Thursday, 26 July 2012
Most internal audit functions have room for improvement survey shows
Eighty per cent of chief audit executives (CAEs) believe their organisations' internal audit function has room for improvement, and 75% say that strong risk management has a positive impact on long-term earnings performance, according to a survey by Ernst & Young.
Three quarters of the 695 CAEs and c-suite executives surveyed also said the internal audit function has a positive impact on their organisations' overall risk management efforts.
The survey finds that the key priorities of CAEs and other stakeholders have ‘clearly shifted’ from compliance and financial controls to risk coverage and business relevance.
Improving the risk assessment process and enhancing the ability to monitor emerging risks, is high on their agenda.
In order to achieve such objectives internal audit functions need to align their strategy to that of the overarching organisational strategy, said Ernst & Young.
“Internal audit can use the organisation’s overarching strategy to identify the risks that matter most in the context of the organisation’s risk appetite. Elements of the organisational strategy will vary by industry and are very specific to the business but to remain relevant, internal audit needs to use risk assessments based on the organisation’s strategic objectives,” said Alison Kay, Ernst & Young UK & Ireland Risk Leader.
However, 61% of respondents reported that they had no documented mandate to achieve this alignment.
Improving the risk assessment process is the number one priority of CAEs and other c-suite executives, according to the survey.
“Identifying risks that are truly significant to the business is the first step to effective risk management and monitoring. Today’s internal audit functions are focused on enterprise-wide risk coverage, leadership engagement and direct linkage to strategy to increase the relevance of the risk assessment,” said Ernst & Young.
As the role of the internal auditor evolves and stakeholder expectations rise, internal audit functions increasingly require competencies that exceed the more traditional technical skills, such as the ability to team with management and business units on relevant business issues, continued the advisory firm.
“With the right internal audit-focused strategy in place, internal audit can add value to the business by becoming strategic advisors, identifying efficiencies across the enterprise, supporting key business initiatives and quantifying internal audit’s return on investment. The future of internal audit is not on the horizon. It’s here and internal audit functions need to act now to remain relevant to the business, or be left behind,” concluded Ms Kay.