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Data analytics and careers in Internal Audit

In this series, crew members in Internal Audit share their perspectives on the role data analytics is playing in their field.

Chris V's portraitChris V.
Auditor Services Technology

A graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Chris began his career with Vanguard’s Information Technology (IT) Division as a systems administrator, providing front line support for critical business infrastructure. He transitioned to a role in IT Audit, where he is currently a Director on the Global Technology Audit Services team, leading the Integrated Audit and Data Analytics functions.

Jeff O's portraitJeff O.
Data Analytics Technical Lead
Internal Audit

After completing a graduate degree in analytics, Jeff worked at a media and technology company for several years. While there, he was a developer and thought leader in analytics, with projects spanning consultation, visualization, business intelligence, and machine learning. After joining Vanguard, Jeff supported the Institutional Audit Services team before moving into the Data Analytics Technical Lead role. He is tasked with operational leadership of the data analytics team in providing insight, efficiency, and coverage gains to Internal Audit, contributing to our overall goal of protecting Vanguard investors.

Kelly C's portraitKelly C.
Project Manager
Audit Services

With an undergraduate degree in Accounting from Saint Francis University, Kelly started her career at Vanguard as a Client Services Specialist within Retail Services. During this time she obtained her Series 7 and 63 licenses, assisting retail clients to meet their investment needs. She moved on to become a Corporate Actions Specialist within Fund Financial Services for several years. In this role, she captured and accounted for corporate actions for Vanguard funds. She has spent the past four years as a Project Manager within Internal Audit, partnering with business units around the globe to identify and mitigate risks to Vanguard. During her time at Vanguard, Kelly successfully obtained an MBA from West Chester University and her CIA (Certified Internal Audit) designation.

Why is data analysis so critical to the future of Internal Audit and Vanguard overall?

Chris: A challenge for the Internal Audit department is being able to keep pace with changes taking place in the business. New products and client service offerings, technology transformations, continued global expansion, and an evolving regulatory landscape are contributing to an unprecedented velocity of change at Vanguard. With this in mind, how do we, as Internal Audit, continue to provide coverage over an evolving risk landscape that grows proportionally to the rate of change?

One of the ways Internal Audit can scale to meet this growing demand is through the effective and efficient use of data analysis. If used properly, it can allow us to make smarter, better informed decisions on where to allocate our resources, automate manual processes, test full populations of data in minutes, not days, and monitor the health of our control environment with minimal effort. Data analysis provides us the opportunity to work smarter and make more efficient use of our finite resources which is critical in carrying out our mission of protecting Vanguard’s investors.

How is Internal Audit using data analysis today?

Jeff: In a shared partnership of analysts and auditors, the department uses data analytics by augmenting the audit process with population-level insights and tests. Both reactive and proactive projects are completed currently. As advisory and assurance engagements conduct their reviews, data analytics is leveraged to better understand business practices and identify risk-based exceptions. From the successful use of data analytics during those engagements, automated monitors can be developed afterward to assist the department in reviewing the risk landscape in future. A variety of approaches are used, including independent analysis from source systems, visual analytics to better understand populations, and statistics and algorithms to identify hard-to-find insights.

Kelly: Internal Audit uses data analysis in multiple phases of the audit lifecycle. For example, when establishing an annual audit plan or preparing for a specific audit, data analysis helps an auditor identify the high-risk and complex areas to target. It has also led to a shift in how typical control testing can be performed. Audit teams can assess complete populations of a data set rather than merely inspecting a small sample selection by using analytical tools and techniques. This helps provide better assurance on how effectively a control is operating and gives the team better insights into the holistic control environment of the respective area.

What are the hallmark traits of a successful data analyst?

Jeff: I once heard it said that, “…the analysis isn’t complete until the results are accepted.” Deriving interesting and valuable insights, which depend on persistent curiosity is key. It is not just about asking a good question, but about asking the right series of questions that drive deep into a subject. However, great analyses can be of no value if they are misunderstood. The ability to describe the methods and the value of the results in a clear and concise manner creates the return on investment. Further, a great analyst must be able to build excitement around the use of data.

How can a data analytics skillset benefit one’s career?

Kelly: I think that having a proficient data analytics skillset pays dividends throughout any career path. Being able to successfully identify and analyze the necessary data and information needed to make a well-informed decision are essential skills that will benefit an individual in any role. Personally, as I grow in my career I aspire to lead larger and more strategic projects across the organization. Analytics skills will help give me both macro and micro views into a respective book of work, information to drive data based decision-making, and a tool kit for persuasion and influence.

Chris: Having a risk and control skillset alone is no longer sufficient to be considered an effective auditor. While data analytics is very quickly becoming a required competency in our industry, the benefits aren’t solely limited to a career in audit. Data analytics skills are in-demand, very transferable across disciplines and are impactful in a number of different roles should you ever decide on a career change. Building data analytics acumen today can be a big differentiator in your future.

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