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#auditiscool An Interview with Michael Holmes

8/10/2018 by Andy Winterburgh

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It was a pleasure talking to Michael Holmes for the latest in my series of #auditiscool interviews with Internal Audit leaders. Michael's career has been facinating with experience at Andersen, UBS, Close Brothers and BAML in both the second and third lines of defence.  For the last 18 months he has been making his mark as Head of Internal Audit at Invesco EMEA.

Hello Michael, welcome to your interview.

Can you tell us about your career journey? Where you started and how you progressed.

I started in external audit with Arthur Andersen in Leeds. The role was particularly interesting because of the diverse client base ranging from steelworks to football clubs but ironically there was very little in the way of financial services. 

Doing a stock take 150 feet up on an oil storage tank on New Year’s Eve in a snowstorm wasn’t so much fun but I survived and was then drawn into Internal Audit in the financial services industry with dreams of eventually becoming a trader!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Internal Audit has such a wide perspective and remit. This means variety is high. It is a cliché but true that no two days are ever the same. Also, the access which exists even at junior levels within Internal Audit and ability to influence at the highest levels of the firm.

What is the proudest achievement in your career to date?

Probably taking on the role of Chief Risk Officer, with no prior risk experience, at a bank during the last financial crisis, and being part of an incredibly successful period of growth at historically low risk levels, despite the very difficult external market conditions.

What key leadership lessons have you learnt?

Don’t look for people the same as you, recruit diverse talent and obligate your teams to challenge and dissent. Transmit your passion for the role. This is particularly important for control functions where the role is often difficult and challenging, with an end product and value add which is not as tangible or acknowledged as if you were in say Sales. 

If you only had 5 minutes to interview someone for an IA role what question(s) would you ask them?

What motivates you?
What frustrates you?
Talk to me about the best boss/teacher you ever had?

What career advice would you give to an Internal Auditor at each of the following levels of seniority: 

AVP - Look for challenges and opportunities to develop. These could be technical perhaps doing a qualification like the CFA as well as  ‘putting your hand up’ for jobs especially the difficult ones which helps establish you within the firm whilst learning as much as you can about how the firm operates.

VP - Very much like the AVP it’s making sure you don’t plateau. Don’t be afraid to take a career risk that could payoff down the line. Look for opportunities for exposure both within the function and within the firm.

Director - Work on your presence and visibility. Look for opportunities to join key firm-wide initiatives like mentoring, that will develop your individual and management skills. Build your network and leverage and embrace new ideas and ways of thinking 

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Back yourself and take a risk, that applies in day to day work but in particular when considering a new opportunity.

Why do you think diversity and inclusion is so important?

By working with people who have different backgrounds, experiences and diversity of thought we get a more rounded view which leads to better decision making, more innovation and ultimately better business performance. In this profession it is particularly important given the complexity of the environment and the need to remain intellectually curious.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the Internal Audit Industry in the next 12 months? 

Remaining relevant and credible in a rapidly changing environment in a profession which historically has been risk averse and slow to change. Audit needs to be more ‘disruptive’ and not fear failure to be truly influential.

What do you do to relax?

I would like say play lots of Golf; the reality is playing taxi to my kids!

And finally, why do you think Audit is cool?

Variety, access, a unique view of a company and the ability to influence.


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