Companies scrambling to secure tech talent for internal audit teams

Less than one-third of audit team leaders surveyed have access to the talent they need to fuel AI and machine learning solutions. Leaders are trying a variety of approaches to bridge the gap.

Artificial intelligence is emerging as a key competency for companies trying to tackle ever-increasing workloads in internal audit.

But for AI to do its job, companies will always need the contributions of skilled professionals — the type of professionals who aren't easy to come by, according to a global survey.

Just 31% of chief audit executives (CAEs) and audit directors report having access to adequate talent on their internal auditing teams with the skills to power AI and machine learning solutions, according to a survey by global consulting firm Protiviti.

Protiviti polled 573 global executives in internal audit roles during the final quarter of 2022, two-thirds of whom were CAEs and audit directors. Sixty-one per cent of respondents work for public companies and 31% for private companies. Four out of five work in the US.

Forty-three per cent of CAEs and audit directors expressed concerns about their companies' ability to recruit qualified internal audit talent, regardless of specific skillset; 39% were concerned about their ability to retain talent; and 36% were concerned about the rising cost of wages.

"In a tight labour market, the internal audit function has not been spared in the war for talent, especially with heightening expectations of internal audit functions related to innovation, transformation, and other hot topics," Andrew Struthers-Kennedy, global leader of Protiviti's Internal Audit and Financial Advisory practice, said in a news release. "This talent shortage comes as internal audit is expected to take on a greater role in helping companies navigate choppy waters created by changing risks, emerging regulations, and shifts in business priorities.

"It's vital that audit leaders develop strategies to attract, retain, and train qualified people while keeping their foot on the gas when it comes to evolving their function and maximising their relevance for the future."

In addition to issues with hiring and retaining talent, 37% of CAEs and audit directors expressed concern about their ability to upskill and train internal audit staff. As a result, leaders are exploring a variety of approaches to bridge the talent gap.

When it comes to securing talent related to AI and machine learning, for example, just 21% of CAEs and audit directors listed hiring and just 24% listed training/developing as their primary talent acquisition strategy. Between co-sourcing (32%) and rotation or guest-resource programmes (13%), nearly half cited outside sources as their primary strategy for securing AI and machine learning talent.

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