Accountancy & Financial Management

Internal audit

Work from within an organisation to ensure it operates efficiently, effectively, and in compliance with laws and regulations.
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Internal audit

As the name implies, internal audit is all about verifying an organisation’s financial integrity from within. Internal auditors perform periodic, systematic reviews of an organisation’s accounting, financial, and operational processes to identify areas of risk and opportunities for improvement.

Though external audits are a crucial part of assessing an organisation’s financial health and credibility, their primary goal is to verify an organisation’s financial reporting to stakeholders and the government. Internal audits are more for the benefit of senior management, with the aim of plugging operational loopholes within an organisation and heading off potential problems before they arise.

Internal auditors thus work closely with senior management, advising them if areas of the business are being run in an inefficient, financially risky, or even fraudulent way. Larger companies usually have their own dedicated internal audit teams, while smaller businesses may contract organisations specialising in audit work to perform such tasks for them.

Career Pathways 

Graduates typically start off as audit/compliance assistants, or in similar roles within a company’s internal finance department. In this capacity, you can expect to spend most of your time reviewing internal accounts and financial reports, enforcing internal processes, mediating between staff and management, or conducting spot checks on internal records.

To advance further up the ladder, graduates in Malaysia typically need to obtain a specialised professional qualification such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification. This can be done in tandem with pursuing chartered accountant qualifications, as membership with professional accounting bodies can waive some of the requirements for CIA qualification.
Once you are certified, more senior roles will be opened up to you, such as senior internal auditor or internal audit manager. These roles involve managing teams of internal auditors, leading internal audits, and developing audit plans.

Alternative roles within the internal audit track include compliance officers or risk management specialists. Compliance officers ensure that an organisation is following relevant laws and regulations, while risk management specialists identify and assess the risks an organisation faces and develop strategies to manage those risks. Management consulting is another potential career pathway, as internal audit skills are highly valued in consulting firms.

Required Skills 

To succeed as an internal auditor, graduates need to possess strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and critical thinking abilities. Because much of the information internal auditors need for their work comes from an unsorted array of accounts, records, and interviews, having such skills to key to making proper sense of the materials you gather.

Having extensive working knowledge of accounting software products, ERP systems and processes and other record-keeping systems within an organisation is crucial as well, though those will usually be picked up on the job.

Given the nature of internal audit work, internal auditors must constantly uphold high standards of integrity, objectivity, and professionalism. These qualities are essential to maintain the credibility of the internal audit function and to ensure that audit findings are unbiased and impartial.
As internal auditors often work with employees at all levels of the organization, they need to possess strong interpersonal and communication skills. This includes the ability to build relationships with stakeholders, communicate effectively, unearth information, and resolve conflicts. 

You must also have tact and patience. Having awkward conversations with affected staff is a key part of the job, as is having to deal with frustrated staff members who may see your work enforcing compliance as an apparent waste of their time. Being able to get through to such people is important if you hope to achieve your desired goals.