The role of an internal auditor

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So you want to be an Internal Auditor? What is internal audit? We explore this essential business function in detail.

A highly regarded discipline within a financial function, internal audit provides a process and business unit review service that adds to shareholder value by improving business and financial controls.

If you choose to go down this route, the main purpose of your role is to review risk management, control and governance processes and then identify improvement opportunities.

You will then provide recommendations to drive change in the business. Internal audit addresses the entire range of operating activities and performs a wide variety of assurance and consulting services. It is an essential function of any business and is concerned with the financial workings of the entire organisation.

A highly regarded discipline within a financial function, internal audit (also known as operational and risk review) provides a process and business unit review service that adds to shareholder value by improving business and financial controls.

Internal audit is a great entry point into an organisation after working in practice. It’s a particularly popular route for those who want to utilise their current auditing skill set whilst gaining insight into the commercial side of a business. If you work in internal audit, you will generally have excellent opportunity to travel (locally and / or overseas), potentially taking up between 10% and 100% of your time.

Your time will be spent visiting each business area, reviewing their processes and procedures and understanding how they operate. You will have a real opportunity to get close to your business and gain a comprehensive understanding of it first hand.

You will also work closely with senior managers across a variety of operating units early on in your career. You will generally be at the heart of the business and facilitate improvements in conjunction with the management team.

There are two main career paths for internal auditors. You can either:

  • Continue to specialise and become the Head of Internal Audit
  • Broaden your skill set and move on to become Finance Manager (and then Finance Director) of a particular operating unit

If you have a background in practice and have strong technical audit skills, you are likely to do well in this role. You will need excellent commercial acumen so that you can quickly grasp the complexities of each different operating unit before offering concise and analytical reports to the business. Although the role draws heavily on your technical ability, it is crucial you have good interpersonal skills so that you can liaise with heads of business.

After 2 years within the field at the manager level, an internal auditor can typically expect a salary of between R550-750K. Likewise, at the controller level (5 yrs’ exp), you would expect a salary of between R750-900K.

After being in the profession for over 5 years however, this is when you will expect large variations in salary levels, with directors looking to earn salaries of between R900K and 1.6m.

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For more career advice please contact:

Nic Sephton-Poultney, Country Manager (South Africa)
nic.sephton-poultney@robertwalters.com
+27 (0) 11 881 2414

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