Investigating Internal Audit: Q&A with Janice Byrne, Audit Director for Strategy and Operations at Nationwide
Have you ever wondered what it's like to work in Internal Audit at a market-leading organisation? We spoke to Janice Byrne about her career at Nationwide, and what's next for the Society.
Tell us a bit about your position at the Society and your experience.
I’m the Audit Director for Strategy and Operations at Nationwide and I’ve just celebrated my first-year work anniversary here after taking a career break to redevelop my house. I have over 25 years of internal audit experience within financial services.
Why is there a hiring drive in the audit space at Nationwide?
The Society really values Internal Audit, and our insights and assurance can support management when making key decisions. As Nationwide continues to focus on how best to serve our Members and Build a National Treasure, Internal Audit has a key role to play. We are looking to increase the amount we can do for the Society over the next few years – hence the hiring drive!
If you want to join a team where you are supported, have professional development opportunities and where you are working for an organisation that aligns with values such as authenticity, being supportive and doing your best, then I think you would fit into our Internal Audit team. To me it’s so important to work with people who you value, respect and trust and Nationwide has got that in place.
The Internal Audit team is relatively small – about 100 people – but it’s big enough to give you audit experience and career opportunities across a variety of different portfolios and teams covering the whole Society. Being small has its advantages too, as we’re personal enough to give you the opportunity to build relationships with the entire community. It’s really the best of both worlds. Additionally, as some of our agile and data analytics work that we’ve already done shows, we are innovative and at the forefront of auditing techniques.
How are Nationwide looking at implementing an agile way of working in the audit space?
When I first joined Nationwide, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had already adopted an agile way of working. We are one of the forerunners within the internal audit profession to be adopting these principles, which means that we are more collaborative across our community, better engaged with our stakeholders, and are able to complete audits in a more efficient way. This encourages us to focus on the right things.
What makes Nationwide different compared to other companies?
The best thing about Nationwide, that you notice on day one, is that we are a mutual organisation, meaning unlike banks, we’re owned by our 16 million members. And we are all working together to build a stronger, kinder, greener society. The core of everything we do is to protect our members and it’s so refreshing, authentic and a lovely environment to be part of. This is one of the reasons why our colleagues work with a real sense of pride and it’s one of our cornerstones for building the legendary service and to protect the Society.
I also think Nationwide has a great leadership culture. This sets the tone for the rest of the Society, making it a positive place to be. For example, there’s a really healthy focus on wellbeing and personal resilience, which is so important at the moment. Generally, everyone is very supportive of each other and will help each other out, which is a big morale boost. It’s a culture to be really proud of.
Are there any exciting projects that have been worked on?
We need to audit what really matters, and that means looking at things that protect the Society, in order to protect our members.
The Society has recently taken a new approach to look at whole customer journeys for our members (or their ‘missions’). From an audit perspective, that means that we’re not just looking at small processes, but at end-to-end experiences and what is important to our members. This allows our teams to engage in audits covering multiple business areas and thereby gain more experience across the Society. We encourage this as a way of working, so that our team are responsive to risks as they emerge with a much broader perspective.
If I think about some of the things that we did last year whilst responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, our role became one where we were able to support management with business-critical activities. For example, our team was actively engaged on delivering the keyworker project across the business, and we really got stuck in and helped the organisation as a whole.
What has been a career highlight for you at Nationwide over the last 12 months?
Joining Nationwide at the beginning of the pandemic was interesting. However, to work in a team where we were able to pull together and carry on providing insightful and constructive assurance, developing new products as we went along while maintaining morale, resilience and motivation throughout, I can honestly say, has been a career highlight.
If we look back to see what our community has achieved, I’m really proud of them. We not only maintained our activity, but we were innovative, developing new products to provide real time assurance to help the Society. For example, the mortgage payment holiday process that the government announced almost overnight resulted in us introducing a new product to provide assurance literally just as it was happening. I am very proud; we did an amazing thing together as a community and we genuinely did help our members.
Finally, what does the future look like for you and your team?
We are still building innovation into our ways of working, taking our learnings from the pandemic to reimagine audit. We need to be innovative and continue to be brave so that we are calling out insightful observations to management. Our role is to help our leaders run the business in a controlled and sustainable way so that it will be built to last. That in turn, will help Nationwide become a National Treasure. I believe that audit can play a fundamental part in that journey.
We hope you enjoyed this insight from Janice Byrne, Audit Director for Strategy & Operations at Nationwide. If you’re interested in learning more about a career at Nationwide, please check out the current vacancies at https://www.nationwide-jobs.co.uk/opportunities/audit/ or speak to Sanjeev Singh to learn more about the Internal Audit team, current roles, and upcoming opportunities.
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