Return to Normalcy: What Internal Audit Should Focus On

As the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic tapers off, businesses are looking to reopen and some of the remote workforce will be going back onsite. As a result, the work environment we have become accustomed to will be changing, creating new challenges and risks that internal audit groups will have to assess. A recent Risk Readiness Special Coverage webinar focused on internal audit's role in identifying and planning for those risks in uncertain times.

Sponsored by the RMA Internal Audit Council, the panel of audit experts consisted of Jack MacNamara, Managing Director, Internal Audit Division of the Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM), Deputy Chief Auditor, and Chair of the RMA Internal Audit Council, Christina Patilis, Partner, Internal Audit & Enterprise Risk, KPMG, Kevin Murray, Managing Director Head of Americas Audit, UBS AG, and Paul Jensen, Managing Director, Global Head of Audit Practices, MUFG.

Internal audit must act nimbly and perform rapid risk assessments, and make requisite changes to their audit plan both in coverage and execution thereof. It needs to realign efforts to the risks that matter most in the new reality and embed flexibility for continued changes in business risk profiles and new events. Internal audit needs to embed technology and data tools recognizing that working remotely and reduced travel will still linger due to costs and safety concerns. There needs to be a shift in mindset from traditional audits to increase pre-implementation or real-time audits and monitoring, and provide more frequent scenario analysis or predictive modeling to create what-if situations. The speakers advised that professionals not lose sight of basic foundational risks including, but not limited to, cash flow and liquidity, customer/vendor management, business continuity plan/resiliency, IT security, and e-commerce.

As a result of COVID-19, changes to the environment will continue to impact the execution of audit plans. Internal audit should be prepared to respond to these unique events/risks which includes but is not limited to the following: returning to the office strategy, workforce and workplan models, remote chaos, and regulatory expectations.

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