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#auditiscool An Interview with Herve Geny

25/03/2020 by Andy Winterburgh

Hybridge Banner

Herve Geny was the first FTSE100 Chief Auditor appointment made by Hybridge.  As part of our #auditiscool campaign, Andy Winterburgh our MD met with him recently to hear about his experiences in what was his also his first Internal Audit appointment. 

Hi Herve, great to see you again,

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

I would say that I have had a fairly atypical professional journey. I originally graduated in engineering in France but started working in sales in Italy for a French chemical conglomerate (without speaking a word of Italian -believe me you have to learn quickly). After this I moved back to headquarters in Paris, and later moved to the US to pursue an MBA. I stayed 15 years in the US moving between jobs in finance and consulting for Deloitte, Merrill Lynch and Moody’s. At the end of 2007 I moved to London as the Chief Risk Officer of ICAP (a financial broker) and became Group Head of Internal Audit at one of the world's most well known brands in December 2012. 

Why did you decide to move into Internal Audit? 

Serendipity brought me to Internal Audit. I had interviewed for a role in Risk and the CEO at the time asked me if I would consider an Internal Audit role instead given that I had an applicable skill set. It sounded very interesting, so I said yes of course

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

IA allows you to see every aspect of the business which is quite a rare situation. Most other colleagues are specialized in a particular area or work for one of the entities of the Group without a perspective on the other activities. As the Head of internal audit you have to be conversant in all the lines of businesses and be able to understand the overall context in which they operate to really provide value to management 

How has the experience you gained prior to working in Internal Audit been of benefit?

My experience as a CRO prior to internal audit provided me with a fantastic foundation to perform in my current role. The analysis of risks is a common starting point for both disciplines and understanding the enterprise risk management framework in depth enables internal auditors to speak the same language as the 2nd line and provide a coherent aligned approach for the improvement of controls and governance. 

What key leadership lessons have you learnt?

You need to understand the communication styles of your business counterparts in order to provide clear direction to the team of auditors and facilitate their “selling” of the final product (the audit report). We all have different preferences for how we communicate and the old “bulldozer” method typically used by IA does not work anymore. 

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

Explain the structural link between internal audit and risk management? 

What skills do you think will be most important for the auditor of the future?                          

Communication adaptability

Intellectual curiosity

Contextualization of problems  

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

a. AVP: Understand the business context of the audit work to prepare for the next step of your career.

b. VP: Broaden your horizons by leading different kinds of audits. 

c. Director: Develop your leadership capability by leading key projects with IA. 

What is the best piece of advice you have received? 

Do not sweat every little task, most people (in particular your manager) do not care 

Why do you think diversity and inclusion is so important?

Diversity definitely brings different perspectives, ideas and communication styles to the team, enriching the overall value of our service. 

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

Remaining relevant in the face of the data analytics and AI revolution and the constant acceleration of business changes. 

What  do you do to relax?

I enjoy a variety of activities including travelling, reading, running, mountain trekking and trying new restaurants and wines. 

Why do you think Audit is cool? 

For me, being cool is striking the right balance between the familiar ways and new, innovative ones. When audit does that, it is cool.