The future of Internal Audit: top trends to prepare for

7 mins

The working world is very different compared to two years ago. Business priorities have shif...

The working world is very different compared to two years ago. Business priorities have shifted, technology has evolved, creating new challenges and opportunities. Those adjustments bring with them new fields, challenges and specialities for auditors to navigate. For those looking to progress their career in internal audit, now is the time to look to the future and identify how you can position yourself to succeed.

Which brings the question: what can you do to increase your value within the audit job market?

The answer is by capitalising on and preparing for future trends and changes within the industry.

Here are our top five trends to watch out for!

1) Data Analytics

The transformative capabilities of Data Analytics bring substantial benefits to Internal Audit teams. The wealth of data at your fingertips can be used to identify and monitor risks and opportunities, but it’s not yet been fully embraced.

A change is coming, though. Reports have shown that Data Engineering, including Analytics, is one of the fastest growing areas of technology with a growth of over 88.3% in job listings.

That can be seen with several big banks investing heavily in specialist teams to embed Data Analytics right at the heart of their Audit function. It’s only a matter of time until other organisations follow suit. Data Analytics can be taken even further with automation, allowing Internal Audit teams to gather more high-quality data and be alerted to changes immediately. Resulting in annual risk assessments that can be updated and populated automatically and data populations that are more efficient with a higher level of accuracy. Meaning Internal Audit teams can process more data while still continually monitoring a wider data selection.

This is only the start for Data Analytics, and it’s an area that will rapidly grow in importance over the coming years. That’s why it’s critical that you start to develop skills in this area now. Not only will it make you more employable in the short-term, but it’ll put you one step ahead of the curve. Skills to invest in are learning SQL, R, scripting languages like Python and learning data visualisation tools such as Tableau and PowerBI. To really make an impression, make sure you understand how Data Analytics intersects with AI and Meta Language to harness the power of automation.

This trend is all about knowledge of and digesting new methods and technologies, it’s not something that can be done overnight. Just make sure you don’t get left behind.


2) Emerging Tech

Technology moves at an incredibly fast pace. It’s only in the last 10 years that we’ve seen augmented reality, 3D printing, and cloud computing become mainstream. Many Internal Audit teams are now comfortable with technology that allow them to work from outside the office, but business decisions are starting to include emerging technologies – AI, ML and Cloud (like GCP, Azure, AWS) are all examples of technologies on the rise.

Internal auditors need to understand these technologies to be able to accurately assess the risks of bringing them into the organisation. But right now, not all auditors have that knowledge.

With technology embedded in all areas of a modern business, particularly in the case of IT Auditing, being ahead of the curve when it comes to knowledge and understanding of emerging tech will strengthen your position in the market.


3) Cybersecurity

68% of business leaders feel the threat of Cybersecurity is increasing. That means Cybersecurity is topping priority lists for businesses, and many have begun to embed it in their overarching business strategy. It’s also a key growth area for Internal Audit. Auditors must be able to assess emerging threats, technology and regulatory changes and third-party risks to protect the organisation’s assets.

Recently, we’ve seen a number of well-known businesses come under fire for security breaches. Equifax, T-Mobile, WhatsApp, and Capital One all faced fines in the millions for Cybersecurity breaches. Financial Services businesses are at an increased risk of being targeted due to the sensitive nature of their data. When you combine the increased risk with the need to adhere to strict regulations, this is one area where Cybersecurity audit is essential.

That takes a specific knowledge base of certifications such as CISSP, CISSA, CompTIA PenTest+, CEH, Security+ (Plus) Certification - CompTIA, coding/scripting skills, knowledge of cloud security, firewalls and networks, etc., which, as it stands currently, isn’t that common. Taking time to gain certifications and qualifications, even at degree level, in these areas will mark you out as someone with a detailed understanding of, and passion for, Cybersecurity.

That means that finding a competent, experienced Cybersecurity auditor is difficult. Between 2013 and 2021, there’s been a 350% growth in unfilled positions in the field, and that isn’t slowing down. If you can show the right level of skill, knowledge and interest in Cybersecurity as an Internal Auditor, that’ll make you a valuable asset to any business.


4) Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

The business world is changing, and as a result so are stakeholder expectations. It’s not just about the bottom line anymore, instead there’s an expectation and, in some cases, a regulatory mandate to commit to environmental, social and governance change.

ESG can be difficult to monitor and evaluate, which is where Internal Audit comes in. ESG risk and impact can be built into audit plans to provide updates and monitoring for strategic purposes. Taking a wider view, internal auditors can also play a pivotal role in considering ESG strategy, risk and opportunities which may impact top level business decisions.

Certifications in ESG investing and analysis are a way to develop your curiosity about ESG and stand out from the crowd. That knowledge combined with a sharp analytical mind could create new opportunities for you in this field.


5) X-Factor

What’s your Internal Audit speciality? If you don’t have one, then that’s where you should look to upskill. In such a competitive field, you need to have a specialism in addition to broad generalist knowledge to stand out - particularly if you’re looking to work in an area such as IT Audit. You need an X-Factor - an area that you have extensive knowledge auditing within. This experience could include but isn’t limited to: Cloud, AI, SAP/Oracle, Cybersecurity, or specific industry knowledge, such as Investment Banking or Manufacturing.

Niching is also becoming increasingly common in Business Audit with verticals dedicated to one specific audit area, product expertise or a high level of awareness of a particular sector – i.e. Logistics. Banking would include specifics or knowledge of particular asset classes.

Gaining a breadth of experience in your early career is essential, but past Associate stage, you need to start committing to a niche and building your knowledge and experience in that area to stand out.


How to upskill as an Internal Auditor?

The key to upskilling in any of these areas is exposure. It’s putting your hand up and jumping on any chance you get to be involved - whether that’s working on a project directly, sitting in on meetings or doing research in your own time.

Going above and beyond is expected in this field, upskilling is about demonstrating an attitude and an appetite for knowledge and committing to becoming an expert in that area.

One thing is clear about the future of Internal Audit, there’s still so much to learn. New technologies, new areas of business, new specialities. It’s an exciting time and one that you can absolutely make the most of.

Building a career in Internal Audit requires constant development and learning, but with the right attitude and determination, your future is up for grabs.

With demand outstripping supply, we’re always looking to talk to driven candidates who are serious about pushing their career forward. If you’re ready to make the move, or you want to see what your options are then get in touch with our team of experts, or have a look at our latest jobs.

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