IIA Conference review
September 14, 2017

Nicole Simon, Internal Audit Manager

Shivani Gounder, Senior Manager


On 24 July 2017, we had the pleasure of attending the International IIA Conference in Sydney at the International Convention Centre.

IIA Conferences are held annually at a new destination around the world each year. This year, thousands of international visitors and delegates visited our shores and it was great to network with international representatives. Next year’s conference will be held in Dubai.

IIA stands for the ‘Institute of Internal Auditors’ and this event was aimed at the internal audit, Chief Audit Executives (CAE’s), risk and governance folk.

We had several objectives going into the conference, including:

  • meeting as many delegates in person as we could, particularly from ACT;
  • initiating conversations about internal audit, risk culture and innovative ideas; and
  • raising the profile of IIA by posting on LinkedIn and other social media platforms about the conference.

Below is an overview of the conference and our highlights and key takeaway messages.


Theme and workshops

The theme for the conference was ‘L.I.V.E. the Global Experience: Leadership. Innovation. Value. Effectiveness’ and focused specifically on delivering a program that provided insights into timely issues impacting the profession. The following educational streams provided a wide range of workshops to attend:

  • People and relationships
  • Practice management
  • Case studies
  • Digital dawn
  • IT auditing
  • Risk management
  • Public sector
  • Financial services
  • Social business engagement



The fantastic keynote speakers delivered thought-provoking presentations on digital transformation, uncovering fraud, global geopolitics, how to lead organisations to achieve success in periods of uncertainty, and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Speakers included:

  • Chris Riddell, Global Futurist, Digital Evangelist, Media Commentator, Board Director, Australia
  • Jonathan Calvert, Editor, Insight Investigations Team, The Sunday Times (UK)
  • Philippa Malmgren, Founder DRPM Group, UK
  • Sam Walsh, former Rio Tinto Chief Executive
  • Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman, Emaar Properties, UAE
  • Holly Ransom, Chief Executive Officer, Emergent, Australia


Social events

The highlight of most conferences is usually the social events. The IIA did a fantastic job showcasing Sydney at the Aussie themed welcome reception. The international and local delegates were able to enjoy a glimpse of Australia’s iconic wildlife including koalas, possums, wombats, joeys, snakes and other reptiles.

The gala dinner was held at the Overseas Passengers Terminal, overlooking Sydney Harbour, and we spent the night dancing to the live band, taking in the views and enjoying the festivities.


Conference highlights

  • Women in audit – fantastic speakers shared their experiences about culture, mentoring and support strategies to enable women in audit to achieve their career aspirations and overcome unconscious bias.
  • Data analytics – a few sessions were held on data analytics and a common theme was the ever-increasing data produced by organisations in the digital age and how this has untapped potential for data analytics driven compliance, risk management and internal audit activities.
  • Auditing efficiency and effectiveness – the increasing use of forward-looking, future-focused audits was discussed. These audits provide real-time feedback and value to organisations, especially when executing major change.
  • Using emotional intelligence (EQ) for effective leadership – learning how to use the powerful tool of EQ to assist professionals to achieve the right mindset and improve leadership skills to achieve high performance and job satisfaction in internal audit work.
  • Are you tolerating zombies – this presentation covered the topic of how to enhance engagement of employees in your organisation, and how to reduce the number of ‘zombies’ in the room. ‘Zombie’ employees lack engagement and consequently drag the overall team performance down due to their negative attitudes.


Key takeaways

  1. The importance of our IA role – not taking access to senior management, the board and regulators for granted. They have a genuine interest in our point of view.
  2. Emotional Intelligence – recognising that your emotions and the emotions of those around you play a big role in your day-to-day life at work. Positivity influences our emotional state and as leaders we should be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Set goals at the beginning of each day by asking yourself: ‘What could make this day extraordinary?’
  3. Managing change – when changes happens, aim to see the opportunities that the challenge has created rather than the challenge itself.
  4. Motivation – we should take personal responsibility for our path – get involved and volunteer, or find the right mentor. By motivating every team member across all levels, we can improve productivity and the performance of the team as a whole.
  5. Impact of Zombies – at any time, approximately 18% of an organisation’s workforce is ‘actively disengaged’, resulting in a reduction in their productivity, as well as the productivity of the team around them. This is costing organisations an additional 30% on top of their salary expenses.
  6. Consider IA in the context of new technologies and the rapidly changing risk profile they bring (e.g. data security, block chain data, social media, automation and mobile payments).

In summary, this was one of the best conferences that we’ve ever attended. Fabulous sunny weather, a great venue by the harbour and engaging sessions provided innovative ideas that we can apply now.

More importantly, we met so many new people and renewed old connections with friends and colleagues from around Australia and the world.