A pair of recent white papers by Big 4 firms suggest transformation for the internal audit profession is far from finished. In, fact, some of the biggest changes in store for the profession may still be around the bend.
EY focuses its attention specifically on internal auditors in financial services, where regulators and standard setters issued a bevy of guidance in the wake of the financial crisis to elevate the role of internal audit and better equip the profession to head off trouble in the future. The firm suggests while much progress has been made, much still remains to be done.
The EY paper points out a handful of indicators that big changes are still in store for the profession. Recent regulatory focus on strengthening corporate governance and risk governance at the board level is one such indicator. Regulatory changes continue to drive major changes in prudential and conduct areas as well, EY says. And business models are changing, perhaps giving the strongest indicator of change ahead for internal audit.
“Financial services firms face formidable challenges to redesign, implement. and manage a business model that generates sustainable returns that are acceptable to investors and meet growing supervisory requirements,” EY says. “The scale and pace of business model change requires more fundamental change in internal audit for its work to remain relevant and timely.”
Transformation for internal audit should come in four key areas, EY says—testing frameworks rather than controls, not taking anything as a given, being involved on the front end in decision making, and creating risk-based rather than coverage-based audit plans.
Given changing demands and rising expectations for the profession across all sectors, internal audit would be wise to make better use of data analytics, says PwC in its recent paper. “Internal audit has to move beyond merely using analytics to automate fieldwork and fully integrate analytics capability throughout the audit life cycle,” the firm says.
The paper points out some of the pitfalls companies have experienced as they have sought to increase their use of data analytics. Some companies jump into data analytics without a clear strategy, or without the necessary expertise or outside help, PwC says.
In adopting use of data analytics, some companies fail to recognize the ways in which the corporate culture might derail deeper use of analytics, and some see analytics too much as simply an automation tool or as an add-on to existing audit procedures. The paper provides ideas on how to avoid all those pitfalls, of course.