One can’t go past the topic of internal audit in the US in 2017 without first considering the repercussions of President Trump’s thoughts on the matter. Signing an executive order to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act earlier this month has been just the first step in the new US president’s pledge to scale back regulations restricting the freedom of the country’s banks and businesses.
The issue with raising the Act’s current exemption threshold of $75 million means that not only will key investors and consumers no longer be privy to information from excluded businesses regarding problems with organisations’ internal controls but more importantly their boards will be discouraged from properly investigating and thus correcting those problems. This throws up a plethora of issues for auditors in the US who will be forced to work even harder to keep tabs on companies’ internal controls, processes and accounting activities.
Onto the expectations from employers regarding their preference for internal audit candidates and the hottest area of demand within the function, is IT. With access to an increasing number and variety of sophisticated tools for business intelligence and data analysis, accountants and auditors in the US are facing more pressure to stay current with technology.
The demand for a hybrid skillset incorporating audit skills and a deep understanding of big data, from which they can mine and extract meaningful insights to inform strategic guidance for organisations, has led to a pointed skills gap. Companies are looking for those professionals who are additionally adept at identifying key data trends, statistical modelling and data analysis as well as possessing technological acumen.
The evolution of the audit function to move beyond traditional financial, operational and general IT aptitude has been driven by higher stakeholder expectations and progressively more complex risks businesses are facing. Organisations are intent on extending the function’s competencies to facilitate a broader understanding of the company’s risk profile in order that internal auditors can offer valuable insights on the subject. Therefore, individuals with expertise in analytics, data mining, cybersecurity and privacy are at the top of hiring manager’s lists in America.
Of course, it goes without saying that the same soft skills required for auditing remain pertinent to employer’s prerequisites, with strong written and verbal communication, project management skills and effective teamwork being given equal importance to analytical prowess.
Practicing this dynamic skillset within the US, it’s important for internal audit professionals to know where they might best hone their expertise and afford themselves the most lucrative platform from which to build their career. PwC has topped the boards for the second year running when it comes to being the best accounting firm to work for in the US. Offering excellent training opportunities, clear investment in developing new associates, superior market prestige and value placed on teamwork and work product; the Big Four firm gives internal auditors all the right tools with which to carve out a successful career, as well as placing them in full view of head-hunters when the time comes to ascend to new and greater heights.
Deloitte and EY come in at a respectable second and third, respectively, balancing excellent resources and exposure to advisory and audit projects within a smart and enthusiastic workforce, though both come with long hours and the potential for imbalance between work and life commitments. Grant Thornton this year pipped KPMG to the post of fourth position for its fun and youthful office culture; however it has faced criticism for operating with oft-outdated systems and not providing sufficient training for employees.
Though President Trump’s plans to scale back regulatory enforcements on financial institutions look to be setting a tone for 2017; the reality for internal audit in the US – whichever firm you find yourself working for – remains consistent with expertise in areas relevant to existing regulations. So, for those seeking internal audit jobs in the US this coming year, expertise in forensic accounting, statistical data mining and risk management are still valuable commodities when it comes to hiring sentiment for the audit space.