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Could working in Data Analytics in Internal Audit be as exciting as working at Google or Amazon?

17/06/2019 by Andy Winterburgh

#Auditiscool 3

If Data Analytics is your thing then Internal Audit really is the place to be. So Shehryar Humayun, Head of Audit - Data Analytics at Lloyds Banking Group (LBG), tells Andy Winterburgh in our latest #auditiscool interview.  

Shehryar has been leading the strategy to build the data analytics capability within Group Internal Audit at LBG to drive a data-enabled audit approach. The roll-out of the strategy has helped drive innovation through the development and use of cutting-edge tools and techniques within the function, and his team won the 2018 Audit & Risk Award for Best Use of Technology.

In terms of his background, Shehryar is a software engineer by qualification and started his career in IT before transitioning to audit. Shehryar's experience cuts across both internal and external audit within the Financial Services industry gained through a stint at a Big Four professional services firm along with multiple roles across a number of retail, corporate and investment banks.

In addition to Data Analytics, Shehryar's experience spans IT audit as well as audit of electronic trading and banking operations. Shehryar has held multiple leadership roles that entailed setting up and managing teams as well as developing data analytics capabilities within Internal Audit.

We asked him why he really thinks that working in Internal Audit is as exciting as working at Amazon or Google.

Hi Shehryar and welcome to your interview. 

For any data analytics professionals who may be new to Internal Audit, can you tell us how does Data Analytics fit into Internal Audit?

The role of Internal Audit is to provide independent assurance that an organisation’s risk management, governance, and internal control processes are operating effectively.  The function achieves this through understanding the organisation’s strategy and business objectives to assess the risks faced by the business and then evaluating controls put in place by the management to address these risks.  This enables the internal auditor to anticipate possible future concerns and opportunities and provide assurance, advice and insight where it is most needed.

With increased digitisation, the exponential growth in generation and use of data across all areas of the organisation has meant that the most effective approach to enhance monitoring and testing of business controls is through the use of data analytics.  

What are the biggest challenges that you think are facing Data Analytics in Internal Audit?

There really are many but one of the most pressing is ensuring that the best talent is attracted to the profession. While there are some great opportunities with tech companies out there, the opportunities and the innovation that lay ahead for Internal Audit in financial services I believe will be game-changing. While Internal Audit doesn't always make it to the list of the most exciting careers, I am delighted to be part of the #Auditiscool interviews to encourage data analytics professionals into Internal Audit.
Why would you choose to work in Internal Audit as opposed to Google or Amazon?

Whilst big tech firms offer good opportunities in this field, there are many factors that would make me choose a career in Data Analytics within Internal Audit (IA), especially in a highly regulated industry such as Financial Services and I have listed my top 5 below. 

1. These are Exciting times in Internal Audit

IA has historically lagged behind in the use of technology and data compared to other areas in the business, and that realisation has caught up, leading to an increased focus on the use of data analytics and even data science.  As a consequence, there is a lot of catch-up to do, and that needs to be done rather quickly!  This makes the data analytics team in IA a really exciting place to be in, as it could be at the heart of driving innovation across the entire function that in turn has an impact across the whole organisation.  

In terms of potential to innovate, working in the data analytics team within IA you have a lot more opportunities to innovate compared to an organisation that is already at a stable level of maturity.  In fact, in these exciting times, any innovation through the use of data analytics impacts not only the respective IA function and organisation but takes the entire IA industry forward.

2. View

IA has a view and remit across the firm.  The scope of the internal audit work covers the entire organisation, something that is hard to get in projects within technology firms.  The real prize is IA’s ability to provide fascinating insights by using its access to disparate data sets generated by different parts of the organisation.  Typically, other functions and projects have a narrower focus, whereas IA’s remit gives it the ability to take a holistic view.  Add to that the ability to leverage cutting edge techniques (that have historically not been used in IA), such as machine learning, and the value provided by IA to the organisation becomes absolutely huge! 

3. Variety  

Given IA’s remit (as stated in the previous point), you get exposure to different business domains. Every audit is like a project with focus areas driven by the risk faced by the organisation.  To quote a few examples, this could include working on correlation across employee engagement score and business performance in one audit, or running sentiment analysis on external data about the firm in the next; it could range from using predictive analytics to provide a view on emerging risks, to re-performing complex business logic to validate its effectiveness.  In addition, you could be using agile practices to develop tools to automate processes.

4. Visibility

Any output by IA, especially an impactful piece of work, typically gets the highest visibility in the organisation.  This includes not only the Board, but also regulators because they rely on the work performed by IA to help keep the organisation and the industry safe and sustainable.  In this context, the potential for personal recognition resulting from impactful work (e.g. involving the use of data analytics) is a lot higher compared to other functions in the business. 

5. Value 

Every audit is like a project on which data analytics is used to provide evidence to support or reject a hypothesis that either results in assurance or findings or is used to drive the audit coverage.  But all work done has an impact on the organisation and you can see the value-add of your work quickly in terms of the change it drives in the business.  This is in contrast to working in some technology firms whereby there might be months spent on a project that never sees the light of the day, as priorities change. In audit, every project (you work on) hits production!

What would your career advice be to anyone thinking of moving into Internal Audit as a Data Analytics professional?

My advice is don't look back. There really is so much opportunity to advance your career and make your mark. 

Thank you

Thank you Shehyrar for your time to talk through the great innovation and cutting edge developments that are happening in Data Analytics and Internal Audit. Internal audit must innovate and evolve if it's going to fulfill its mission and remain relevant in the future, Deloitte stated in their review of Internal Audit trends for 2019. It seems that Data Analysts are really embracing this, another reason that #auditiscool.

If you are interested in progressing your career in Internal Audit Data Analytics, get in touch with Hybridge here.

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