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"We are solution finders, not inspectors."

As an internal auditor, Erik von Känel is continuously confronted with prejudices: he is viewed as a policeman, an inspector or a pen-pusher who sits in a silent room fiddling with figures and text. Right or wrong? “Wrong”, explains Erik von Känel, who tells us why these “fairy tales” are no longer true.

8 March 2018, author: Natalie Widmer, photos: Natalie Widmer

Erik von Känel never had a dream job in the traditional sense of wanting to be a firefighter or an astronaut. But Erik knew that he wanted a varied and challenging job. His current role as an internal auditor more than meets this requirement. After following the traditional route as a financial auditor in a “big four” company and as an internal auditor at a major Swiss bank, the native of Basel moved back home – and to Helvetia. He chose Helvetia because it represents quality and Swiss entrepreneurship. But also: “Here I feel like a person and not a resource, and I can sense an interest in driving things forward and making changes. Employees are also supported with further training, both professionally and personally.”

Curiosity and courage are needed

Stakeholders want added value and innovation; the industry is becoming more heavily regulated and the workforce is becoming more diverse. Auditors have increasingly become advisors, needing social skills, curiosity and analytical thinking, as well as technical knowledge. “As an auditor I have to want to understand and satisfy my thirst for knowledge by asking questions. Professional scepticism and the courage to ask the right questions are the best qualifications for this.” The ability to develop trust and sometimes to deescalate are also important, Erik von Känel tells us. During an auditing process, contacts are often nervous and tense. So, it is all the more important to develop a trusting relationship and to have the same goal in mind.

Erik von Känel can list a whole host of arguments for why he moved from external to internal auditing. “As an internal auditor I develop an in-depth knowledge of products, processes and the culture of a company within a short period of time – and to a level I would not have been able to achieve as an external auditor. The increased level of involvement in risk assessment for the company means I am already part of finding a solution, before the detailed analysis has even started, and I do not just point the problem out.” As an internal auditor, Erik can approach problems as a colleague and employee and develop and implement solutions alongside the team. “As internal auditors, we are not ‘finger pointers’ but solution finders.”

Brushing off the dusty image

However, friends and acquaintances repeatedly question Erik’s choice of profession. He is asked how a talkative extrovert can do this kind of job. It is a shame that the job of an internal auditor still has such a dusty image. As part of Helvetia, Erik is interested in finding the best solution for problems – as a team and with other departments. Erik von Känel enjoys the responsibility, variety and cooperation with his colleagues at Helvetia. Not least because they are able to represent Helvetia at the bowling championship every year. First though, Erik is going away for a couple of months to support our auditing team at Helvetia Austria in Vienna. Yes, international travel to other locations is also possible for Helvetia employees and is very popular.

What does an internal auditor do?

An internal auditor inspects and advises the company, independently and objectively, on behalf of the Audit Committee (audit body of the Board of Directors). Internal auditing contributes to the implementation of company goals. Using recognised procedures (International Professional Practices Framework – IPPF), it helps to critically examine and develop company processes and the associated goals, risk management, control and monitoring.

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