4 Rapid-Fire Takeaways from the IIA International Conference

4 Rapid-Fire Takeaways from the IIA International Conference
July 11, 2019

The Institute of Internal Auditors’ (The IIA) international conference bounces around each year from one exotic locale to another—Dubai, Sydney, Vancouver, and other cities.

This year, they turned stateside and chose sunny Anaheim, Calif., as the home for the event. With more than 2,000 attendees from 100+ countries, IIA International is a magnet for the hottest, most pressing topics for risk and compliance professionals. With the 2019 conference wrapped up, internal auditors are heading home with notebooks full of tactics ready to implement with their teams.

If you didn’t get a chance to go, here are four takeaways from this year’s IIA International Conference.

1. Don’t overlook the human aspect

There’s a fascinating trend—and vitally important one, in my opinion—that is bubbling up more frequently at risk and compliance conferences: topics related to professional development. In a profession that’s changing, it is more important than ever to not only be a good auditor, but to be a consummate professional.

One of the more engaging sessions I attended, "An Interactive Look at Emerging Leaders," featured a question-and-answer conversation with three impressive internal audit professionals in the early stages of their careers.

The panelists, Robin Brown, Grace Wu, and Valentina Kostenyuk, fielded questions from the audience about skills for audit professionals, leadership, and career growth. The key for millennials looking to excel in their careers, the three agree, is about never being idle. Always look for opportunities to grow, and find people who will be your champion.

What you need to know: It’s important to consider the human aspect of internal audit. Auditors are just like everyone else. And, to succeed at work, they have to succeed as people.

2. Cybersecurity is taking center stage

“Measuring Technology Success: Connecting Risk, Governance, and Metrics,” presented an incredible stat: cybersecurity threats and technology disruption are fast becoming two of the greatest threats to companies, according to a poll of executives. These threats were essentially tiny blips on the radar just a few years back. Now, cyberattacks are hitting huge financial entities and dragging internal audit practitioners down in their wake.

Even Wolters Kluwer, one of the largest vendors of financial and compliance software, fell victim to a malware attack that left it dormant for the better part of a week.

Richard Chambers, president of The IIA, and Anton van Wyk, partner and director at PwC, brought this conversation to the limelight in their session, “Auditing at the Speed of Risk: Internal Audit in an Era of Disruption.” To stay agile in light of omnipresent cybersecurity risk, Chambers and van Wyk argue that speed is vital—it is more important than ever for internal audit teams to notice, flag, and address cybersecurity incidents—and the margin for error is slim.

What you need to know: Along with the valuable, common advice of staying aware and prepared, structure your internal audit team to swiftly allow alarm bells to be rung.

3. Think global, prepare local

The IIA International conference is just that—international. I had the pleasure and honor of speaking to dozens of the brightest minds in internal audit from all corners of the world. Throughout the event, one finding lingered in the back of my head: we’re all internal auditors, and we all do roughly the same things, but there are so many ways of doing it.

I bet presenter Lenny Block, vice president of internal audit at Nasdaq, might have been thinking the same thing. In his talk, “Overcoming the Challenges of Audit Reporting in a Multinational Corporation,” Block discussed the challenges faced by internal audit teams anchored in multiple countries.

What you need to know: The more regulatory bodies you report to, the more prepared and centralized your data should be. It might be a lift today, but it’s worth it in the long run.

4. Technology is top of mind

Looking around the expo hall where event sponsors and attendees congregated, you can’t help but overhear conversations. Many of the ones I picked up were about technology—why some technologies work, why some don’t, and anxiety around the inevitable disruption of a changing tech landscape in audit.

It even warranted a whole track of sessions at IIA International, including topics such as cybersecurity governance, social media, and audit data analytics.

“Bottom line, audit committees want timely, insightful, efficient reports,” said Dr. Larry Rittenberg in his session “Career Observations on the Profession: Practice, Consulting and Research Perspectives.” Efficiency is a way of adding value, he said, and that efficiency gets accurate reports out the door faster.

And, that’s best done through technology. By linking vital documents, spreadsheets, and presentations together, internal audit practitioners can keep confident in their data, preventing career-tarnishing, inaccurate data from reaching your audit committee.

What you need to know: Keeping your processes agile via modern internal audit management technology not only makes your function flexible today but also builds rapport with your board and other stakeholders.

The IIA International Conference 2020: Miami

Next year, the IIA global conference will be in Miami. We look forward to sharing more pressing news from the world of internal audit with you—hope to see you there!

Ernest Anunciacion

About the author

Ernest Anunciacion, Director of Product Marketing, brings over 15 years of experience in internal audit, risk management, and business advisory consulting to Workiva. Ernest is a Certified Internal Auditor and Six Sigma Black Belt. He holds an undergraduate degree and an executive MBA from the Carlson School of Business at the University of Minnesota.