As I’m sure you know, there is only so much midnight oil one can burn.
If you are a finance professional who has had her fair share of all-nighters working for clients at a public accountancy firm and wish to settle down now, internal audit can be a good career path for you. There are many advantages for a working mom serving as an internal auditor for a single employer compared to serving as an external auditor for many clients. Let’s discuss those advantages so you can decide if you’d like to make the switch to internal auditing.
The Definition of Internal Audit
The internal audit function basically seeks to improve an organization’s processes through risk management and the identification of potential system weaknesses. Furthermore, internal auditors aim to enhance regulatory compliance and reduce the likelihood of deficiencies occurring in internal control. Therefore, you can add value to an organization by strengthening its controls.
The Internal Audit Career Compared the External Audit Career
Life as an external auditor can be really hectic. It usually involves long hours, high-pressure, and a race to meet tough deadlines. During articleship and/or training, you’ll gain exposure to many external audit assignments. Therefore, you have to deal with a lot of stress and little opportunity for flexible work arrangements. And, you’ll soon find that this lack of flexibility is not conducive to raising children. For example, if your child fell sick on the day the partner was expecting to initial your client’s financial statements, you would be in a real bind. On the other hand, internal audit professionals have a much better work-life balance. So, being there for your kids wouldn’t be so hard in this position.
The Scope of Internal Audit as a Career
Internal auditors are under the payroll of the organizations they are auditing. For this reason, they are not as independent as external auditors. Additionally, the scope of an internal auditor’s responsibilities is not restricted to just the audit of financial statements. Non-financial areas like building audit, security audit, IT audit, etc., are also roles that fall within their ambit. Thus, you can experience a lot of diverse exposure as an internal auditor, since your typical day at work will involve understanding systems and finding areas of improvement. Getting access to internal documents is also not that big of a deal.
Pre-requisites for a Career in Internal Audit
Good news: if you have a background in external audit at an accountancy firm, you already have a great foundation for making the switch to a career in internal audit. Additionally, an accounting or finance degree and a professional accounting certification like the Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), etc. also supply a solid start. What’s more, becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) can further equip you with customized skills for an internal audit role. And finally, holding other professional credentials like the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which provides experience in financial forensics, or the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), which distinguishes you as an information systems expert, can also prepare you for specialized internal audit sub-roles.
Internal Audit Reporting
Internal auditors make an internal audit plan for a given area of their organization. Then, they typically report their findings to the board audit committee via the Chief Internal Auditor/ head of internal audit. So, because you are not always looking at financial data, the work is not as monotonous as that of external audit. However, you might need to complete a lot of research and testing in order to reach conclusions. Moreover, you need to have good people skills to effectively extract the information you require from other employees.
Internal Auditors in the Eyes of Other Departments
Most people don’t like to have their mistakes pointed out to them. So, in this new role, you better be ready to smoothe some ruffled feathers. As an internal auditor, it will be part of your job to find weaknesses in existing systems. And so, in the past, other departments within an organization usually saw internal auditors as the police. For this reason, internal auditors have had to deal with some hostility. But nowadays, people have become more aware of the value-add an effective internal audit function can bring. Furthermore, finding and correcting a mistake internally produces less embarrassment and potential financial loss than being exposed in a public scandal.
Internal Audit as a Career for Working Moms
A career as an external auditor in a service organization just isn’t very flexible. You must manage multiple clients and often have to travel. What’s more, June and December are the busiest times for external auditors. So, when your child does have school during these months, you can’t easily opt to work from home. Nor can you go on unplanned leaves. Flex-timing arrangements are also difficult because of the need to match your client’s schedule.
On the other hand, internal audit gives you more opportunities to plan your workday in advance. Additionally, if you plan your work well, you won’t often need to put in extra hours. You may have to travel sometimes, especially if your organization has multiple offices, but you will receive prior notice. And, you won’t have as many strict deadlines to meet unless you’re working for a listed company and have to present your internal audit findings in audit committee meetings. Finally, as there are no confidentiality/trust issues, telecommuting may be easier to manage with easy access to information.
Internal Audit as Your Career
If you are tired of always having to put the client first and sacrifice your personal time due to your client-facing role, you may find that becoming an internal auditor is the career move for you. Internal audit has good career advancement opportunities and offers a better work-life balance. And, I know this is critical for working moms with young kids in school. What’s more, you can also benefit from the great Certified Internal Auditor salary. Therefore, you should learn more about why and how to become an internal auditor so you can make the switch soon.