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5 Takeaways from IIA IGNITE for 2023

Internal Audit
Five top takeaways from IIA IGNITE.
7 min read
Published: December 1, 2022
Last Updated: February 23, 2023

After an incredible Workiva Amplify this past September, our team was back in Las Vegas for another epic event in October—the IIA IGNITE Conference, “Where Internal Audit Leaders Emerge.” We connected with internal audit leaders, attended inspiring keynote sessions, and took a deep dive into top-of-mind topics and emerging issues facing audit, risk, and compliance teams.

We couldn’t just let all these good insights stay in Vegas, so we rounded up the top five takeaways from the IIA IGNITE Conference. Keep reading to learn more!

During the keynote session, Durran Dunn, Managing Director Advisory Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Controls at Grant Thornton, broke down the top traits of high-performing leaders and shared tips on how internal auditors can take on larger roles and responsibilities.

With the current state of the profession, which has changed dramatically given the evolving risk landscape, being a leader can present several challenges and ample opportunities.

After diving into what it means to be a leader in today’s environment, Durran wanted everyone in the room to walk away with one key takeaway on leadership: it’s about serving others.

He posed the questions: How do you serve your team in a way that propels them forward? How are you nurturing them? If you’re not thinking about how to help them succeed or reach the next step in their careers, then you’re missing the mark, he said. It’s about creating a succession plan and focusing on what you’re doing today to help them tomorrow.

Get more leadership tips by watching the “How Leaders Build Trust: Sparking Organizational Confidence” webinar with author and regular Forbes contributor Curt Steinhorst.

ESG is on the table, and it’s time for internal audit, risk, and compliance leaders to secure their spot. ESG was a point of discussion not only in the keynote and across three deep-dive sessions but also in multiple conversations during networking breaks, lunch, and happy hour. It’s fair to say that ESG might be keeping more than a few internal auditors up at night.

Durran addressed ESG in his keynote, and stated the importance of being a leader along this journey: “We can’t miss ESG,” Durran said. “It’s a great time to add business value.”

Our profession is more important than it’s ever been before. It’s a different time. We have a seat at the table and we have a voice. We are uniquely positioned to see everything in the organization.

Durran Dunn
Managing Director Advisory Governance, Risk, Compliance, and Controls at Grant Thornton

Workiva’s own Grant Ostler, Industry Principal, and Nancy Jordan, VP of Internal Audit at Cornerstone, discussed ESG reporting from an auditor's perspective. They emphasized that the time is now and how you shouldn’t wait for other stakeholders to approach you. It’s time to be proactive, persistent, and the leader you are to get a seat at the ESG table.

“I think what’s near and dear to our hearts as internal auditors is thinking through the risks that ESG brings into our organizations. What kinds of exposures does this bring that we didn’t have two years ago?” Grant said. “You get a seat at the table when you earn it by bringing good ideas. We add value by helping our organizations understand the risks we face and by working collaboratively to develop and implement mitigation strategies for the risks that are most impactful to our organizations.” 

Regardless of what’s to come from the SEC’s climate disclosure proposal, ESG momentum is not slowing down. This is especially true given the recent vote in favor of the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which will impact organizations either based in the EU or with subsidiaries within the region. 

No matter where your organization sits globally, stakeholders from investors to employees are demanding more transparency. With a multitude of processes affected by ESG, there is plenty for auditors to start preparing for now. And more than one speaker said to take it from SOX—there are a lot of lessons that can be applied to ESG. 

The number one question internal auditors had on the intersection of ESG and GRC: How can audit teams start to prepare processes now to ensure ESG data points are complete and accurate? The answer: Internal auditors—along with SEC reporting teams—should start (if they haven’t already) meeting with each other and their counterparts in ESG, legal, investor relations, and more to implement scalable processes for collecting ESG data, embedding internal controls, and providing assurance.

GRC is how ESG gets done right. Learn how you can jump-start your ESG assurance journey with Workiva. Explore Workiva for ESG + GRC to learn more!

The impending recession. Talent shortages. More demands. Disruption has become the norm across organizations. Between expanding audit coverage expectations and staffing challenges—not to mention trying to keep up with the dynamic risk landscape—internal audit leaders and their teams are feeling the pressure. 

While automation isn’t a new concept for audit shops, there are new ways your internal audit team should consider using it to streamline and improve workflow processes. 

If your internal audit team hasn’t embraced automation yet, now is the time, especially as you consider the continued impact from workforce shortages. Whether you’re looking to optimize across your audit process workflows by implementing a GRC platform with automation capabilities or opportunities to incorporate robotic process automation (RPA), there are several ways you can get started.

Panelists’ advice on where to start with automation? Identify the most painful parts of your audit and SOX processes and go from there.

Ready to see how your team can eliminate repetitive tasks? Learn how self-driving work helps audit teams automate things like evidence requests, reminders, and more.

In conversation with three chief audit executives, it became clear just how critical networking is for the internal audit profession.

Panelists in the session “Do I Really Need to Network to Be an Effective Internal Auditor?” spoke about how expanding their network has had a positive impact on their journey to becoming CAEs, with the advantage of sharing common pain points, goals, and learnings.

With 72% of attendees identifying as introverts when polled, many wanted to know how to overcome the fear of networking. All three CAE panelists, who also said they identify as introverts, emphasized the importance of building connections both internally and at events like IIA IGNITE.

Rachel Tressy, CAE at Voya Financial, shared how she has to push herself every single day to continue building strong relationships. “I know I really like to help people, and our entire team is the best when we are connected with our business partners. We need to have this network and connection,” she said. “I psych myself up every morning to make those connections.”

In addition, the panelists offered advice to start small with networking, such as saying hello to someone next to you at the event, because you may never overcome your fear of doing it.
At the end of the day, networking can have a major impact on how your audit shop is able to do meaningful work and add value. For Tammy Valvo, CAE at Gate City Bank, networking internally isn’t only about getting a seat at the table. It’s also about being invited to be a part of decision-making.

I want to be invited to participate in important, impactful decisions. I want people to know me and know what I have to offer and what I have to bring to the table.
Tammy Valvo
Chief Audit Executive at Gate City Bank

Want more tips for growing your career? Check out this blog with nine tips on how to enhance your internal audit career path.

One final takeaway for the emerging leaders attending the conference: Be the change you wish to see within your organization. Because of the unique perspective internal audit leaders and their teams have working across the business, they have so many opportunities to make a difference and a lasting impact.

Whether you’re championing a new technology to streamline audit or SOX processes or are pushing teams to come together to build a strong, effective ESG program, being an emerging leader means continuously looking for ways to innovate and improve.

The Workiva team had an amazing time meeting so many of you in Vegas (and learning together virtually, too). We hope to see you again next time!

If you’re wondering how technology can help you spend more time on what matters, we’d love to show you how our end-to-end GRC platform connects data, processes, and all key stakeholders (yup, including sustainability, accounting, finance, legal, and external auditors!) in a single, secure location. Connect with us to learn more.

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