The outlook for internal auditors in Hong Kong is looking bright for the foreseeable future, however there are multiple factors likely to evolve the profession over that time as well.
One reason demand for internal auditors, including those who work on a consulting basis, is so strong is that many organisations across industries are seeking opportunities for growth — and launching new revenue-generating initiatives. While these pursuits create opportunity, they also can invite risk that internal auditors must help the business to assess and monitor.
Other drivers for the increased demand of internal audit include growth in international trade due to globalisation and geopolitical change, as well as merger and acquisition activity.
Businesses are looking for internal auditors who can keep pace with technological advancement and unearth new and more profound insights using the wealth of new data available. A more proactive attitude will be expected in terms of delivery and value.
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Employers across Hong Kong are hungry for auditors, among the top positions in today’s competitive hiring market. Companies increasingly offer perks like flexible scheduling options to attract experienced candidates, and internal auditor salary ranges remain strong.
In this era of growth opportunities, internal and external auditors are key to efficient businesses operations. They must anticipate and respond to a constant stream of new challenges — many of which deliver uncertain and still-unfolding risk implications, from emerging technologies and new auditing requirements and standards to rapidly evolving business conditions.
Business digitisation has left a large gap in the hiring market for audit professionals with the digital skills needed to accurately assess risk in that space. Auditors can look to increase their earning potential by moving into a role within IT security and can increase it further with a CISA qualification.
An Internal Auditor can work in a public or private setting, in a small or large company, and in financial services. As more organisations find out just how critical a role this plays, the internal audit career path becomes even more fertile.
Duties and expectations of an Internal Auditor
A close relationship and functional reporting line to the CEO and to the Chief Risk Officer is critical, but that relationship must be seen as one of mutual benefit rather than influence in either direction.
As data alone cannot be relied on to inform the assurances that the internal audit committee needs to provide, internal audit must maintain a close and direct relationship with the board.
However, the involvement of internal audit in strategic decision-making must “stop at the boardroom door”.
Some of the functions the Internal Auditor will cover include:
- Examining financial statements for accuracy and conformance with laws and regulations
- Assessing financial operations and making best-practices recommendations to management
- Suggesting ways to reduce costs, enhance revenue and improve profits
- Reporting risk management issues and internal operations deficiencies to management
Internal Auditor professional experience and skills
As more and more companies become aware of the value of adding an auditor to their teams, the demand for this highly competent and skilled role continues to rise.
Internal auditor jobs require a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, although some companies may prefer a master's degree in accounting or business administration.
Some of the common nontechnical attributes found in internal auditors include:
- Integrity - due to the delicate and sophisticated nature of auditor jobs
- Relationship building - to successfully collaborate with other auditing professionals
- Teamwork - to collaborate across departments with co-workers
- Partnering skills - to balance customer service, leadership, and regulatory requirements
- Communication skills - both verbal and written, for relaying messages and presenting data effectively
- Diversity - to view problems through various perspectives results in smarter solutions
- Thirst for continuous learning - to stay current
The future of internal auditing
Regulatory developments over the last decade have changed the face of internal audit forever.
The modern audit function, no longer working within its own designated silo distinct from the rest of the business, must now work extremely closely with risk departments, IT functions and the board of directors.
Furthermore, the internal audit function must be properly informed, which requires attendance at executive committee meetings and access to strategic papers.
Internal auditors must be free to properly and deeply observe and critique corporate governance, without bias and undue influence.