In this series, crew members in Internal Audit share their perspectives on the role data analytics is playing in their field.
Chris V. Director
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. Data Analytics Technical Lead
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. Project Manager
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.
In this blog, we sit down with Kelly M. and Elisha V., two crew members who serve different areas of the Vanguard business and received a professional development opportunity through one of our employee resource groups. Kelly is a Senior Research Associate in our Fixed Income Group, where she analyzes municipal bonds and works with the trading and portfolio management teams. Elisha is an IT Delivery Manager within our 401(k) Institutional Systems division, where she leads IT teams across our Pennsylvania and North Carolina offices. This is their story:
When thinking about where you want to launch or continue your career, you can be assured that at Vanguard, an emphasis is placed on professional development. Combined, we have been at Vanguard for nearly twenty years. During our tenure, we have both received support in various ways to help further advance our skill set. There is one development opportunity that we pursued, however, that stands out from all the rest. Through the Women’s Initiative for Leadership Success (WILS), one of our five Crew Resource Groups, we applied and were selected to participate in an advanced leadership development program for women. In addition to collaborating with female talent from across the enterprise and having a dedicated leadership coach consultant, the program presented us with several frameworks and tools that prepared us to handle a number of scenarios that we could potentially face throughout our careers. Examples include shaping the way we make decisions, preparing and executing courageous conversations with crew, reframing the dialogue of our inner critic, and recognizing unconscious biases.
The experience couldn’t have come at a better time in our professions. Elisha had just started a new managerial position and Kelly, who had always been an individual contributor, aspired to obtain a formal leadership role. Although we support different business areas in unique fields, we are both women within male-dominated industries. We were both successful within our careers at this point and were excited to learn ways in which we could enhance our skills and achieve professional goals going forward. We also quickly realized during the program that what got us here would not get us there, with there being where we envisioned our careers going and how we saw ourselves reaching our full potential. This specific program changed our perspectives on what that means and gave us the resources to clearly define who we are and what we stand for.
Identifying the direction we wanted to steer our careers, in addition to using learnings centered on how to plan and execute courageous conversations, continue to stand out as key takeaways from the program. We had the chance to practice these exchanges, and the more we practiced, the more we realized how impactful it was when developing others. Moreover, taking on courageous conversations is so imperative to improving a challenging situation, and we are now better equipped to handle them. Lastly, we received helpful reminders that something as simple as making the invisible, visible, can be a powerful mind shift that will lead you to a more successful outcome.
The advanced leadership development program for women has provided us with more than either of us expected. We are more prepared and confident in navigating our careers for having taken part in this initiative. Again, this is just one example of the many development opportunities offered at Vanguard.
More about the authors:
Kelly joined Vanguard directly out of college in 2007 and has been working in the Investment Management Group for the past three years. Kelly graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration.
Elisha has been at Vanguard since 2012. She launched her career as a developer and shortly after moved into a technical lead role. Following these experiences, she transitioned to a project management position that gave her the opportunity to be a technical relationship manager for a large 401(k) client and now as a delivery manager, supporting cross-divisional capabilities and relationships for Vanguard Advice for Institutional. Prior to joining Vanguard, Elisha worked at various startups and financial companies also within the engineering and technology capacity for four years.
Meet Bonnie D. She is an Advertising Manager who did not expect to find herself in the financial services industry. Now after having spent a number of years in creative roles at Vanguard, one thing she says she never takes for granted: “I laugh every single day.”
If you’re seeking an environment where you can make a difference and develop professionally, learn more about our MBA programs at www.vanguardjobs.com.