KPMG and Forbes recently surveyed more than 400 Chief Financial Officers and Audit Committee Chairs on a host of issues regarding the performance, focus, value and future of Internal Audit (IA) functions at their organisations. The findings call attention to a "value gap" between what Audit Committee Chairs and CFOs identify as priorities and what they are receiving from their IA functions.
The subject of value is one that is widely mentioned throughout business topics and arenas, but is often discussed in abstract. In order to determine how to make value real, particularly as a function of IA, it’s worthwhile to examine what IA functions are providing companies versus what the company would find valuable. The biggest gaps in the findings were related to risk and sustainable profit generation. A surprisingly low percentage of those polled currently receive – as a component of their IA function – risk assessment and risk management services, or informed perspectives on risk, but when asked what insights they would most like to start receiving, these insights into risk were the highest.
In general, ground-level risk assessment as a function of IA is agreed to be, at best, adequate. But, when it comes to more comprehensive detection and response to emerging risks, only one in ten respondents believe that this is addressed satisfactorily. IA needs to be more proactive in identifying and mitigating risk, not just assessing the controls already in place.
As for the existing desire for a move toward a technology-enabled approach when asked about the key skills needed in IA, the survey reflected that technology (62 percent) is second only to communication (67 percent) in importance, while critical thinking and judgment came in third (52 percent). It stands to reason, then, that a solid technology platform with the propensity for advanced, enterprise-wide data and analytics (D&A) and a progressive feedback mechanism would make for a distinctly efficient internal audit function.
What makes an Internal Audit function worth a company's while? It's that matter of value. An effective Internal Audit function can not only magnify what the company already knows, but present new findings, offer new perspectives and provide new ways of gleaning such insights.