A good audit pays attention to culture
Eveline de Niet - Senior Audit Manager
A healthy internal culture and behaviours are crucial in the judgement and advice of an internal audit. We talk to Eveline de Niet of Audit Rabobank about the Culture & Behaviour Framework and NextGen Audit. "Innovations are in technology as well as in mutual contact."
Before working at Rabobank, Eveline was an accountant at a large accountancy firm. “When you work for one of the Big Four, you enter a lot of companies and you learn a lot. I have experienced that myself. But after a while I found the work too repetitive. As an external accountant you have the interim and final audits every year, you can see them coming. I also wanted a better balance between work and private life. More opportunities to work flexibly. That’s why I switched to the bank.” We are in her department at the head office in Utrecht. Smiling, she looks around at her colleagues. “Look, here I can delve more into what’s going on in the company. And give better advice as a result.”
Why did you choose Rabobank as an Auditor?
“Much of my work has to do with culture. As an external accountant, you are always with a client for a short period of time and it is mainly about the figures. But I wanted to immerse myself in the products, processes and culture of complex organisations such as financial institutions. You need more time for that. To unravel them and gain an overview. Yes, that is where my heart lies. And the fact that at Rabobank, you can agree with your team where and when you work is also a huge plus for me. That is how I ended up at Rabobank.’
What is the role of culture in your work as an auditor?
“It’s big,” says Eveline. As product owner within KYC (Know Your Customer) Audit, she is responsible for policy, control and culture, and according to her, these three cannot exist without each other. “The last 5 to 10 years, we have seen that many problems at financial institutions can be traced back to behavioural aspects. You can describe processes, map them out, but the internal culture always plays an important role. How do we treat each other, what is the tone at the top and how does this trickle down to the rest of the organisation? Because however you look at it, the degree of risk management is strongly determined by the culture. Human behaviour is crucial for the translation and implementation of policy. The auditors at Rabobank pay a lot of attention to this.’
How is culture embedded in your work as an auditor?
“We use the CuBe framework here, which stands for Culture and Behaviour. We carry out research using questionnaires, observations, interviews and workshops. We use these to investigate the feasibility and clarity of goals and how openly subjects are discussed. Amongst other things, we look at how employees are addressed, both with compliments and with feedback and consequences. This results in recommendations and points for attention for the culture of a department.
“We are fortunate that within our audit team we have more competences than just the standard business management and financial backgrounds. We have colleagues with other backgrounds such as psychology and philosophy. From those different perspectives, you can understand and analyse the cultural aspects very well. We use that knowledge in our advice.”
So you are not only looking for standard auditors?
“The beauty of the diversity in our teams is that everyone complements each other in the work. That is why we are not only looking for standard auditors. It is necessary that you work in a structured way and that you enjoy analysing things and getting them down on paper. But I see us mainly as consultants for our colleagues to make the whole organisation better. The combination of structured work and a fresh approach to advice is what we are looking for in our new fellow auditors.”
How are the audit teams distributed within Rabobank?
“We mirror the organisation. Where we used to be in fixed teams, we now live in an “Audit Universe”, where we are constantly putting together new teams around important issues for the bank and working together agile. When composing the teams, we look at the knowledge, experience and skillset of the colleagues. What we need differs per topic and per research. That is what makes the work so attractive. You continue to develop yourself through the variation in colleagues you work with and subjects you research.”
Eveline is currently working within Audit KYC, spring 2022. She is engaged in investigations in the field of money laundering risks and terrorist financing. In a team of about 30 people, they shape the audit process for current social issues such as the developments due to the war in Ukraine.
What innovations does Rabobank have in the field of auditing?
“Our innovations fall under the broad heading of NextGen Audit. This includes technological innovations in the field of data analysis. For example, we are working on Power BI Dashboards and developing tooling for text mining. In addition, culture and behaviour is a spearhead within Audit Rabobank”, says Eveline.
“The way you report your findings and communicate your advice to the management. This goes beyond just writing a report. We provide management with short, powerful presentations with a core message. That core message also anchors the bank’s strategy and objectives.”
Are you ready for the next step in Audit?
Which competencies do you need as a medior or senior auditor?
‘A financial background is not a specific necessity.” Eveline pauses. “I think that in addition to expertise in the field of Governance, risks and controls, your set of soft skills is essential. It is important to listen as an auditor and not to immediately form an opinion. Or let yourself be led by prejudices. We intensely invest in our internal training. As an auditor, you periodically follow training courses, we have summer schools and internally we have focus and knowledge sessions on topics in our field. Even as a senior auditor or audit manager you never stop learning at Rabobank!”
So much is changing in our field. Every audit feels like a new beginning to me. I also find it important to maintain independence in my work. As an auditor, we are an independent and objective when we need to check whether significant risks are being run in the organization. The risk is that you quickly take things for granted if you’re working somewhere for a longer period of time. That’s what I’m always trying to avoid. It’s important to keep looking at the issues objectively and fresh. That is one of the core tasks of an auditor in my opinion. I do this by consulting my colleagues and sometimes consciously taking a step back and thinking about the issues calmly.”
Eveline finishes her story. “Rabobank is a large and complex organization with an incredible amount of possibilities and opportunities for new subjects or departments. This way, as an auditor, you can make a contribution to permanently improve the organization.”