Highlights and findings from the top conference for internal audit leaders

Several themes emerged during this year's SuperStrategies 2016 event, which was held in September in Las Vegas, as internal audit executives gathered to learn and exchange ideas on successful strategies and to gain insights on major trends and developments in internal audit. From the five keynote talks and panel discussions and 40 breakout sessions, it is clear that internal audit is very much a function that is evolving rapidly.

Many speakers referred to some overarching trends in internal audit, including the branching out into audits of non-traditional areas, the need to add more value, the difficulty internal audit has in communicating to stakeholders, and the challenges of hiring professionals with the right mix of skills for the department.

A Passion for the Job
In his opening keynote address, Robert King, chief audit executive of FedEx, touched on all of these points. His talk, "The Greatest Challenges Facing Internal Audit Today and Tomorrow," identified several hurdles to overcome, including the need for internal auditors to become more technologically savvy. King struck a decidedly hopeful tone, as he talked about the expanding role of internal audit and the passion that good auditors have for the job. "It's a great time to be in the internal audit profession," said King.

SuperStrategies---Thierry-DessangeDuring a keynote panel discussion, a group of current and former audit committee chairs, discussed what information they want from internal audit and how to keep the lines of communication between the department and the board open and functioning well. "We need internal auditors to be courageous and to talk openly about the concerns they have," said Faye Wattleton, the former audit committee chair at Estée Lauder and a current member of the board of Trustees at Columbia University. Wattleton urged internal audit executives to create a proactive relationship with the audit committee and to work to strengthen the relationship.

During another keynote address, Thierry Dessange, vice president of technology audit at Visa Inc., identified the 10 critical IT issues every CAE must address. Speakers from such companies as ADP, General Motors, Hess, Raytheon, and many others addressed several of the issues and challenges that internal audit leaders are currently working to solve.

Women in Audit
This year's SuperStrategies also included a talk on the "Unique Challenges and Issues that Women Face in the Internal Audit Profession." The discussion in the room, overflowing with both female and male audit professionals, centered on such topics of achieving work-life balance, mentoring, communicating across gender lines, and the career track toward leadership roles.

The more than 400 internal auditors and professionals in attendance gave the conference high marks for its well-rounded program, dynamic speakers, and the many internal audit topics the conference covered. Indeed, more than 82 percent of attendees said it provided knowledge that was either "very" or "extremely" useful to performing their jobs better. "From the speakers to the receptions, this was a very high-quality event," one attendee noted in an evaluation of the conference. More than 95 percent said they would recommend the conference to a colleague.

SuperStrategies-Presentation---1Some Other Highlights:
• One of the potential solutions for the difficulty internal audit departments have in finding job candidates with the right mix of skills is to look for potential internal auditors with non-traditional backgrounds. During his popular session, "Recruiting and Retaining Non-traditional auditors," Tom Sanglier, director of internal audit at Raytheon made the cases for creating diversity of thought in the internal audit department. He said that hiring auditors with non-tradition backgrounds can help internal audit add value.

• Another popular session was Kathleen Crawford's "Mind Mapping: a New Approach to Audit Writing," where she showed attendees how to better organize their thoughts and develop a clear structure for writing audit reports.

• During a pre-conference summit on data analytics and during some of the sessions, including a panel discussion on "Using Data Analytics and Technology to Aid in Risk Management," speakers talked about how data analytics is completely changing internal audit. Attendees where at different points along the spectrum of adopting data analytics, but most are using the tools to some degree and many are pushing into new uses. "Data analytics allows us to see things in the data that we couldn't see before," said Steve Biskie, who moderated the panel.

All About Networking...and Fun
An Exhibit Hall, with 16 vendors including Protiviti, CBIZ, and Experis, also provided some great networking opportunities and the chance for internal auditors to learn more about cutting edge solutions and to trade ideas and a war story or two. "It was great to talk to other internal auditors, to hear about their challenges, and to realize that we all have similar struggles," said one of the attendees.

Many are already making plans to attend SuperStrategies in 2017. It will be held next year at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas from November 13 to 17. Said one of the attendees: "The speakers and moderators were excellent. It was very well organized, and the experience was fun as well."