Keys to being an effective internal auditor

Keys to being an effective internal auditor

Being an effective internal auditor in today’s fast-paced, technology savvy environment can be challenging and overwhelming.

Being an effective internal auditor in the fast paced and technologically savvy environment we work in today can be challenging and overwhelming. Here are two keys that can help set an internal auditor up for success.

Take time to develop a thorough plan.

Audits will be plagued with inefficiency and missed deadlines if the planning stage is not given the time it deserves. Steps often overlooked are a thorough review of policies and procedures, research of the audit area, and performance of walkthroughs. These provide an opportunity to tailor the audit program to the risks and identify whether consulting or co-sourcing with subject matter experts will be necessary.

While planning may have historically only been 20 percent of the budgeted time, a project should allocate 30-35 percent to develop a proper and thorough plan. This additional time will pay dividends by identifying more significant items earlier, reducing field work time and avoiding surprises during wrap-up. A properly planned audit will also enable the auditor to focus on adding value by identifying an increased number of best practices or process improvements.

Develop a trusted advisor relationship with auditees.

Audits should be approached with the awareness that both the auditor and auditee not only can, but should, be satisfied with the results. As explained best in The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford, “Great trusted advisors can be relied on to tell the client the bad news, along with the good.” Developing a relationship of trust with the auditee will promote an understanding that your role is to ensure the safety, efficiency and ultimately the profitability of the organization and the department.

Developing a trusted relationship does not happen overnight and requires effort over time. Schedule time to communicate face-to-face to share the audit objectives and value proposition. This personal touch builds rapport and trust early, which will help promote collaboration and open communication during the process. Look to provide value, education or ways to improve throughout the audit process. Another way to build trust is to discuss key findings early in the process as no one likes surprises.


Implementing a thorough plan and developing trusting relationships can lead to a successful audit whether serving as an internal auditor employed by the company or working as an outsourced internal auditor. Employing these strategies will ultimately help identify risks and promote efficiency as auditors understand not only what the financial, regulatory and internal control risks are, but also what keeps the auditee awake at night regarding the business unit’s operational and strategic goals and risks.

Mark Schmelzle

Senior Vice President
Assurance Services
Financial Services Industry Team Leader

Mark Schmelzle leads the firm’s financial services industry team. His practice focuses primarily on financial institutions, manufacturing/wholesale/distribution entities and private equity groups.

In the financial services and manufacturing industries, his experience includes financial statement audits, fraud investigations and other types of attest services.

In the private equity area, Mark provides a wide range of merger and acquisition services for private equity groups and their portfolio companies, including due diligence, cash flow analysis, quality of earnings review, and potential cost-savings analysis.

Schmelzle is a certified public accountant and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants and Young Bank Officers of Kansas. He is an alumnus of Leadership Wichita and was named one of the Wichita Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” young leaders in the community. He also serves in leadership positions for community organizations including Youth Entrepreneurs and the Wichita Aero Club.

Kayla Bean

Senior Manager
Assurance Services

Kayla Bean has expertise in the financial services industry providing external audit, internal audit and compliance for banks and other financial institutions. She is a member of the IIA and serves as an advisory member to the Heartland Compliance Steering Committee.

Kayla is a certified public accountant and a member of the AICPA and KSCPA. She earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Emporia State University.

NOTE: Any advice contained in this material is not intended or written to be tax advice, and cannot be relied upon as such, nor can it be used for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed by the IRS or states, or promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

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