The demand for contract internal audit jobs is often dependent on a number of factors, one of which can be associated with a straightforward internal policy on staffing whereby a company will have a dedicated perm headcount that they can’t exceed and so need to bring on contractors on a project by project basis. Project-based work calls for more specialised individuals to be brought in for short term periods to oversee a particular review or run a particular project within the audit function. Another reason a company will opt for a contract over perm solution could come in light of a hiring freeze, so employers will bring in individuals on a daily rate or a fixed term contract to fill the gaps typically taken by permanent employees. These contracts tend to be quite long term.
In a strong economy, companies are far more willing to take on perm employees but in a tougher and more uncertain economic climate, the short term is far more attractive and with gaps of expertise needing to be filled, companies will facilitate their budget to engage with recruitment agencies and consultancies to bring in contractors.
In light of Brexit, and the current standing of the UK economy, the market for contract internal audit jobs could very well see a significant upturn as the economy slows and businesses look for interim solutions to weather the storm. CareersinAudit.com recently spoke with Lee Hine, Head of Asia Pacific Practice at Clear Edge Consulting about the market for Contract Jobs in Internal Audit. He explained, “From a recruitment company’s perspective, the situation offers a valuable opportunity to step forward with contractor profiles to offer our clients a solution to inevitable headcount freezes and cost-saving measures.”
It is typical for the contract market to pick up quite aggressively in response to a weakened economy, or if there is an implementation of a particular area, such as compliance. The arrival of new legislation in particular will prompt companies to increase their demand for contractors to review and run business-related audits across the financial services sector and that of industry and commerce.
While the market for contractors is comparatively tepid in Asia, due to a differing cultural standpoint that sees people shying away from interim positions in favour of permanent roles, as the former is considered to be a step down within their social framework. Within the UK, US and Australia, it is a common staple of business to use contractors and there is a steady demand for candidates and individuals working as sole traders and independent contractors.
Contract internal auditors and those with IT Audit backgrounds are significantly in demand across areas of cyber security, data analytics and information security predominantly within financial services. With contract internal audit jobs either being resourced directly by the banks themselves or via a third party consultancy like the big four, opportunities are there for those with specialist expertise in those areas. Due to the ever-evolving nature of cyber security, individuals with the required skills in this discipline may not exist in-house at consultancies which will see those organisations sub-contract out the work for a particular project.
“Good contract internal auditors can be difficult to find, especially those with certain subject-matter expertise,” says Hine, the message then that candidates should play to their strengths and prove that they have the skills and experience a business is looking for. “Reputation is everything on the contract market,” says Hine, “the successes you have to your name demonstrate your ability to do the job in hand and your references validate you as an asset.”
Regulatory audit is certainly a space within the internal audit function that maintains a steady stream of demand for contractors with proven in-depth financial services experience and technical understanding of specific areas, including Basel II and III, as well as expertise in auditing specific areas of risk such as operational and credit risk, and technical capital market auditors with experience of auditing and modelling financial products. Considering these sets of expertise can be hard to find when companies are looking to bring people on, on a perm basis, good contractors in possession of the coveted knowledge and experience make it a contract-driven market.
Internal audit contract jobs will also find themselves combined into a hybrid model with a perm position according to the needs of certain projects, with a permanent employee needing the additional skills and experience of a contractor to audit a particular area. This could arise from the need for individuals with a forensic investigations background or for those with specific language skills; conducting an audit in a location such as Poland or China, for instance, will see the need for a fluent native speaker in that dialect to be on board the project.
Companies look for contract individuals who not only possess the technical savvy for the role, but depending on what the needs of the business are, will also be able to just walk into the role and get on with it. “Having years of experience in a particular area is massively beneficial,” says Hine, “as is the ability to explain clearly what you’re doing so people understand. Excellent communication is critical within internal audit, particularly in a contract role, and one of the things that is expected and encouraged is knowledge-sharing within the team.”
Rates are typically higher for contract internal audit roles than their perm counterparts, but the difference of course rests on the guarantee of work. Tempered both by seasonal demands as well as economic conditions, a contract internal auditor can experience employment droughts just as easily as finding him or herself inundated with work.
“It is an area driven by regulatory changes, specialisations and economic circumstances,” says Hine, “with the UK market in particular likely to see an increase in demand for contract roles in the wake of Brexit as companies instigate hiring freezes and thus seek out short term solutions.”