Building the perfect audit team is challenging. For any team needs the skills to match the task it is given. Yet as risks and organisations change constantly and as the massive demands on internal audit change, so the challenge is very significant for CAEs like myself.
If I was auditing an audit team I would suggest that a skills audit is required. A formal skills matrix, identifying the talent needed and then mapping the current talent in the team. I have written before about a core of a team being ‘super auditors’, but this I mean MBA generalist but core auditors, that really understand audit practice, supplemented by other types of auditors, finance auditors, IT auditors, marketing auditors etc.
I have modified my views now though. I now head up a counter fraud team. They have made the link between control and fraud risk for me, in a way I had not fully appreciated before. Also the proposition of linking counter fraud detailed analysis and analytical views, with more systems-based assurance thinking, presents a really interesting proposition and a powerful combination. It makes sense, in my view, of both the fraud and assurance work of my department, in a way that, individually, they do not.
I have also come to really appreciate diversity. Not just because of the moral and ethical imperative of it (that is a given and core belief of mine) but because different approaches, views and directions make such a strong combination. I have compliance-detailed approaches, broad-thinking strategic thinkers, systematic thinkers, creative writers, structured writers in my team. They are all different to me and challenge me (in a good way) to look at problems differently. I now run my reports and opinions past a number of different thinkers to get them picked apart and challenged. So in a skills matrix types of thinker is important.
The other balance I would have is between experience (context dependent knowledge) and thinking ability (context independent knowledge). For both are needed. Knowledge in a pure form, without the experience to contextualise it is not helpful. So experience without the ability to think beyond it is equally unhelpful. So I would suggest a CAE needs a team that ideally has a good mix and encourages all members of the team to keep up their CPD (so context independent knowledge) and training (context dependent skills and knowledge). I am most proud of my CAE record in this with all people I have worked with really pushing themselves and their abilities forwards. There is nothing harder, or worth more respect, than a person who works full time and manages study too.
So, having thought about professional background, personality types, and training and experience what else should a CAE look for? I would suggest personality. This is really difficult for a CAE. What is the right balance? Should team fit be identikit? i.e. all the same. Well again I would suggest diversity, but diversity around a common understanding and shared set of professional understandings, moral and ethical understandings and common professional standards. For me good team fit means pulling in the same direction. It means having a set of principles that underpin decisions and actions taken. As a CAE I want to know the many complex decisions my team takes every day, are done with the same considerations and same likely outcome as I would take, if I made every decision. That is the ‘right thing’ is done. This is the bond of trust we hold in our teams as a CAE and they to us.
So would my internal skills matrix control work – actually yes, I think it would. I would heartily recommend all CAEs adopt the approach and think consciously about the skills mix they need in their teams. This is not a nice to have but core to a successful audit function in my view.