15/01/2018 by Andy Winterburgh
Sally Clark is Chief Internal Auditor at a major UK bank where she leads a 650-strong global internal audit function. She is widely acknowledged as being an influential voice in the City and is recognised as being an authentic and highly effective leader.
In her current role as Deputy President of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (CIIA) Sally has made it a one-year mission to make everyone realise that Internal Audit is a cool profession to work in and being a qualified member of the CIIA is the best way to be in the profession.
When I met her recently, I asked her a few questions about how she got started in Internal Audit (IA), her recommendations for a successful career and why she thinks "Audit is cool".
Sally, welcome to the Leading Audit Interview Series,
Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB?
The first job after University was on the retail graduate scheme at Williams & Glyns Bank.
Q: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE A CAREER IN INTERNAL AUDIT (IA)?
I saw an ad for graduates wanted for international travel. They said it was IA I had no idea what this was, but they asked if I had common sense. I said yes and have been doing it ever since.
Q: WHAT'S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?
There’s no such thing as a typical day in my life but it can include work such as board committee meetings to share findings and opinions, ExCo meetings discussing strategy and direction of the company, reviewing a piece of audit work with a member of the team, coaching someone, sitting on a steering group for how we do more on well-being in the company or improve the lot of women in the firm. It also includes working with the IIA on big matters such as how to make the profession cool and how to grow the number of qualified members of the IIA practicing internal audit.
Q: WHO OR WHAT HAS HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER?
Not one person but instead a whole series of people I have worked with and for. Firstly, my boss Mike Roemer at JPMorgan who then brought me to my current employer and gave me encouragement and opportunity to grow and ultimately encouraged me into my current role.
Secondly, my current CEO who is teaching me the importance of being authentic and making sure that I grow as a leader and contribute to the firm.
Finally, my Mum who said to me that I could achieve whatever I wanted in life and all I needed to do was get really clear about what that was – and then to take every day as an opportunity to move forward
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO INTERNAL AUDITORS ON DEVELOPING THEIR CAREERS?
For Directors I would advise them to network, find sponsors, get a reverse mentor, get involved and make an impact in your business and profession, be curious and develop your leadership, find your purpose.
At VP level ensure you own your career, think wider, push for autonomy, develop your purpose and understand that moves don’t need to be vertical.
For AVP’s aim to be excited, develop your Mastery, continue to learn and finally, understand technology and its impact on the world.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?
I'm proud of my resilience. It’s a tough job and I’m juggling many things. I care about the people who work for me, about the work that we do and its excellence and about the firm and its purpose. I prioritize my family above my work and I insist my team do the same. That people are put above the task and culture above strategy. Finally, my creativity. I aim to innovate all the time and welcome all ideas to improve the function encouraging the team to try things out.
Conversely, I am sometimes too creative and can cause too much chaos rather than focus.
Q: WHAT ARE THE COMMON QUALITIES THAT THE BEST INTERNAL AUDITORS SHARE?
Firstly, curiosity, asking the why and so what questions all the time. Secondly, resilience and tenacity, it’s not always easy job to do. Thirdly, big picture synthesis combined with razor sharp analysis. See the big picture and see the detail.
Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
My children and the wonderful young adults they have become.
Q: WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT CHAMPIONING INCLUSION WITHIN THE INTERNAL AUDITING PROFESSION IS SO IMPORTANT?
I am a great believer that all businesses and workplaces are quite simply better when they have diversity of thought and opinion being expressed. To do this, we need to think about how those differences manifest, whether physically through gender, ethnicity, age or invisibly through sexual orientation, faith, or as a result of upbringing/education and training.
To harness all of this requires us to build places to work that embrace the differences and welcome them using inclusive processes/practices and mindsets. This is no different for the Internal Audit profession. My team is so much better for the great mix of people we have working together and we have, for example seen that there are no barriers to getting to the top of individual audit teams. So, it is simply a matter of common sense to continue to champion this.
Q: IN YOUR YEAR AS DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF THE CIIA YOU'VE SAID YOU ARE HOPING TO PERSUADE INTERNAL AUDITORS THAT INTERNAL AUDIT IS A COOL PROFESSION TO WORK IN. HOW?
By harnessing all the energy of people in the profession around me. The cool profession is a case of us upping our game on communicating this. Anyone inside Internal Audit is only too aware of how great it is to work in the audit profession. You get a helicopter view of the organization that you work for, the opportunity to combine the strategic work of joining the dots on what you find with the detailed work of analysing things as diverse as systems, processes, governance and culture.
We need to work on getting our brand out there so that when people are looking at what careers they might follow, internal audit is a more mainstream option for people to consider.
Q: IS BEING A QUALIFIED MEMBER OF THE IIA THE BEST WAY TO PROGRESS IN THE PROFESSION?
I think there is a great analogy to be had that we were given by one of the CIIA Council members. He said to us that if you are buying a house and you want a survey done on your potential future investment, you will employ a surveyor. You would never consider hiring an amateur surveyor to do this for you. Only a qualified surveyor has the relevant training and experience to give you a reliable opinion. Why should it be different for internal audit?
If a firm wants an opinion on the state of its control environment and risk culture, who better to come to. People qualified to do the work that underpins the delivery of that opinion. Again, we need to work on a number of things within the Institute and with the people who have sent me emails offering to help. We need to raise the profile of the qualifications available to people, we need to get more organisations to demand that their internal audit function joins the IIA and pushes its people to get qualified and we need to ensure that the qualification helps individuals to do their job better.
Q: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE PROFESSION IN 10 YEARS TIME?
In 10 years’ time I would still see the need for the audit profession. It’s a need that has been here for the 30 years I’ve been doing it. Changes I would hope to see include seeing that anyone practicing the profession is a member of the institute and is either qualified in internal audit or studying to be so.
In order for IA to thrive we need to ensure the development of deep skills in new technologies both to harness them and to audit them.
Q: WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE KEY CHALLENGES FOR INTERNAL AUDITORS IN 2018?
Summed up in one word ‘Change’
For Financial services, this will be seen mainly in three areas: Big regulatory change across MIFID2, GDPR, PSD2 and IFRS9. Big socio-economic change across BREXIT and through rising interest rates. Technology through the use of AI, data and mobile and digital strategies.
Q: FINALLY, WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?
Not sure there’s much time left to relax – actually not true there’s a lot I do to relax. I love listening to music and doing the large cryptic crossword with my husband, doing yoga, Pilates and body pump at my local gym and making pasta with my kids.