Internal Audit is a great training ground for business leaders! Myth or reality?
I have worked in Internal Audit recruitment for coming up to 7 years and as part of my job, I’ve met with and worked with lots of recently qualified (ACA, ACCA) candidates working in practice who want to make their 1st step into industry. One of the options people at this level have is to join an Internal Audit & Risk team within a company/sector of interest, and one of the questions I’m frequently asked is ‘’what future career opportunities exist after making such a move’’? Our clients are the ‘who’s who’? of the FTSE100 and FTSE250 and almost all of them will tell you that the answer to this question is ‘’internal audit is a great way to learn about the business, build your network and if you do a good job and impress the right people, you can move into a new and more senior role somewhere else in the business within about 2 to 3 years’’! Coincidentally one of the biggest reasons people chose Internal Audit is the variety of senior level opportunities it can open up to them in other parts of the business.
On the face of it, this is beneficial for both company and candidate. The employee learns the business, adds value and builds their internal reputation and therefore career prospects, and the company creates more leaders in the business who understand the wider business and who are acutely aware of the need for good governance. So the question is ‘’does this happen in reality or is it just a myth to draw people into an under populated candidate pool’’?
To help try and answer this I interviewed a candidate that I placed into internal audit within Bunzl in early 2014 who less than 12 months later moved into a Finance Director role for one of Bunzl’s subsidiaries. 2 years ago Tom Wysocki was an Audit principal at the national audit Office and today he is a Finance Director of a FTSE 250 Company. I talked to Tom recently about is experience and asked him the following questions:
Q Why did you choose Internal Audit as your 1st move into industry?
Q Why do you think you progressed so quickly?
Q What advice would you give to newly qualified ACA/ACCA's?
His responses are below
Why did you chose Internal Audit?
I was doing an external Audit role at the NAO and wanted to get my foot into the door in Industry. I was initially looking at Financial Analysis positions but I found a lot of positions I was looking at were very narrow and didn’t seem to add much value to the business. I knew my next role was going to be a stepping stone to where I wanted to be longer term, but I still wanted a role where I felt could add some sort of value straight away. I felt that whether I was looking at Group Accountant, Analyst or IA roles I did not want my 1st move to be a run of the mill position. I saw the job spec for Bunzl and spoke to Tom and could see that this role offered more. The role did not have clear boundaries, there was a strong track record of developing people and the function was used as a central hub for the whole business to share ideas, and policy’s and best practices.
Why do you think you progressed so quickly?
One of my first assignments was to a new acquisition in a growth region for the business. I went into the Audit projects open minded and tried to speak with as many people as possible. I think it is really important to open the channels of communication and so I got talking to a General Manager about some difficulties he was having with the newly acquired business. I went away from the conversation determined to find him a solution. I came back to him with some proposals that he really liked what I had done and how pro-active I had been. On the basis of this I was seconded over for 2 months and before that finished I was offered the permanent Finance Director position. I think the quick move came about because I was pro-active, made myself very visible to the business and was willing to get my hands dirty in the detail.
What advice would you give to newly qualified candidates?
1/ Research the Manager as much as the company. I have friends that have moved that just took a job because of the company and were blind to the management style and career development potential of the role. I think it is really important to find a Manager who will look out for you and want to develop you.
2/ Find out what the real stories of your predecessors are. Where did people progress to from the role you are interviewing for? Other people can help you with this but it is your responsibility to get this information. Think about what your ultimate goals are and work out whether people who have been in the job before are working towards something similar.
3/ Join a company that is growing or changing. A company on the rise gives far more opportunities in the long term. I think this applies to most business or finance roles but is especially significant for Internal Audit. Internal Audit has exposure to the elements of growth in a business. I got amazing exposure in Internal Audit as I was working with the company’s newest acquisitions in emerging markets. I was at the forefront of what the business was doing, I was speaking to the corporate development team and having regular conversations with the CEO.
Speaking to Tom again reminded me how determined, detail orientated and motivated he was to get the job at Bunzl. He clearly took this attitude into the position and I believe this massively contributed to him progressing into a senior leadership position very quickly.
*You can check out Tom's career on LinkedIn so you can see exactly how he got to where he is today.
If you're wondering what a career in Internal Audit can do for you, come and talk to the consultants at the Audit & Risk Recruitment Company. We've been recruiting people into internal audit for 15 years for all types of company in all the different sectors. We're currently recruiting for roles with zero travel all the way up to 100% travel, so there's something for everyone.
Contact me (in confidence) - Tom@auditandriskrecruitment.com