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From Gatekeeper to Business Partner

The role of an internal auditor has evolved and has become more significant in terms of risk assessment and providing solutions to mitigate issues that the organization faces. This, coupled with technological advancements, have an impact on the skills and knowledge that an internal auditor has to possess to execute his/her role and add value to the business. Hear more from our client, who is the Head of Audit in a Chinese bank, as he shares his thoughts on the latest trends and what he looks out for in candidates.

1. As a Banking & Financial Services leader, what are the key trends that you’ve observed in the industry?

Increasingly, an internal auditor is expected to take on the role of consultant. Instead of just uncovering the problem, an internal auditor also has to provide feasible solutions to address the problem. In addition, he/she has to play an active role in advising the institution (on the systems and controls that need to be put in place) when a new product is introduced or when business development is conducted.

2. What are critical skills you think Banking & Financial Services professionals should arm themselves with?

An internal auditor should have strong presentation skills (both verbal and written), in addition to the necessary technical skills (such as auditing, IT, regulatory and risk management). This would enable them to present and convince different levels of management on the appropriate course of action required. Internal auditors should also have sound judgment to be able to decide which are the ‘critical’ actions that need to be implemented and which are ‘nice to have’.

3. What is your take on the outlook of the industry? Are there specific technologies or developments that those in the industry should take note of?

Investors, as well as other stakeholders, are more and more demanding, and there is a strong demand for internal auditors as regulators. In addition to general knowledge and skills, internal auditors should aim to develop expertise in one or a few areas such as Global Market/Treasury, Asset Management, IT, Credit, AML, etc.

4. There has been significant talk around automation and other technological advancements (i.e. Fintech), and their impact on the industry. How do you see roles evolving in the future?

I think developments in IT are helpful for the field of internal audit. It helps mainly in the selection of audit samples as well as with the initial screening of concerns or problems. However, professional knowledge and judgment are needed in deciding what further course of action is required, and hence this is unlikely to be automated.

5. With rapid technological advancements and overall changes, do you think the onus falls on the employer or employee when it comes to equipping employees with the necessary skills needed to stay ahead of the evolving trends?

Both the employer and employee hold the responsibility. It would be beneficial to their career development if employees can take the initiative and seek their employer’s endorsement to attend courses or acquire skills such as VBA in Excel.

6. What do you look out for in candidates when growing and expanding your team? What is your advice to candidates so that they can stand out from their peers?

In my opinion, technical skills are nice to have. I would prefer candidates who are able to demonstrate that they possess strong presentations skills as well as the ability to work independently and as a team.

7. What is the biggest learning that you’ve taken away during your time as a Banking & Financial Services professional?

The role of an internal auditor has evolved from being a gatekeeper (telling the institution what they can and cannot do) to a management consultant/business partner (one who can protect the institution from the risks it faces and help to develop the business further).

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