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​​​​We Can Do Hard Things

The new chair of The IIA's North ​​​American Board, Carolyn Devine Saint, shares current goals for U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean operations and her thoughts on moving the profession forward. Comments Views

I have a sign in my office at 7-Eleven headquarters in Dallas that reads, “we can do hard things” to continually remind my team and myself that we, as internal auditors, can do the difficult work. We have such a challenging mission in our organizations: to be the eyes and ears of senior management and the audit committee and to tell truths that are sometimes hard to hear — and hard to report. But if not us, who? We rise to the occasion, supported by each other, our professional standards, and colleagues around the world who share our mission and belong to this fantastic association called The Institute of Internal Auditors.

I am honored to serve as chair of The IIA’s North American Board for the coming year. In that role, I will be faced with the challenge of helping The IIA assess and prioritize the many needs of our members across North America and the Caribbean. The macroeconomic environment remains uncertain; members need to understand the value they derive from our activities and service offerings. Making choices that balance essential future strategic goals and investments while delivering real value today will not be easy — but I am ready to do the hard things that will make The IIA thrive today and for years to come.

IIA North American Board Goals

Membership/Value Proposition

The IIA will be an indispensable resource for our members and chapters.

Advocating the Profession
The IIA will enhance the image of the internal audit profession by being recognized by U.S. regulators and legislators as a credible, objective voice for the internal audit profession, and increasing awareness and perceived value to management and boards.

Commitment to Diversity
The IIA will proactively recruit, encourage, and assist in developing a diverse cross-section of its membership in leadership roles at the board and committee level.

Public Sector Support
The IIA will be the preferred resource for government sector auditors.

Financial Stability
The IIA will be financially secure and stable in order to meet its mission and carry out its strategic goals. 

Progress on Strategic Goals

I view the opportunity to serve as The IIA’s North American Board chair as being a member of a relay race team. Because each chairman has a one-year term, it’s critical that we grab the baton as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then run like the wind to the handoff to the next chairman. This requires intense focus on the board’s strategic goals and ensuring all our actions move them forward (see “IIA North American Board Goals” at right). Talk about a tough act to follow! Under my predecessor Mike Peppers’ leadership, The IIA in North America made great strides toward realizing the board’s strategic goals and had a fantastic year in 2012.

Membership/Value Proposition 

From the “prior experience recognition” offered to enable members to qualify for the new Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) designation, to the record-breaking attendance at this year’s General Audit Management conference, to the continued accolades for Ia magazine and the successful launch of its mobile app, to free members-only webinars, The IIA in North America’s focus on auditors’ needs resonates with our members. Enhancing the membership value proposition is the North American Board’s highest priority. If we get this right, our association will thrive and we can make the investments we need for future growth and innovation. If membership retention rates (85 percent) are any indication, our members believe in the value The IIA delivers.

We need to ensure The IIA continues to advance auditors’ knowledge and professionalism by delivering high quality, relevant training and thought leadership as cost effectively as possible. My particular passion is strengthening the connection between the North American Board and IIA chapter leaders to enable us to tackle our mutual goal of adding value to our members by focusing on how we deliver exceptional training and continuing education.

Last year, the Chapter Relations Committee, a committee of the North American Board, worked to align its activities with the board’s strategic goals. This year, I’d like to build on that great beginning. One of my priorities is to find innovative ways to leverage The IIA’s national and local chapters’ strengths to deliver only the best continuing education to our members. We need to remember that both IIA headquarters and local chapters rely on revenues generated by conference and seminar attendance. We also need to ensure the IIA brand is protected so that training offered locally has the high quality our members and stakeholders expect.

Advocating the Profession 

Internal auditing advocacy rose to new heights in 2012 and sharpened the awareness of key stakeholders to the value of the profession and the visibility of The IIA. Since engaging the government relations firm of Patton Boggs in June 2012, IIA members and staff have held nearly 30 meetings in Washington, D.C., to discuss the internal audit profession, offering The IIA as a resource for good corporate governance and raising the standards of business conduct. These meetings have included several members of the House Committee on Financial Services, the committee’s majority and minority staff, and the staff of members of the House and Senate leadership, including Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In addition, IIA President and CEO Richard Chambers has met personally with three of the five current U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) commissioners and four of the five Public Company Accounting Oversight Board members. We are on the radar screens of regulators, Congress, and influential decision makers more than ever.

Commitment to Diversity 

Previously an initiative of the North American Board, diversity was included as a board strategic goal in 2012 to ensure continued action and prioritization of this important effort. The IIA has held three diversity awareness events across the country, inviting women and racially diverse members to attend and learn more about how The IIA can benefit them in their careers and, in turn, gain from their insights as volunteer leaders. The board’s desire is to increase the number of women and minorities in the leadership of The IIA in North America, from chapters to the board itself.

Public Sector Support 

The board is fervent in its support of the important and often unsung work of government auditors. In 2012, a concept document for establishing the American Center for Government Auditing (ACGA) was drafted and important progress was made in furthering our public sector goal. In 2013, The IIA will continue to refine the ACGA plan to better understand government auditors’ needs and our capacity to invest to meet them.

Financial Stability 

An evergreen goal for all those with fiduciary responsibilities in any organization, financial stability is the sine qua non for delivering value to members. In 2012, The IIA had a banner year, achieving record financial results. However, financial stability can never be taken for granted; the board’s focus is always on ensuring the viability of the organization so that it can continue to serve our members. The 2012 financial results enable the board to prioritize investments in 2013 and beyond to benefit our profession and all our 72,500 members across North America.

In 2013, the North American Board will revisit its strategic goals and refresh, revise, or replace them as needed to capture the essence of its core purpose: to advance the internal audit profession and serve our members.

Why Professionalism Matters

In my role as chair of The IIA’s North American Board, I have the opportunity to travel across the continent to speak with members at regional and district conferences. One of the topics you’ll hear me speak passionately about is the criticality of upholding internal audit professionalism and standards.

Carving a Path

As Dr. Seuss suggests, we steer ourselves in our lives and careers with the brains in our head and the feet in our shoes. Yet my path to The IIA North American Board chair was anything but linear. I always wanted to be a professional, so I set out at the University of Pittsburgh to become a doctor. Then a philosopher. Then a lawyer (philosophers being somewhat underpaid). I got married, had children, lived in Germany as the wife of a U.S. Army officer. My family settled eventually in Michigan and I got a job. But I didn’t have the career I dreamed of — until I obtained a Master’s degree in Accountancy from Walsh College in Troy, Mich., and began my career at Deloitte.

While at Deloitte I learned the importance of serving clients with passion and professionalism. I learned about the power of great teams. Eventually I left the firm and transitioned into internal auditing. I started the internal audit function at a smaller Nasdaq-traded company and then began a journey into transformational leadership and change management as I earned the role of chief audit executive for some of the country’s largest retailers. The work of internal audit has been challenging and rewarding; we make a difference in the companies we serve.

The feet in my shoes have taken me to some incredible places. My volunteer work with The IIA has taken me to Amsterdam; Kuala Lumpur; Lima, Peru; Austin, Texas; and of course Altamonte Springs, Fla. These experiences enriched me personally and professionally. Thanks to the support of my husband Dan and our two children, Dan and Lauren, my journey so far reflects another Dr. Seuss title, Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?  

Professional standards are what create the space and opportunity for employees inside an organization to act in the capacity of auditors. Professional standards define us. They qualify us. They protect us. They enable us to do the job that is uniquely ours: to challenge the status quo, to advocate for risk management and internal control, and to insist on transparency and accountability for use of an organization’s precious and scarce resources. Without professional standards, internal auditors are just well-intended individuals with no common practices or qualifications on which to ground their work. Why should anyone pay attention?

I recently spoke to the Dallas chapter and reported the challenges The IIA has in getting our members to live up to the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing(Standards), including Standard 1312: External Assessments, which requires an external quality assessment every five years. According to current IIA GAIN Benchmarking Study data, 40 percent of participants report not having conducted an external quality assessment within the past five years. I received a feedback comment from an audience member at the Dallas meeting that asked, “If a requirement is not adhered to, how can it be called a standard?” If we want people to pay attention to internal audit, we have to be worthy of that attention. One way we ensure our continued credibility is by taking a dose of our own medicine — having our work independently audited and assessed against the standards of our profession. Standards are not aspirations, they’re requirements. The IIA is doing its part by establishing standards and advocating for the profession in North America and around the world. You must do yours — advocate for the profession, support and embrace the Standards — even when it’s hard.

​Doing What's Hard

All the work the North American Board has done over the past three years to create a strategy framework and sustain our strategic goals gives me confidence that we’ve got the right process for goal identification and prioritization. My focus for 2013 will be to implement those goals. I had a director at a former employer who used the abbreviation GSD — get stuff done — to identify people who were adept at driving results. My colleagues on the North American Board have GSD in abundance. Together, we — your North American Board, our chapter leaders, and all The IIA’s volunteers — will do hard things in 2013. And our profession will be the stronger for it.



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