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#auditiscool An interview with Sally Clark

5/12/2018 by Andy Winterburgh

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Earlier this year we interviewed Sally Clark, Joint Deputy President (JDP) of the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors as we launched our series of #auditiscool interviews with audit leaders. In the interview at the start of her presidency, she talked about her mission to change the perception of the industry and make audit cool in order to attract and retain talent within the industry. In the process, she fired sparked the imagination of several auditors and sparked a hashtag campaign. We caught up with Sally to talk about how her first year as JDP, what has been cool about it and her plans for 2019.

Hi Sally, lovely to see you again

Tell us a bit about your time as Deputy Vice President. How has it gone and what have you achieved?

It’s been a busy year with a number of events including the conferences in Madrid and in Scotland where I talked about the whole concept of why audit is a cool thing to do and how we keep it cool through innovation. I also helped support the launch of the Aspire network and I'm now busy trying to set up the Women in Internal Audit network that we hope will enable women in the profession to connect and inspire each other. Finally, I am trying to help the IIA to grow its corporate membership – a key way to realise the ambition that everyone working in internal audit is a member of the profession and that every member of the profession becomes a qualified internal auditor.

What is the coolest thing you have done as JDP at the CIIA this year?

Meeting other IIA members and talking to them about what they are doing, how they are innovating their functions, sharing challenges and helping to solve some of them.

What is the coolest thing you have seen in Internal Audit this year?

Ha Ha – I would actually say it was watching my 450 UK auditors join together in an amazing moment of harmony singing at our regional conference – I never thought auditors could be so tuneful!

Who do you think is the coolest person/people in IA at the moment?

As if any Head of Audit would ever say anything other than their own team!!  In reality, any function that is really engaged in innovation and continuous improvement of their work and approach is absolutely doing the best thing for the industry.  Along with this, I would add anyone who is helping the IIA to realise its own ambitions for the industry rather than standing on the sidelines and pointing fingers.  We should all feel the obligation to contribute to making things better.  One of Barclays values is stewardship and it’s a powerful motivator to try and make things better tomorrow than they were yesterday.

The #auditiscool campaign was based very much on changing the perception of the industry. Why do you think changing perception is so important for the industry and do you have any further plans to encourage people to consider IA as a career?

I regularly meet with young people who we bring into Barclays to talk about career choices, probably meeting over 100 each quarter.  When I ask them what is their perception of an Internal Auditor, they often use adjectives such as “old”, “grey”, “male”, “briefcase carriers”, “number counters”, “dull”, “boring”.  At the end of the day when I encounter them walking around our office, I ask them whether that perception has changed.  Inevitably it has, they are enthused by the energy and enthusiasm of the team they have spent the day with, excited by what they hear the job entails, motivated by the development on offer and the qualification they can get.  What would be great is to change their original perception and we still have more work to do in that regard.  Social media is helping as are the articles you are producing – so please keep going!!

In a recent article, it was proposed that Internal Audit should change its name to better reflect its purpose.  If you had to change the name what would you change it to?

I actually quite like the fact that the name Internal Audit at its very simplest reflects what we do. It’s clear to stakeholders and it’s simple.  When I worked in Operational Risk a few years ago, it was always much harder to explain to people what I did and how I added value to them.  As we create Visions for our functions and think about the Purpose behind what we do, we should use the opportunity to outline the outcome of our work.  For example, at Barclays we have a simple mantra – Be Brilliant, Be Impactful, Be Agile. We explain each of these in terms of cutting-edge work being undertaken by brilliant people who are appropriately trained, resulting in an impact on the firms that we work in leading to meaningful change and all done in an agile way with innovation and a focus on productivity.

As you go into your second year as JDP what is your mission for the forthcoming year and what plans do you have in place to make them happen?

I want to continue to build on the work from this year by thinking about how we continue to make the brand of internal audit a cool one so that we can encourage really fabulous talent to make a move into audit.

The other thing I am interested in is the concept of the Institute as a platform. Increasingly building a one-stop shop for those of us in audit to go to in order to find what we want by way of help, advice, training etc.  To do this, I think there is a need for us at the Institute to support partnerships with the experts in the provision of that advice, training, expert knowledge etc.  Rather like Uber or AirBnB – they are the go-to platforms for getting from a to b (without owning any cars) or for finding a room to stay in (without owning any property).  There could be mileage in considering how the IIA becomes a platform in the same way in order to remain relevant to members.

In our series of interviews this year we have interviewed some inspirational senior women in Internal Audit. What are your thoughts on women in the industry as well as the current debate about the gender pay gap?

Internal Audit is a fascinating case study in terms of diversity.  If you look in particular at financial services, it is interesting to note that the Heads of Audit at Citibank, BNYMellon, Standard Chartered, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, HSBC, Nationwide, Morgan Stanley are all women. Three of them are women of colour.  So what we can say, is that there is evidence that within Internal Audit the barriers to getting to the top of these functions are not as apparent as they are elsewhere.  

In addition, a number of us are working mothers who are proof that you can balance a family and work. So that is great in terms of creating role models that women in Audit can look up to for proof that you can get there.  However, I am not so naïve to believe that it is all plain sailing for everyone and some of the issues felt more generally in financial services must be, by the law of averages, issues in audit too.  

As regards the gender pay gap, this is a reflection of there being generally more men at the top of audit functions and more women at the bottom. The way to move the dial is to increase the throughput of women into more senior roles.  Work done by the LeanIn organization has shown that the gap starts at the very first promotion that people go for. We need to ensure that those very first promotion opportunities work to create an equal throughput of women.  There is some evidence that women tend to be evaluated for their past performance and men on their future potential. We need to help to make sure that women help themselves to change this by focusing at that interview on the potential they have to grow and to take on new challenges. Mentoring is going to play a big part in doing this.

You were recently featured in the top 50 leading lights of kindness, how/why do you do think kindness is important in leadership?

I think there are 2 reasons. Firstly, we get up in the morning kiss goodbye to the things we love at home, our partners, kids, dog, goldfish and walk into the office. We work with a bunch of human beings who live with us on earth, so why would we think they are any less worthy of the kindness we show at home? 

Secondly, in 2019 60% of the workforce will be millennials. I believe this group of young people are looking for different things in their leaders. That involves feeling cared about as a person rather than just a resource to deliver on a business purpose. So, if I want to attract the best people moving forward, then it's a competitive advantage to have a reputation for kindness. 

Finally, what do you think #auditiscool has achieved?

What I hope it has achieved is a sense of pride for the people already working in Internal Audit.  The realisation that what they do really matters and that Internal Audit offers a unique place to view an organisation from.  

For people who as yet aren’t auditors, I hope it's given them some insight that could open a door to a new career.

Sally thanks so much, we all are looking forward to seeing the development of the #auditiscool in 2019!