​​Emerging Leaders: 2018

This year’s standout practitioners exude talent, approach their work with passion, and are driven toward continuous improvement.

Comments Views

F​or a diverse group, this year's Emerging Leaders are surprisingly unified on important aspects of their expanding influence in internal audit. For example, they're unanimously enthusiastic about supporting the profession, through internal and external advocacy, association activity, and educating undergraduates about career opportunities. Moreover, they're uniformly confident they'll rely more on technology to do their jobs tomorrow, and they expect their audit work to involve more IT assessment across the board. And they're looking forward to it — they're confident they have, or can easily acquire, the skills they'll need to stay on top of technological evolution, whatever it turns out to be. Indeed, many of them are already tech leaders at their organizations, providing guidance on audit applications up and down the reporting ladder. But perhaps what unifies them most is that they all want to change the face of the profession and improve it in the eyes of stakeholders. Yet the 2018 Emerging Leaders aren't abandoning the profession's established high standards and effective practices. Instead, they see a bigger picture of internal audit — one that shows practitioners' unique access to and understanding of areas across the business and the diversity of information and advice they can provide. The 2018 class expects to play a meaningful role in their organizations' operations and success, to be sought out as trusted advisors, to track trends inside and outside their enterprises, to provide key data and insights to management on strategic issues, and to assist in assessing the results of their organizations' efforts.

Alex Hardy, CIA, CA

30, Associate Director, Audit & Advisory
Prosperity Advisers Group
Newcastle & Sydney, Australia

Alex Hardy has big ambitions, and one of them is helping young professionals move forward in their careers. “His ambition to attain a partnership role at the company is guided by his vision of transforming the firm’s audit practice and capitalizing on technological opportunities,” says colleague Stephen Coates, a director at Prosperity Advisers Group. But Hardy’s proudest achievement, Coates adds, is being a mentor to junior staff. Already, Hardy is a founding member of the company’s Employee Advisory Board and, beyond the firm, he was named to the inaugural IIA–Australia Youth Leadership Committee. The University of Newcastle graduate is also executive director at Hunter Young Professionals, which provides opportunities for young people to network in a business environment. Indeed, says Bryant Richards, associate professor of accounting and finance at Nichols College and one of this year’s Emerging Leaders judges, “No longer emerging, this individual is a current leader of the profession.” Hardy presents weekly to boards, shareholders, and management on audit outcomes and opportunities for improvement. And he provides pro bono professional services to Renew Newcastle, Cooks Hill Surf Lifesaving Club, and Ronald McDonald House. He also talks a lot about technology. “If you don’t know what blockchain, AI, big data, and real-time access mean, then you are already behind the eight ball,” Hardy says. “All of them are game changers, and a degree of fluency is important for future success.”

Robin Noack, CIA, CPA

29, Audit Manager
Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh

Robin Noack understands that effective internal audit demands interaction with other areas of the business. The Pennsylvania State University graduate made a concerted effort to learn Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh's new governance, risk, and compliance application — and ultimately developed many of the ways the internal audit department puts it to use, notes colleague Dawna Fisher, senior manager at Federal Home Loan Bank. "She also developed a strategy for optimizing interactions with other departments to ensure identification of business unit risks and controls is complete and accurate," she says. Noack's strategy — established by coordinating with other lines of defense within the bank and working closely with the business units — enables internal audit to track audit-related issues that need validation and provide the follow-up on them that regulators require. Her team also prioritizes in-person interaction with clients. "We make every effort to socialize throughout the bank, building trust and positive relationships," Noack says. Business unit leaders regularly request her insights on hot topics and emerging risks in the financial services sector. Noack says knowing the business is part of the job. "It would be impossible to effectively audit a business unit without an intimate understanding of how it works or without strong relationships with the people within that unit," she explains. Additionally, Noack calls on the profession to better educate clients on the value internal audit delivers to the organization. "Everything we do as internal auditors is to protect the business' interests and correct any mistakes before it's too late," she points out. Outside the office, Noack donates time to the local DePaul School for Hearing and Speech and the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

Justin Finn, CIA

28, Assistant Vice President, Senior Auditor
Bank of America
Plano, Texas

Justin Finn is “the auditor of the future, possessing both audit and analytical skills,” according to his supervisor, Jim McCole, senior vice president and audit director at Bank of America. Finn, a University of North Texas graduate, started out in the firm’s straight-from-college Corporate Audit Analyst Program, picking up business audit skills in issue validation, point-in-time audits, regulator issues, and continuous audit work in his first rotation. And with no previous Structured Query Language (SQL) experience, he learned to execute automation work relating to data analytics, exception testing, and continuous monitoring testing in the rotation that followed. Finn now serves as instructor for Corporate Audit’s SQL training program and as “automation sponsor” for the bank’s Audit Automation Analytics Champion program. “For sure, technology and the way we understand data will lead things forward,” Finn says. One example is data analytics and automation that enable full-population testing, eliminating the need for a sample approach, he says; another new technology that internal audit is adopting is artificial intelligence-driven ongoing monitoring that replaces some task work. Both require practitioners to develop new data analytic skills and delve beyond a superficial understanding of the technology. At Bank of America, Finn’s internal audit department focuses on finding and extracting data to create custom automation tests to help business line auditors with their own testing. “We can take the data and adapt it,” he says, “whether the internal audit client is looking for graphs or trends analysis, we can take the data and make a more meaningful picture.” Outside the office, Finn finds meaning in charitable work, volunteering at the local Ronald McDonald House and for Operation Kindness’ no-kill animal shelter.

Linh Mai, CIA, CISA

27, Senior, IT Risk Assurance

Linh Mai is passionate about internal auditing and about sharing his knowledge of the profession. Indeed, The University of Texas (UT) at Dallas graduate served as the university's IIA/ISACA/ACFE student chapter president as an undergraduate and at the same time was a teaching assistant at UT Dallas' Center for Internal Auditing Excellence. He also became "the face of the UT Dallas Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP) program," says Center director Joseph Mauriello. "As student coordinator, he worked with leading internal audit departments and professional services firms to introduce themselves to UT Dallas IAEP participants." Mai also organized student volunteer efforts for the IIA–Dallas Super Conferences and the UT Dallas Fraud Summit. He has since delivered numerous addresses to internal audit audiences  on developing student organizations, and he volunteers with ISACA's North Texas Chapter. At EY, he leads audits on areas ranging from Sarbanes-Oxley compliance to cybersecurity. "Sometimes innovative thinking is a matter of thinking differently about an existing innovation," Mauriello says. "He accomplishes this through his advocacy efforts." Part of his message is the reality of the profession's role. "I had the impression that most companies, operations, and internal audit functions were mature," Mai says. "However, the reality is there is significant potential for audit functions to generate value by advising and consulting on improvements in business processes." He adds that he's inspired and motivated by the vast opportunities for internal audit to help stakeholders, especially with the aid of technology. "I envision more processes, such as internal controls over financial reporting, requiring less overhead while providing more useful data," Mai explains, "allowing internal audit a greater opportunity to become advisors and freeing them from strictly regulatory or compliance functions."

Kamal Uddin Gazi Jishan, ACCA

28, Deputy General Manager, Internal Audit
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Kamal Uddin Gazi Jishan tackles complex assignments every day — some technologically complex, some more logistically so. Nanda Dulal Saha, director of Internal Audit at BRAC, says a recent operations-level, organizationwide risk assessment and the adoption of a new system audit approach required “strong and controlled teamwork” to deliver the audit strategy, risk assessment, and reporting — and Jishan was part of those teams. The organization’s internal audit department numbers more than 300, one of the biggest anywhere in the world. Jishan, an Oxford Brookes University graduate, also led a project to automate the department’s report compilation and comparative results analysis, using customized internal audit management system software to pilot the automation before a successful launch. Jishan was recently assigned to the organization’s Kabul-based Afghanistan operations for a country office audit. “I try to gather as much information as possible on the entity before the actual visit by browsing through financial information, management reports, and information available on websites,” Jishan says. “I like to bring as much familiarity as possible with the operations of the project as well as the environment.” Away from the office, Jishan is active in the Bangladeshi audit and accounting community and, Saha says, “he takes pride in representing the global profession of internal audit — The IIA — and promotes membership and certification to that peer group.” Indeed, Jishan reports that he’s looking forward to the CIA Challenge Exam this month; he also emphasizes the value of seeing the bigger picture. “We need to remind ourselves every time of the broader objectives of an engagement,” Jishan advises, “and to focus less on finding out irregularities and more on building a strong, progressive relationship with management.”

Nick Geffers, CIA

30, Business Risk Manager
Appleton, Wis.

Nick Geffers likes to build relationships and bring people together. Last year, he was invited to join The IIA’s Young Professionals Task Force, says the Task Force’s IIA North American Board liaison Seth Peterson, vice president and internal audit manager at The First National Bank in Sioux Falls and past Emerging Leader. Geffers has since been a key player in the group’s outreach initiatives, aimed at establishing connections with local chapters and enhancing collaboration. The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh graduate focuses on consulting and risk management assurance engagements at Thrivent and, Peterson adds, he recently became director of development for the company’s Young Professionals Network. “Getting involved with young professionals groups gives us a voice and a bigger part in our profession,” Geffers says. “The power of connection is priceless.” He adds that participating in these groups will always be “incredibly important,” noting that it enables professionals to become connected to something greater than themselves and provides endless opportunities to make an impact. Geffers also supports The IIA’s Fox Valley Chapter as a past president and active board member. “While president, he created templates and standard processes, worked to add new board members from unrepresented organizations, and helped strengthen interchapter relations within the district,” Peterson says. In fact, Geffers says one aspect of the profession he likes even more than he anticipated is the amount of personal interaction involved — it’s one of his favorite parts of the job. He also notes that the more internal auditors connect with others, the more value they can provide — if they’re paying attention, that is. “As we move to becoming true strategic partners,” he says, “we need to listen more to our stakeholders.”

Jamie L. Olson, CIA

29, QAIP Project Manager
U.S. Bancorp

Jamie Olson loves learning, and in internal auditing, she says, she’s “constantly learning something new.” The University of Minnesota Duluth graduate started at her current company as a staff auditor in Corporate Audit Services (CAS), then became a senior auditor, and is now the department’s Quality Assurance Improvement Program project manager. Olson was one of 14 U.S. Bank employees selected for a year-long program established to “demonstrate how U.S. Bank is ‘the bank of choice for millennials,’” reports colleague Krista Naccarato, senior audit manager. That program includes collaboration with senior management and committees across the bank, she adds. Olson values her unique opportunity to participate in the program. “It allows me to meet with leaders in the organization to learn more about their business areas and support the bank on a companywide level,” she says. She meets often with professional peers as well, as treasurer and past vice chair of the Young Professionals Committee of The IIA’s Twin Cities Chapter. That emphasis on relationship-building positively impacts her career, she says, by broadening her network and helping her better articulate risks and how they relate to the company as a whole. Those risks, she adds, are becoming increasingly digital, noting that practitioners need to embrace new technology to become more efficient and effective leaders. “If I could change one thing about the profession, it would be the SALY [same as last year] testing mentality,” she says. “We need to keep looking toward the future, and not just focus on the current state.”

Michelle Chelemer, CIA, CPA

29, Senior Audit Manager, SunTrust Audit Services
SunTrust Bank

Internal auditing is enhanced by creativity. Michelle Chelemer displayed it in spades when she developed a new way to evaluate her company’s sales practices, says manager Joshua Mountz, audit director at SunTrust Bank. The Oglethorpe University graduate “created a cookie dough start-up company and performed secret shopping at branches,” Mountz says, “providing meaningful issues for management to consider that will impact our client experience going forward.” Chelemer explains that the project assessed the accuracy of teammate product knowledge and evaluated marketing materials. “The experience was exhausting, but exciting,” she says. The project received executive-level attention — and appreciation — and inspired organizationwide changes. Mountz adds that Chelemer is seen as a trusted advisor to business partners, and that she’s been recognized at SunTrust with a Gold Performance Excellence Award. He notes as well that she uses the bank’s data analytics resources to examine 100 percent of populations for control testing when feasible and to evaluate automated controls design. She also helps lead recruiting by examining candidates’ qualifications, screening them by phone, and performing interviews; she then trains the new teammates and helps her directors evaluate their performance. Mountz says she’s “the first person that anyone on the team goes to with questions, her directors included.” Chelemer, who also co-founded the Business Leadership Development Fellowship at Oglethorpe and volunteers with the Junior Achievement Discovery Center at Finance Park in Atlanta, thrives on the many areas with which she’s involved. “I’ve always been invigorated by challenges,” she says.

Brian McNalley, CISA

30, IT Audit Manager
Macy’s Inc.

Brian McNalley combines technical expertise and a passion for the profession. “He’s actively involved in The IIA and has a strong focus on data analytics, which is a key area for internal auditors,” notes Jenitha John, CAE at FirstRand Bank and one of this year’s Emerging Leaders judges. “And his chapter leadership achievements are noteworthy.” The University of Cincinnati graduate has been volunteering for The IIA’s Cincinnati Chapter for seven years — in fact, during his time as vice president and president, meeting attendance nearly doubled, notes colleague Branden Keller, a senior IT audit manager at Macy’s. He lauds McNalley’s emphasis on networking events aimed at helping “like-minded auditors meet each other” and his focus on academic relations. “I’m taking on additional responsibilities within academic relations, educating students and getting them involved, to expand The IIA’s presence in the community,” McNalley says. That’s been complicated by a focus on external auditing at local universities, he adds, so the chapter has been holding events to show students the benefits of becoming an internal auditor. The IIA experience, says McNalley, who expects to start exams this fall in pursuit of CIA certification, has been one of the most rewarding of his career. His message to those early-career colleagues: “Getting involved is definitely appreciated and provides some great opportunities.” McNalley also has a strong interest in technology; he’s a data analysis specialist and has built custom scripts to automate testing. “I’d like to continue changing the sample-based testing approach,” he says,” and test full populations with analytics and audit tools.” He also notes that adapting to change is one of the best parts of being an IT auditor. “It keeps our profession from becoming too routine.”

Hea Mee (Haylie) Kwon, CIA, CPA

30, Audit Project Manager
Texas Health & Human Services
Austin, Texas

Haylie Kwon wants people to understand internal auditing better. The Korea University graduate says her main emphasis when promoting the profession — to junior staff and university students — is to explain who its practitioners really are. “We are not law enforcement that will find out what you did wrong and punish you,” she says. “I want people to view us more as advisors.” Supervisor Karin Hill, director of internal audit at Texas Health & Human Services, notes that Kwon has ascended the career ladder quickly, and that she is well thought of by those under her supervision. “Staff assigned to her teams are extremely complimentary of her leadership style,” Hill says, adding that Kwon pays compliments, too — she chaired IIA–Austin’s Awards Committee and started the practice of reaching out to volunteers’ supervisors to thank them for supporting staff as they serve the profession. Part of Kwon’s successful style is tracking the evolution of audit clients as they adapt to their own clients’ changing expectations. “We need to be aware of new risks that emerge from those changes,” she explains, “and seek smarter ways to audit so that we can meet our clients’ needs.” That should contribute to a perception shift she feels is crucial, because it affects how internal auditors build relationships with those clients. “We need their cooperation and trust,” Kwon says, “to truly understand the nature of their work and what they are trying to accomplish.” That message needs to be taken to younger audiences, she urges, emphasizing more focus on exposing the profession to undergraduate students — something that she and her classmates never experienced. “As graduates of one of the top business schools in Korea, we were going to be the next generation of business leaders” she explains. “However, we were never exposed to internal auditing, only financial auditing.” Kwon says she was lucky to find her way to internal audit — but bemoans the “many bright young minds that aren’t aware of our profession.”

Thomas Sherrill, CPA

28, Manager, Assurance and Advisory Management Program
The Home Depot

Thomas Sherrill builds ties that bind — and that save companies money. “He develops strong relationships with his business partners that create open channels for discussion to gain insights into processes and issues,” says his boss, Bob Anderson, vice president of internal audit and corporate compliance at The Home Depot. He adds that the University of North Carolina graduate identifies solutions that provide value to stakeholders and company shareholders — including more than $3 million in cost-out opportunities in just 24 months — and “combines personal relationships with data analysis skills.” The relationships, Sherrill says, are crucial to the audit function’s success. “I always emphasize that creating genuine and strong relationships will make your work personally rewarding,” he explains, “and will allow you to gain information and knowledge around business processes that will help you succeed.” Sherrill, who was awarded IIA–Atlanta’s Mulcahy Leadership Award this year, has led audits across all facets of Home Depot’s business, from mature processes in the finance space to supply chain processes in newly acquired subsidiaries. Additionally, he was last year’s chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the company’s Internal Audit group. Sherrill also donates time outside of work to help the Empty Stocking Fund distribute toys to underprivileged families during the holidays and pitches in with volunteer landscaping and maintenance assistance at Piedmont Park. Looking toward the future, Sherrill — who recently passed the first set of exams on his way toward CIA certification — says internal auditors will have to keep up with rapidly changing technology by adding skills to their tool sets and continuously learning about new systems and processes. He adds: “The same core characteristics of current professionals — honesty, intellectual curiosity, and ethics — will be as important in the future as they are today.”

Kyle Hebert, CIA

30, Supervisor, Audit Coordination
Lansing, Mich.

Kyle Hebert understands the importance of institutional memory. When he undertakes major projects, the Northwood University graduate “takes it upon himself to work with others, with a goal of making a positive impact through knowledge sharing, encouragement, and team building,” says former supervisor Sarah Saunders, director, Internal Audit, at Jackson National Life Insurance Co. Indeed, Saunders reports, he approached every project with the intention of growing someone to replace him. In fact, Hebert cites on-the-job mentoring as one of the most beneficial elements of career development. “If you do not have a good mentor, it will be hard to pick up on the important aspects of auditing, such as how to communicate results to a stakeholder,” he says. And he pays it forward, too. Saunders calls him one of the most dedicated volunteers she’s ever seen, explaining that he “jumped in, all in, from day one” at The IIA’s Lansing Chapter, where he now serves as president. Hebert created a new Day of Audit training program and worked to improve relations with local chief audit executives. “Don’t be afraid to get more involved with your career outside your 9-to-5 commitment,” he urges. On the other hand, Hebert cautions that practitioners should be afraid of technological complacency. “We can’t become complacent on the skills we have because they’re becoming obsolete exponentially faster each year,” he says. In his role at COBX, a company within Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Emerging Markets division, Hebert oversees the internal and external audit coordination teams, he reports, “ensuring that stakeholders are knowledgeable of what is expected of them from the auditors and regulators, and ensuring that auditors and regulators are receiving information they have requested from the business.” He also leads the department’s annual risk assessment.

Diego Henriquez, CIA, CPA

27, Senior Consultant
Deloitte & Touche LLP

Just three years into his own career, Diego Henriquez is already assisting others in theirs. The Louisiana State University graduate is a CFO Transition Lab Manager at Deloitte, executing customized eight-hour workshops at some of the world's biggest organizations. The sessions assist new C-suite executives, including chief audit executives and chief financial officers, in analyzing talent, organization, priorities, time allocation, and relationships. Henriquez and his colleagues then work with each individual to develop a 180-day plan for transitioning into his or her new role. "My work on executive transition labs has provided tremendous insight that allows me to better understand how senior executives operate and strategize to deliver results," he says. Colleague Sarah Fedele, a Deloitte principal, notes that Henriquez was recognized as a 2017 IA Transformer of the Month, an award that honors leadership within the practice. Fedele adds: "Ask anyone who has worked with him to describe his leadership style and you'll find a common response: 'He leads by example.'" After work, Henriquez is the Houston Food Bank site lead for Impact Day, Deloitte's firm-wide volunteer event, leading planning efforts and shepherding the participation of more than 300 colleagues. Fedele says he handles that role masterfully and with enthusiasm." He's also an onboarding advisor for Deloitte interns and consultants, and he's heavily involved with the company's campus recruiting efforts. Henriquez is enthusiastic about his work and says internal audit at a professional services firm affords him the opportunity to see a wide range of industries, processes, and departments. "Other professions might focus on one area of a business," he says, "but my work has helped me develop a unique perspective because I am exposed to so many different aspects of my clients' businesses."

Blake Reed, CIA

28, Accounting Manager, North America Supply Chain Control
Nike Inc.

When Blake Reed starts a job, the University of Memphis graduate makes an immediate impact. Applying his understanding of process improvement, finance, and accounting, he establishes himself as a go-to person for internal audit best practices and control guidance. He provides management with specific options for improvement by using data analytics to identify important trends in the enterprise’s workflow. Indeed, he’s “already in a managerial role,” notes Emerging Leaders judge Jenitha John, “which I believe is an achievement for someone his age.” Since being nominated, Reed’s title no longer indicates internal audit, but past posts have included internal audit manager at AutoZone, where he managed Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, oversaw business process audits, and managed the risk assessment and planning process. Reed has also conducted analytic testing of full population transactional data and executed IT audits. “The ability to understand legacy systems and the capabilities of new technologies is going to be the standard moving forward for internal auditors,” he says. “An internal auditor needs to be able to effectively evaluate a system to determine whether it meets the business’ need.” Future practitioners will need to be well-versed in technology and operations to assess and address risk effectively, he adds, but auditor–client interaction will always be just as important — he says he notices its effect on engagements all the time. Reed cites, for example, his clients’ frequent use of the inclusive pronoun “we,” instead of “they,” when discussing a project. “Little things like that let you know you are having an impact and the business sees you as a true value-add partner.” Outside the office, Reed advocates for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Thanh (Alan) Nguyen, CIA, CFSA, CRMA, CCSA

30, Manager, Risk Advisory Services
RSM Vietnam Auditing and Consulting Co. Ltd.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Alan Nguyen understands the importance of the big picture. "He always focuses on the key objectives of the clients' departments," says former colleague Tham Ta, an audit staffer at Nguyen Kim Holdings. "He regularly updates his knowledge of not only all areas of his organization's operations, but also of the industry as a whole and of business in general." And that, according to Ta, is why Nguyen adapts quickly and provides effective strategic ideas. Many of those ideas, in fact, have contributed "significant improvements to the organization's governance, internal control, and risk management processes," Ta adds. Nguyen says it's part of the job. "As one of four cornerstones of governance, internal auditors need to improve and reinvent themselves," he explains, "and stay updated on not only trends in the industries they work in, but also on global trends." His motivation for learning is simple. "In Vietnam, internal auditing is new, and the profession is being developed slowly," he explains. "Helping it move forward prompted me to develop myself as a professional." Ta reports that Nguyen works actively as a volunteer to help the elderly, orphans, and the homeless. As a practitioner,  he says tomorrow's auditors will, among other qualities, need to be trustworthy, diplomatic, and patient. They must possess strong interpersonal skills, he adds, as well as the ability to think strategically. Nguyen says their reward will be "a holistic view of operations and processes that affords a perfect opportunity to be someone who knows everything about something, and something about everything."

Russell A. Jackson
Internal Auditor is pleased to provide you an opportunity to share your thoughts about the articles posted on this site. Some comments may be reprinted elsewhere, online or offline. We encourage lively, open discussion and only ask that you refrain from personal comments and remarks that are off topic. Internal Auditor reserves the right to remove comments.

About the Author



Russell A. JacksonRussell A. Jackson<p>Russell A. Jackson is a freelance writer based in West Hollywood, Calif.​</p>https://iaonline.theiia.org/authors/Pages/Russell-A--Jackson.aspx


Comment on this article

comments powered by Disqus
  • Galvanize-September-2020-Premium-1
  • FSE-September-2020-Premium-2
  • Auditboard-September-2020-Premium-3