Professionalism: new ways to add value

For the institute and the internal audit profession to thrive, it is so important that we nourish fresh talent. I was really pleased to see the institute’s Audit and Risk Awards attracting some bright internal audit stars. One of the most memorable categories, the Best Newcomer Award, was won by a budding internal auditor who is just 19 years old. But, of course, a newcomer can be any age and many professionals are drawn to internal audit later in their careers.

For any manager, it pays dividends to recognise those who demonstrate not only exemplary technical skills, but also the dedication, innovation, sound judgment and range of soft skills that will add value to the business in the long term. That’s why we have been working on initiatives to help those new to the profession and to encourage talented people to consider becoming an internal auditor. Following the government’s release of the new apprenticeship levy, we brought together a “trailblazer” group of employers to lead the creation of an internal audit apprenticeship programme. 

By providing a new route into a career in internal audit, we are aiming to tap into a new talent pool, including those with experience in other fields, but without a university degree. An apprenticeship in internal audit will also help to establish the profession as distinct and valuable to UK businesses. We have two apprenticeships in development, an internal audit practitioner standard and an internal audit professional standard. These can be developed only with the support of the profession, so we opened them to consultation last year. Both proposals have now been submitted for approval – check our website for information and next steps. 

As part of our broader policy work on the professional development of internal auditors, we have also undertaken a significant piece of research into the career paths of internal auditors in the public sector. We surveyed 206 people and conducted in-depth interviews with ten. Key takeaways from the research included the fact that many successful auditors had not followed a traditional path; about two-thirds of respondents had no background in accounting, finance or economics. We also found that most internal auditors – nearly 70 per cent – are satisfied with their roles and want to stay in the profession. 

Internal audit has become attractive to those who want to be involved in a wide range of strategic business projects and have direct insight into key management decisions through the assurance they provide. The research found that most internal auditors in the public sector would prefer to continue working for a public-sector organisation, citing work/life balance as a key reason.

Encouragingly, a number of interviewees embraced the idea of an apprenticeship and mentoring scheme as a way to entice more talented people to join the profession.

This article was first published in January 2018.