Shafeen Mahmood

I was an international student on scholarship, and completed accounting and business management courses at universities in London. My studies complemented my ACCA qualification pursuit. 

I started my internal audit career with Mersey Internal Audit Agency (MIAA), the largest provider of internal audit services to the NHS in England. I was based in the firm’s Liverpool headquarters, and liaised with NHS and other public sector clients (e.g. local government) across North West England. This was my first exposure to internal audit, and I was intrigued by the structure, nuance and professional scepticism that went into every audit report I worked on. 

Here are three things I learned from my experience working as an internal auditor with the NHS:

  1. People work differently: I've worked directly with various audit managers, each have their own style - understanding people work differently and setting mutual expectations from the start is key.
  2. Time management: Audits can be at various stages, fieldwork, follow-up etc. I learned to create an Excel tracker to monitor progress of my audits with various clients.
  3. Work with purpose: I worked on a variety of internal audit assignments with NHS clients. For example, I worked on a Waiting List Management review that explored practical action plans to reduce patient waiting lists at an NHS Trust. My work as an internal auditor with the NHS had an eventual domino effect in improving people's lives - exploring why you do what you do can make room for personal reflection and improve job satisfaction.

Different firms offer different training pathways for trainees. While my NHS internal audit experience made way for significant professional career development, I also encountered various challenges as a part-qualified professional, e.g. balancing study time and work deadlines simultaneously.  

Three tips for navigating challenges in the ACCA internal audit career space: 

  1. Complete exams at earliest – A professional qualification (e.g. ACCA) is generally an objective criterion for career progression in the internal audit space. People’s personal lives often seem to become increasingly busier by the passage of time (e.g. starting a family, buying a house etc). Being exam-qualified at earliest would put any ACCA professional in good stead. 
  2. Join a debate club – A key aspect of Internal Audit is asking ‘probing’ questions. If and when a client pushes back on an audit opinion, an internal auditor may need to pull their weight and have the negotiation skills to convince the client regarding audit findings / recommendations raised. I reckon joining a debate club could help build one’s negotiation skills and professional resilience.    
  3. Physical exercise – While this may not be specific to ACCA or internal audit, multiple studies suggest that physical exercise boosts not only one’s physical health but also one’s mental health. Dealing with both work deadlines and ACCA exam pressure can take its toll, so it’s important to take care of yourself! 

Earlier this year, I joined RSM UK as an Internal Auditor, and I am enjoying my career journey in the firm so far. Securing a role with one of the world’s largest audit firms was a dream come true. One of the most fascinating things about working as an Internal Auditor with such a big firm as RSM is that, every review and every client is different, which makes the audit assignments intellectual adventures. At RSM, I was intrigued to see Internal Audit operate as a value-adding service, in addition to being a compliance service. I hope to continue my career in Internal Audit, and become a subject matter expert in the space one day.