Internal audit responds to COVID-19

October 2020

Internal audit teams are responding to rapidly changing risk landscapes and control environments. Remote working conditions, shifts in operations imposed by the pandemic, accelerated digital innovation, and economic stress have introduced new risks, heightened existing ones, and fundamentally changed the control environment. Internal audit leaders have had to work flexibly and to reset work plans nimbly. Many companies have seen significant control improvement from agile auditing methods, often enabled by new technologies.

In September and October 2020, members of the North American and European Audit Committee Leadership Networks (ACLN and EACLN) met in two virtual sessions to discuss the outlook for internal audit deployment and technology with Rui Bastos, chief information officer & chief digital officer—Reliance Industries Hydrocarbons, and head of group audit and risk management for the Reliance Group; Dr. Leo Mackay, senior vice president, ethics and enterprise assurance for Lockheed Martin; and, Amy Brachio, EY Partner and the firm’s global business consulting leader. 

Conversation among the audit chairs and guests primarily focused on three topics:

  • Internal audit groups are gaining agility
    Internal auditors are responding to unprecedented operational disruptions, working conditions, and risk landscapes. The shift to remote work has highlighted the virtues of flexibility, quick pivots, and communication in audit plans, strategies, and techniques.

  • Technology, a comprehensive outlook, and staff improvements are all boosting internal audit
    Technologies such as data analytics and data mining, modeling, and robotic process automation can enhance internal audit effectiveness, often with less human work. Taking a holistic view of data and risk is also important, as is honing or supplementing the skills of the internal audit team.

  • How should the CAE role be positioned?
    New internal audit tools and strategies invite fresh visions for internal audit leadership. For some companies, the chief audit executive (CAE) function may need greater stature to deliver value. Some companies see the opportunity to marry technology, risk, compliance,