The Institute of Risk Management (IRM) asks its members what working in risk is really like and what hints and tips they'd share with people looking to move into the industry.
Catherine Watson IRMCert
Chief Internal Auditor
Government of Jersey
How did you get your job?
I am currently the Chief Internal Auditor at the Government of Jersey; however my career started in Deloitte where I was a trainee auditor and where I qualified with the Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales; during my time at Deloitte I have worked in various sectors from retail, to finance to non-profit and progressing to a member of the senior management team. After over 10 years at Deloitte I then worked as Head of Strategy for a large bank before moving to Government in 2013 and have held this role for the past 5 years.
Risk management has however always been a fundamental pillar in audit from assessing key risks in the plan, to auditing standards to issuing reports and now more than ever risk and audit are key together to drive robust governance and compliance. I undertook my IRM Certificate to provide a deeper understanding of risk management and more credibility to my audit role by holding the dual qualification. I have enjoyed in my time working in Jersey, London and New Zealand which has provided me an appreciation of culture and diversity and having experience in both public sector, practice and industry provided me the platform to do the role of Chief of Internal Auditor of a national island government today.
What’s a typical day like as a Chief Internal Auditor?
I never have a typical day in my role and that is what makes it exciting. I maybe conducting an audit on a new site selection for a new school including reviewing the risks and how they will be managed or accepted and then doing an advisory review on a new IT payment system. My role is a statutory appointment and with that comes statutory obligations and so it is imperative I provide assurance on key systems and controls and therefore there is no typical day, but it is always important I respond to matters on a risk based approach and ensure that you always respond to people before the sun sets. Staff wellbeing and engagement is key to being an effective leader, as your people are your biggest asset and the risk of losing staff or low productivity can be only too real so every day I ensure I say thank you to people who have gone that extra mile and well done for people that have delivered a great piece of work; it doesn’t take a moment to write an email to say thank you or well done but to inspire people to be the best they can be they need to feel valued and that should be something we do every day as culture is key to an effective organisation.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The people - in any organisation our people are our biggest asset and we should invest in our people and make them feel valued and support them to be the best that they can be. I am fortunate to have a great team to support me and what I enjoy most about my role is seeing people succeed and projects being delivered, any part I play in that I am proud of and seeing people blossom is what I enjoy the most.
What are the challenges?
The key challenge in any organisation is culture; what is key for a successful organisation is he right culture. By having a mature organisation that understands the golden thread of risk and governance drives success. The world is forever changing and an organisation has to be able to respond to upside and downside risks while ensuring their people and customers feel valued. So what are the challenges that we face is ability as people and organisations to embrace change and culturally ensure that we make risk based decisions based on the future with good governance at the heart what we do.
In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?
The Internal Auditing Standards require you to do audits on a risk based approach. Having the qualification provides me deeper appreciation and understanding of risk but more importantly how audits can add even more value to help manage risk and focus on the biggest impact both the upside of risk and downside which both are important. Too often we focus on the downside of risk, but we should be more proactive and the IRM qualification has taught me always refer to the Butterfly Matrix and explore the upside of risk as well.
What would you say to others thinking about joining IRM as a member?
The qualification itself is the gold bullion standard and widely accredited so to provide senior leaders and auditors enhanced credibility. I think for auditors to hold both their accounting and risk qualification drives better risk based auditing and governance.
How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions? Has being linked to the IRM helped?
The people I have met on the course and people from the Institute have increased my own professional network which has been invaluable. My career ambitions are to be Group Director of Audit and Risk and therefore having qualifications from the IRM and ICAEW enables me drives me to achieve my career ambitions. The IRM and ICAEW are complementary qualifications and provide creditability in both areas.
So how do you get involved in Risk and Audit? I think that personal pride and motivation are key to success in any career so my four top tips are:
Be diligent in your work and exams, as that will provide you with a creditable platform to reach your career aspirations. Qualifications are needed but delivering your role with integrity and credibility is key to allow you to take on more responsibility to be diligent in your work and studies.
Listen to your peers, your team and those you report into; people are the biggest asset in any organisation and having colleagues that inspire you and you inspire drives a good culture and one you will grow as a person.
Choose the area that motivates you the most. How did I become Chief Internal Auditor of a national government? It was because I followed what I am passionate about, delivered work diligently and always respected people. If your passion is IT Risk follow that if what motivates you is Enterprise Risk in Retail sector peruse that. However you can only be the best you can be if you are motivated and passionate about what you do. Making risk based informed decisions are the basis for success and the IRM qualification gives you the credibility professionally to help drive successful business; but use the qualification to succeed in the career area you are passionate about.
Lastly, a wise man once told me always abide by the philosophy of “before the sun sets” – people will be waiting for your response to a voicemail or email. The risk of losing a customer or colleague is only too real. You don’t have to answer the question or action the matter that day but before the sun sets always respond with a call or note to say you are reviewing it and I date you will provide an update. “Before the sun sets” shows you value your colleagues and customers by ensuring you returned their call or email today and that is priceless.
So in summary the IRM qualification has provided me with a dual qualification that provides enhanced credibility in Risk and Audit as well as an increased network and focus that even when there is change and there are rain clouds, we need to focus on the downside and management of risk but also to look for the upside of risk – look for the rainbow.