Kiryl Katushkin

I joined a Big 4 accountancy practice in 2010 and obtained my ACCA qualification. Once I became an ACCA member, I decided to take a year out to do a Masters in accounting management and strategy after which I worked for several of the other Big 4 practices.

Around that time there was a push to use data analytics more and I was very interested in that trend, so I made the move to a firm that was growing its data analytics capability. They put significant investment into hiring and training staff in the audit practice to become hybrid specialists - data specialists that also had a good understanding of accounting and auditing.

Over time, I was drawn more to the data analytics side – I was interested in how I could use the latest technology on data to solve problems. There is a lot of satisfaction in doing things that make a difference, and giving people insight into things they didn’t know about. Equally I can bring more quality to the table and save people time. I can do fairly complex tasks in a short period of time and see the value actualisation straight away – unlike audit work where long-term projects can span years. 

More recently I joined Baillie Gifford and started working in Internal Audit which I’m really enjoying because I get to have a top-down view of a single organisation – rather than stretching myself across multiple clients. I also get more variety as an internal auditor – there’s definitely less repetitive work, and more opportunities to add value to the business compared to being an external consultant where time and interaction with management is limited, and where budget and resource constraints do not always allow you to explore issues to quite the level of detail that you would like. Working within the business allows you to do that.

The industry trend is the transformation of the internal audit function from being ‘the police’ to more of a critical friend. I’m excited about this transformation and I’m enjoying being on the other side as a critical friend/consultant/advisor which for me is a sweet spot where Internal Audit can be placed to bring the value the firm needs from the function.

Although the role is changing, there is still a perception of Internal Audit being the police which is a challenge. For some people, change is a threat. Internal Audit should be good at change management – not just rolling out the change management but also being agile and flexible internally. Many internal auditors are used to being adaptable and be flexible in terms of how they approach a situation where people have been working in a particular function for a long period of time and already have a set of values and a fixed mindset. Trying to bridge this gap to advise them about the need to change without upsetting them is a very difficult task.

Another challenge – but a positive one – is how Internal Audit can embrace technology to make its work more efficient and insightful. To stay relevant, internal auditors will need to embrace up to date technology. Different areas of the business may start adopting the cloud and new ways of working with AI and other technology – without having this knowledge themselves, it will be difficult for internal auditors to stay relevant going forward. 

In addition to the rate of change in technology, internal auditors also need to keep on top of growing legislation. Some of that is industry-specific – regulators have always placed a greater emphasis on financial services to improve the quality of service and accountability and now Consumer Duty has come into force. Internal Audit may have some bargaining power over the implementation of certain elements of legislation, but some legislation is driven by politicians or other stakeholder groups such as consumers.

Data analytics is about how you can use company data either to bring some insights and tell people something that they didn’t already know and make everybody’s work more efficient to save time; or add quality to the work. It can be as simple as a good Excel spreadsheet or to the point of using artificial intelligence (AI). The technology will continue to grow, progress and become smarter and as it does, there will be many different ways that it will be useful for the profession. Even people who work in the field do not know what will happen in the next 12 months, but I expect it to see increased capabilities that will have a transformational impact on many professions, including Internal Audit.