Dueling perspectives on internal audit

A guest post by an intern in Internal Audit was recently featured on another accountant’s blog, I Want To Be A CA, and I was first alerted to it by Krupo’s post title bait. The post is not complimentary about internal audit, but the support for its thesis is so flimsy and based on purely anecdotal evidence that it’s impossible to take it seriously. It begins:

I work in internal audit of a large corporation in the Southwestern United States. That’s all I will reveal of my identity for obvious reasons.

The “obvious reasons” are that he’s about to trash every element of this opportunity he’s been given to work at a large corporation in the Southwest US (during a massive recession when people much more experienced than him are losing their jobs, and in one of the hardest hit parts of the country to boot) despite having only two years of university level accounting studies to his credit.

I’m reminded of a recent column by Maureen Dowd on the use of anonymity online:

In this infinite realm of truth-telling, many want to hide. Who are these people prepared to tell you what they think, but not who they are? … Pseudonyms have a noble history… But on the Internet, it’s often less about being constructive and more about being cowardly.

One of the best uses for constructive anonymity is that of the whistleblower. Most companies have set up whistleblower channels by now which allow employees at all levels to safely make public or report to an independent body abuses they have observed at work. The post in question is not an example of constructive anonymity.

With that out of the way:

So you ask yourself, why go into internal audit? Well I’ve been asking myself the same question. I’ve been here almost three months and still have yet to see any meaningfulness in this work. … Granted, without this deterrent could be rampant fraud and waste, etc, but that’s beside the point.

I thought the point was that audit is meaningless. So, factors which make audit worthwhile are beside it? I guess if you ignore the potential for rampant fraud and waste, the job would be basically meaningless. I think it’s safe to assume he’s been so busy mindlessly ticking and tying his POs that he wouldn’t see an opportunity to address waste or fraud if it presented itself.

And with that, I’m reminded of a recent post by Penelope Trunk on creativity:

It’s as misguided to divide the world into creative and non-creative jobs as it is to divide the world into creative and non-creative people. All jobs have opportunities for creativity. Some have more and some have less, but you usually get more opportunities to be creative by demonstrating that you are a creative problem solver over and over again.

IA jobs can be rewarding and meaningful, but oftentimes only as much as you make them. The key point is that the onus is on you to push your job into creative territory. Not at the expense of your required duties, but going above and beyond what’s expected of you. You have to want to make the work meaningful and strive to do so. Especially in an entry-level internship, as this is a great opportunity to show your superiors that you’re a top performer. If you ruffle too many feathers (and the problem here may indeed be the work environment he’s found himself in), you’re back in school before you know it anyway for third year.

Continuing on:

The thing you have to keep in mind with internal audit is that you are working with the same documents, same departments, and same procedures year after year with the rare addition or removal of a department.

This really depends on the type of organization you’re working for. There are companies that own various subsidiaries in related industries that will provide variety. I know in my position I see many different types of businesses that fall under the broad building materials category, including heavy industry, manufacturing and pure distribution/wholesale. Newly acquired companies are a source of variety as well, and there is a smorgasbord of accounting systems in use providing challenge and an opportunity to learn and develop.

Oh, and the other thing about internal audit is you don’t get to travel nearly as much as external auditors, because everything you’re auditing is in the same building. The hours are also a lot more manageable. Nobody here goes over 40 hours a week.

Again, depends on the company. I left public accounting because my current position offered the chance to travel extensively. Since starting the job last May, I’ve worked in Switzerland, Ireland, the US, and Canada. The lion’s share of traveling for me is to the US. I just got back from Phoenix (third time this year), and before that spent three weeks in the Seattle-Tacoma area. (Gorgeous country!)

As far as the hours go, when I’m back in town (which I am for the next three weeks!) it’s pretty accurate to say we work a solid 40 hours only. On weeks where I’m on the road, the days are longer (10 hours usually) and Monday mornings are brutal. Think getting up at 3:30am EDT for a flight and working till 6pm Pacific! The bottom line is that the work that needs to get done, gets done on time no matter how long it takes, and this is generally true no matter where you work.

If you don’t have much of an imagination, enjoy working by yourself a lot, don’t mind monotonous work, have attention to detail, enjoys following instructions, don’t mind doing work that seems pointless (in your mind), and wants a steady paycheck, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Yeah this pretty much sums up the whole snarky episode. I see the proposition of IA a bit differently:

If you have a creative mind, enjoy working in small groups and meeting tons of new people every week, love challenging work, can both devise and follow instructions (and occasionally throw them out the window), don’t mind work that is critically important to the continued growth of your organization, and want a healthy and steady paycheck, good benefits and job security, then I’d say auditing is for you.

Auditing 101: Never extrapolate from a sample of one across a large, heterogeneous population.

One thought on “Dueling perspectives on internal audit”

  1. I knew you’d have an awesome response to that, well written. I like the point about creativity on the job – so true even in my current role too. It’s doubly wonderful when people recognize the assists and ideas you come up with by thinking in an open-minded manner.

    Oh, and wrangling a newly acquired subsidiary into some sort of well-controlled management pattern. It sounds like the intro to a delicious UFE case, as well as a potentially very fun job. :)

Comments are closed.