CA ad campaign: Decisions Matter

Got an email last week about an update to the Decisions Matter ad campaign the CICA has been running for the designation:

The Decisions Matter ad campaign is aimed at shifting the traditional perception of the CA designation and promoting CAs as business leaders and key decision-makers in every organization. The campaign is very different from what we’ve done in the past. It is more assertive in establishing CAs as the leading business professionals and, in its originality, has been specifically designed to break through the media clutter.

I like the direction in which this strategy is taking us. For one, it is vocation agnostic, in that it doesn’t focus on CAs in public practice more than those in industry. And I like the attention that “decisions” are receiving, but I think that execution needs to be emphasized as well. Making the right decision is great, but acting on it is critical.

As a CA you have an important role to play in supporting this campaign. You can promote the CAs’ reputation as business leaders with a few simple steps:

  • Include your CA designation on business cards and other communications;
  • Ensure your professional network knows you are a CA. This includes the organizations you volunteer with;
  • When making presentations, discuss how your CA training has powered your achievements;
  • In interviews, introduce yourself as a CA; and
  • Talk about the Decisions Matter campaign with your family, friends and business contacts.

No mention of starting a blog and establishing your online brand in concert with the CA designation, but you can’t win ’em all I guess. If there’s one area that the CICA has thus far completely ignored it’s the social media space. Excuse me though, it’s time to ring the family and discuss this campaign with them, that’ll really promote our reputation!

My recommendation is to follow up the Decisions Matter campaign with something more focused on executing great ideas/decisions. Advising is valuable, deciding is important, but executing is key. What do you think of the campaign’s message and how it’s positioning CAs?

Enterprise risk audit planning

Earlier this week I watched a webinar put on by the Audit Director Roundtable, a great resource for internal auditors, titled Enterprise Risk Audit Planning.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen this:

@neilmcintyre: IT problems for Audit Director Roundtable delay the start of the Enterprise Risk Audit Planning webinar

The problem was that the large group attempting to log in to the presentation were jamming the conferencing phone system. It was sorted out within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time. Good problem to have, really.

I was introduced to ADR when I joined the world of internal audit in May 2008 and have been taking advantage of the site’s features ever since, such as case studies, internal control questionnaire (ICQ) templates, audit department benchmarking tools and example audit work plans.

Today’s webinar was valuable to me because it focused on how five companies’ internal audit groups are dealing with the challenge of providing assurance over strategic risk. This is a topic that I have championed in my capacity as an internal auditor, and the companies in the webinar were actually walking the walk.

Some of the highlights:

  • One group enabled management to better identify and assess complete risk information by developing a tool that required them to drill down from higher level risks to their lower level components. What I liked in particular about the tool was that it discouraged the tendency to choose medium likelihood and medium impact (what they called “midpointing” although I’d never heard the term) by making those assessments lead to a “signficant” rating.
  • Another group credited management for its efforts in identifying processes which were well-controlled versus those that were less well-controlled, by tailoring the assurance strategy to the former. Simply the act of identifying a poorly-controlled process would spur management to implement the necessary controls, at which point the process would migrate to the well-controlled side.
  • Yet another group maps the principal risks identified at a high level to each applicable business process to ensure adequate coverage. Internal audit focuses on the processes involved in executing on the strategic priorities, to provide assurance that those risks are well-controlled.

I enjoyed the webinar because it took what can be a challenging theoretical problem and showed examples where leading internal audit groups are concretely addressing the concerns of management over the key risks driving the performance of the business.

How are you implementing practices like these to provide assurance over the risks that primarily drive enterprise value?

E&Y: Internal Audit should drive strategy

BusinessDay, a South African business news website, published a recent article referencing an E&Y study involving “more than 100 industry analysts from more than 20 disciplines”:

Organisations need to break out of the compliance cocoon and evolve into a fully fledged leadership role that delivers real value to the business. In the current economic climate, the biggest risk for most companies is not a failure to meet compliance requirements, but a failure to meet strategic targets.

The study also assessed last year’s top 10 business risks. In it, the analysts ranked the aftershocks of the credit crunch and the deepening global recession as the most important business risks, displacing regulation and compliance from the top spot.

Still more evidence that the Internal Audit profession demands an expanding skill set and well-rounded people with experience in more varied aspects of business. Auditors are going to have to continue to push themselves outside of their comfort zone in order to provide the greater value that shareholders require of the function.

How does your IA department stack up?

Audit committees recognize IT risks should be a focus

Dan Meyer at Tick Marks has brought my attention to a KPMG survey that reports audit committees are becoming more concerned about IT risks on financial reporting.

90% believed that IT oversight deserved more time at audit committee meetings. By constrast, 80% of committee members were satisfied with audit committee oversight of management judgments and estimates and 60% felt that committees were spending sufficient time on these issues.

Good to see audit committees are looking into this area with greater scrutiny. IT is often an area where firms of all sizes could benefit from increased focus and constantly thinking of ways to improve their controls and processes.

But what about the 20% that is satisfied with audit committee oversight of management judgments and estimates, but do not believe sufficient time is being spent on the issue? How can you feel an area needs more time and yet be satisfied with the oversight? This is why looking at surveys is fun.

“The ACI survey findings demonstrate a huge gap between the importance that audit committees place on IT risk and how much time they spend focused on it during their already busy meetings,” Smith said. “Since audit committees generally have only basic IT experience, there may be a reluctance to invite chief information officers and chief technology officers to their meetings, in part, because there is a lack of common vocabulary.”

Audit committees need to have at least one member who has a high level of knowledge in IT as it relates to financial reporting. There is no excuse for lacking someone with a good grasp on the IT risks the organization faces. And CIOs and CTOs aren’t enough – CFOs need to have a more than basic understanding, and even lower down in the accounting department.

I’m really pleased that the CICA has been so proactive towards training CAs on this topic. IT is one of the six topics covered in the professional exam process. (The others are audit/assurance, performance measurement, tax, finance, and organizational effectiveness, control and risk management.) Clearly there is some overlap between the last competency and IT.

An in-depth discussion of the six CA competencies is published by the Institute and available here (pdf).

The CA Advantage: Marketing the profession

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Canada has recently launched a new ad campaign extolling the virtues of the designation. The campaign shows CAs joining various sports teams and helping the team. The message: CAs can complement your business’ existing expertise.

Here’s the copy from one of the print ads:

Sometimes even great teams need more skill and more ability. That’s what you get with Chartered Accountants. CAs bring superior financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight and leadership to become an integral part of the team. Give your team an edge. The CA advantage.

Hmm. Sounds similar to how the CMA designation is promoted. Certified Management Accountant is a competing designation here in Canada. Direct from CMA Canada’s website:

CMAs are leading strategic financial management professionals who integrate accounting expertise with advanced management skills to achieve business success.

So it appears both professional bodies have identified the primary area of growth for accountants being strategic business/financial expertise services. But is there room (and enough work) for both designations? Are we destined for more merger talks in the future?