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An interview with Steve Sanders - Leading Audit #auditiscool

5/02/2018 by Andy Winterburgh

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Steve is Managing Partner, Group Internal Audit at Bank of Ireland UK Plc.  He fulfils the role of Head of Internal Audit for the UK subsidiary and is SMF5.  Before joining Bank of Ireland, Steve performed a number of senior roles within the Internal Audit function of Barclays Bank Plc. As well as being the originator of #auditiscool, Steve is a leading proponent of Agile in Audit - #agileinaudit.

Steve, great to catch up again and welcome to the Leading Audit Interview Series,

Q: WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB AND WHAT IS THE WORST JOB YOU’VE EVER DONE?

My first job was when I was 16. A waiter in a local family run Italian restaurant.  The place is still there actually and still going strong! I learned a lot there. Not least a good bit of Italian! Fantastic introduction to the world of work.

Worst job? That’s a tough question. Not sure I have a “worst”. I’ve been a cleaner, a labourer on a building site, a pot wash. They all had their enjoyment and charm though. I guess the pot wash was the toughest. Though I don’t begrudge it because the chefs were great and I quickly got promoted to the front of the restaurant so. Result!

Q: WAS INTERNAL AUDIT YOUR FIRST CAREER CHOICE AND WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE? 

It never occurred to me. I joined PwC post uni in order to get a good foot into the real world and get a great qualification under my belt – the ACA. Then IA came knocking in 2005. I haven’t looked back since.

WHAT’S A TYPICAL DAY LIKE?

Cheesy but there isn’t one really. Another thing that has kept me in IA. I don’t think I have ever done the same audit / review twice. Every project is different. Typically, though at the moment, my day is a combination of meeting with my Exco, joining review sessions with my team to get updates on the projects they are running. Seeing the Board Directors and answering tough questions. Interacting with the UK regulators. And hopefully getting out and about and meeting with my industry colleagues as well. Some combination there in!

Q: WHO OR WHAT HAS HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER?

Financial Crime! Not doing it obviously. But back in 2006 there was a specific high priority project running in that field in my employer of the time. I put my hand up to get involved. That’s when the ball really started rolling for me and it’s been gaining momentum ever since. The power of asking to get involved! There’s also been a few great leaders I have had over the years. They know who they are! I’m still close to all of them.

Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO INTERNAL AUDITORS ON DEVELOPING THEIR CAREERS?

To Directors I would say just say it how it is. And straight away. We can be very good at wrapping things up in immense detail or overcomplicating. We also drag things out way longer than they need to be! Focus on just giving your opinion. And in the most effortless way possible! That’s what we are here for!

For VPs it is essential to take ownership. Your projects are yours. Don’t wait for instruction from the Directors or anyone else. Take charge. Go find things out. Make decisions. What’s the phrase? It’s easier to beg for forgiveness than seek permission? Live by that!

To any AVPs I would advise to put your hand up! No-one will limit you or box you in because of where you happen to sit on a structure chart. My single biggest influencing project happened when I was an AVP. Because I put my hand up. So take the initiative and take charge of what you get involved in.

Q: WHO INSPIRES YOU AND WHY?

I am a huge motorsport fan, so I get inspiration from the perfection and teamwork of the F1 teams. When I was at school Damon Hill was definitely an inspiration! Folks just thought he was not as good as Schumacher. But he applied himself and applied himself. And look where it got him. The top of the world. That taught me that success is within our grasp so often. Attitude is everything.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES?

Audit is a people business and I am a people person. I like to work closely with everyone in my teams in an informal as possible structure. I would say my ability to relate to people helps me a lot there. Also with my clients. Its always a balance between the strong messages we give and empathy. I like finding that balance and seem to have a knack.

My weaknesses? Throwing 100% energy at everything sure is tiring! I can wear myself out without realising it until too late.  So I need to keep an eye on my every day pace and slow myself down every now and then!

Q: WHAT ARE THE COMMON QUALITIES THAT THE BEST INTERNAL AUDITORS SHARE?

They have an ability to identify the most important and least important aspects of a problem. And then an ability to build relationships whilst delivering strong messages. Nothing more complex than that. You can be as good at the detail as you like.  But if it doesn’t result in a meaningful message that you can then deftly land with your Exec or Board then it’s all for nothing.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

Easy. My kids! They are awesome.

Q: WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT CHAMPIONING INCLUSION WITHIN THE INTERNAL AUDITING PROFESSION IS SO IMPORTANT? 

Because strength really does come from a breadth of perspectives. It’s a complex job we do. You are asked to give meaningful input on every risk and every process within the business. How can you possibly be any kind of expert in all that?! You need all perspectives to feed into you in order to be a success!

Q: WHERE DO YOU SEE THE PROFESSION IN 10 YEARS TIME?

Very different. The rapid rise of Data, Robotics and Automation means that we in our industry need to start changing radically. I see auditors being much more generally technically literate.  Departments with a far higher proportion of automated checking processes. I also see a necessary coming together of the lines of defence in order to achieve this and unlock efficiencies that the fast-moving world now demands.

Q: WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE KEY CHALLENGES FOR INTERNAL AUDITORS IN 2018?

“Doing more with less”.  Isn’t that another overused phrase! But it's real. We need to be more agile. There are ever more risks to consider and demands on our thinking. We need to ruthlessly prioritise and be light on our feet. I help run an Agile in Audit meet up group that is looking to champion new and more nimble ways of working. It’s not an option. It’s an existential challenge.

Q: HOW DID #AUDITISCOOL COME ABOUT?

I've been working doing lots of work on Agile in Audit with my peers in other firms.  When my former colleague Sally Clark at Barclays posted her mission, as Deputy President of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors, to make everyone realise that Internal Audit is a cool profession I wanted to show my support, so I replied with #auditiscool.  I see my role not only as being the leader of a great IA function but it’s also my responsibility to drive the profession as a whole.

Q: AND WHY IS AUDIT COOL?

For me it’s because it’s essentially a people business. Folks may think internal auditors sit in a dark room checking sums. Not so! You are out and about all day every day. Meeting people in the business. Walking through and understanding key processes. Other than the CEO you are the only person who gets to see everything.  That’s what makes it so engaging. You never stop meeting new people and learning new things.  And you can really make a difference.

Q: FINALLY, WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX?

I’m a car nut. So cleaning, tweaking, buying/selling my cars! And doing track days. If only I had a barn I would have a much larger collection. It gets under your skin!!

 

Hybridge is proud to support Sally Clark in her mission as Deputy President of the CIIA to spread the message that #auditiscool.

If you’d like to talk to us about how Internal Audit functions are ensuring they hire and retain top talent, or if you’re an Internal Audit professional and you’d like to work with a recruiter who understands the market, is well connected and will take time to find the right opportunity for you, get in touch with Hybridge today. 

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