A spotter’s guide to the men and women of finance.
Internal audit as we know it today is possible only thanks to the information revolution, whose enabling technology naturally captures, time-stamps and taxonomises every neuron fired across the chaotic Cartesian theatre comprising a modern corporation’s immortal soul. Once upon a time those, neurons found material form only in the terse syntax of printed memoranda, languidly stewarded between the organisation’s in-trays and pneumatic nodes by wheezy mailmen with green visors and sleeve garters. In that benighted time there was nothing much to audit, and no-one paid much mind to the curmudgeonly old chap in the basement office who was asked to do it. But boy has that changed.
Modern internal auditors are anti-subject matter experts: men and women who understand the deadline for everything, but the point of nothing, their blessèd lot in life is to assess your compliance with the measurable criteria they behold on their clipboard because — not being subject matter experts — they have no means of assessing anything else. They are stewards of legibility, that is to say.
Your department’s commitment — probably given, in a typical moment of weakness or inattention, by the GC who was GC three GCs ago — to review annually the firm’s fleet of template confidentiality agreements is a fertile hunting ground for the kind of “operational error” incidents which are IA’s meat and drink.
It will not matter whether anyone used the template, much less that there was nothing wrong with it — your failure to do what Chip, in your absence, committed to do, quod erat demonstrandum is grounds for censure.
Similarly, one hazards instant dismissal should one not complete all computer-based training by the designated time — there will be many system-generated email reminders, make no mistake — no matter how pointless the topic or asinine the training on it — if in doubt the answer is “all of the above” —may be.
By contrast, your total incompetence when negotiating a indemnity will fly leagues over internal audit’s head, because not a man-jack among those who work there would have the first clue what gross negligence even was, let alone what amounts to it, much less how one would recognise an indemnity if it slapped one in the face, whether suitably carved out or not.
Result: almost no lawyer in Christendom understands the proper application of an indemnity, but internal audit have never been the wiser. In the mean time, the financial system seems to have weathered our collective feyness about indemnities all right. So far.
The secret, for the most part, is to steer clear of service level agreements, key performance indicators, target operating models. Articulate your contribution to the ongoing well-being of the firm in gnomic utterances: deprecate all measurable aspects of your performance. The experienced commercial solicitor is a vessel for ineffable wisdom. His output is incomprehensible genius — its very genius is that it is incomprehensible, and no-one: not he, not his colleagues, not his counterparts, can fathom what it all means — so this is largely manageable.
The reductio ad absurdam of the foregoing: internal auditors have recently hit upon the need to internally audit themselves. To the extent this is not auto-erotic, it is potentially dystopian — then again, the auto-erotic is the same glass, half-full, as the dystopian is half-empty.
But might that forthcoming moment, whereupon the machines who, with loving grace, watch over us begin to watch over themselves, be the greatly-anticipated inflection point at which our fallow corporation — famously, a person in legal fiction, able to sue and be sued but not one in a social sense, able to share a pint down that the local — becomes self-aware?
Wake up, Neo. The singularity is near.
- Indeed, likely before your employment, in a kinder time, before the great financial crisis.
- Health and safety in employment and records management are always good ones.