A conversation with Anne DeTraglia, director of internal audit at United Airlines, on staffing the internal audit department

Meanwhile, the complexion of the typical internal audit department is starting to change. CPAs with backgrounds in finance and accounting and Big Four experience are giving way to internal auditors who've worked as risk managers, fraud specialists, data scientists, technologists, and in other disciplines.

For internal audit directors and leaders, getting the right mix of skills in the department can be a tricky undertaking. Not only are data analytics and cybersecurity capabilities gaining in importance, but internal auditors must continue to demonstrate critical thinking, communicate well, and navigate complex situations with diplomacy as they take on new responsibilities and take internal audit into new areas, such as auditing corporate culture.

To shed some light on these and other issues, we recently caught up with Anne DeTraglia, director of internal audit at United Airlines, to talk about how she finds good internal audit talent, the skills she views as important to taking internal audit to the next level, and how internal audit departments are evolving.

DeTraglia says the company does well attracting outside candidates for open internal audit positions, which she attributes to the company's Fortune 100 status and location in Chicago, but says she'd like to do a better job at attracting candidates from within the company. "We're trying to get more internal candidates, so people who already work at United, to have more interest in internal audit. They may see as fairly nerdy and maybe don't understand what we do, so I'd like to change that," she says.

anne detraglia 4WS0042She is also hoping to attract people with more diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets. "We are really moving away from focusing on that accounting and finance professional. That's not to say we don't like CPAs, we certainly do, but it isn't our only focus anymore. The largest skill we are trying to develop internally and that we are looking for externally is technical skill," says DeTraglia. "We expect everyone to be much more technical in nature than they were previously."

Some of the other skills and traits she says that are needed for internal auditors are critical thinking, communication abilities, and the ability to be diplomatic, among others. DeTraglia concedes that it's nearly impossible to find all of these traits in a single person, but says it's more about having them across the department. "You have to leverage people's bright spots. Too frequently we focus on what people can't do," she says. "Instead I can focus on leveraging the skills that they are really good at and make sure we are working those hard." She says the internal audit department recently completed a skills assessment to look for what areas and needs the department may have gaps in.

DeTraglia also talked about the evolution and rapid pace of change in internal audit and how that has affected hiring in the department and she talked about how the new presidential administration could change regulation in the industry and for businesses broadly, and what that could mean for internal audit.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

Length: 20 min. 48 sec.
size: 19.2 MB