead to implementing additional controls, for example, around data sharing practices so that your organization will be able to verify issues like vendor emissions.

Quality: Don’t automatically assume that vendors will provide the quality you’re expecting, even if they come recommended or are widely known. Internal auditors need to ensure that their organizations still conduct proper due diligence to see whether working with that vendor will provide the quality of work you’re expecting. Managing risk can also include looking at vendor performance controls to see if existing third-party vendors maintain appropriate quality standards.
These are just some of the many critical risks that can come from working with third parties. Keep in mind that vendors may also have their own networks of third parties, which could ultimately affect your organization.

While it might not be possible to know every connection point that your vendors have with other third parties, you would likely want to assess what their own third-party risk management practices look like.

How can internal auditors improve third-party risk management?
Internal auditors shouldn’t be the only ones responsible for vendor risk assessments, but they should be mindful of the aforementioned vendor risk management issues and collaborate with other departments to stay on top of these risks.

For example, internal auditors can collaborate with IT leaders to create a vendor security due diligence checklist. From there, internal audit controls can make sure that this checklist is used across all vendor reviews.

Internal audit leaders can also integrate analytics into audit processes, such as collecting performance metrics on third-party vendors, to assess whether they meet your organization’s quality expectations on an ongoing basis.

Too often, however, adding analytics to audit reports is a manual, labor-intensive process that can create its own risks, like data errors. TeamMate Audit Benchmark found 79% of internal audit teams manually leverage data from other applications.

Audit tools like TeamMate+ can help internal auditors get the third-party data they need through automated API exchanges with other platforms, which makes continuous monitoring of risk more feasible. They can then create automated reports to share insights with other departments to stay on top of third-party risk.

By aligning with these steps and staying on top of evolving vendor management risks, internal audit teams can help their organizations stay safe while getting the most out of their third-party partnerships.

“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
– Switzerland 0041 4350 830 59 or
– US 001 917 508 5615
E-mail:
– info@audit-international.com”