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Building a successful career in Internal Audit

Building a successful career in Internal Audit

  • 1 October 2019
  • By Elizabeth Sulistio
  • 7 mins read

Elizabeth Sulistio is Senior Audit Manager for our Group Consumer Financial Services and Bank of Singapore businesses, from Group Audit. She manages a team of internal auditors that focuses on assessment of governance, and risk and control framework to help the bank meet its objectives sustainably. Hear her perspective on what would make one succeed in internal audit.

"I started my first job as an IT Auditor with PwC in my hometown, Jakarta. To be honest, it was not really my cup of tea as I felt that I didn't have the technical depth to be a specialist. So, when I had the opportunity to switch to a business auditor role early in my career, I seized that opportunity. I joined OCBC Bank within the internal audit function in 2008, and now lead a team of 9.

Elizabeth Sulistio (right) with Head of Group Audit, Goh Chin Yee, at the OCBC Long Service Awards Presentation Ceremony 2018. Elizabeth received an award for completing 10 years of service.

On her leadership style

"I'm a direct person, in a good way I hope! I love to listen and welcome feedback and suggestions. We need checks, balances and different points of view for accountability and robust decision-making. Respect and ethics are values I hold fast to, especially in our area of work as the third line of defence of the Bank."

Five qualities to be successful in internal audit

  1. Being on top of the game

    "Firstly, it is important to be on top of the game. We all have to keep up with trends. Our industry is perpetually progressing and changing, and we can no longer audit via a checklist, like in the old days. Now in this digital age, we also have to keep our eyes on data analytics. Our people have to evolve and grow. Besides being aware of changes, we have to be bold enough to be changemakers ourselves."

  2. Being an excellent communicator

    "Secondly, auditors need to have excellent communication skills. We work a lot with people. We have to be able to articulate what we do, why we do what we do and communicate this in a clear, diplomatic and respectful manner. We are both the bearers of good and not so good news, so how we deliver the message is crucial."

  3. Being an exceptional team player

    "You can't work as a team if you don't care about your colleagues. I don't believe in superstars. Each and every team member is important and integral to the work we do."

    "Flexibility is another important characteristic in creating teamwork. If our team members have finished their part of the project, they help the others out. We are a family. While we have clear job responsibilities, our role as team members extends beyond job descriptions."

  4. Being self-motivated

    "Auditors need to be energetic and self-motivated. Internal auditors are not the most popular people in any organisation! We have to understand that it's not personal and not let it get to us. We are here to do a job and do it well. Self-motivation and being focused on the task at hand is key to being successful as an internal auditor."

  5. Being able to connect the dots

    "No, I'm not talking about drawing. Among the very many roles that you can find in a bank, audit is one of the few functions, apart from senior management, where you see how the Bank operates from end-to-end. We have to understand the macro organisation, systems, the industry, the regulatory system, as well as emerging future trends. To do our job well, we have to be able to connect all the dots, spot any disconnects and find ways to fix them. We have to see the forest and the trees!"

Challenges sharpen growth

"My team and I have been given loads of opportunities that have stretched our capabilities. As I've mentioned, internal audit is not always the most popular role. However, learning to be assertive yet respectful is key, as we are always seeking a win-win solution that is workable for all parties. After all, we are working towards the same mutual goal of making OCBC a stronger bank."