IA Circle: Mr Tom McLeod (CRO, CAE), Australia
IA Journey of Chief Audit and Risk officer from Australia
Conversation with Mr Tom McLeod: His journey as a professional started in taxation, a non-audit area, and he was eager to learn how any business operates to which his senior responded that time in 90’s in just two words - Internal Audit. That made to let him find a pathway to grow. Tom is in internal audit function for 25 years now and finds it adding enormous value to any organisation.
After so many years of service, his belief is that Internal Audit function that is seen as a police function, despite adding no value to the organisation in terms of the revenue that other functions bring to the organisation, IA exists to improve the control environment in an organisation.
He passionately talks about continuous improvements that this function requires - May it be related to the way audit execution is done, the way a report is written, or the way data analysis is done, it is important to him that this function is adapting to the changing environment.
A good internal audit function should have unfiltered access to all people, places and documents. If it doesn’t, then maybe the organisation is trying to hide something from you. Internal Audit function has changed profoundly in today’s world. It has become important that these questions are answered – has anyone tested the systems in an organisation and provided assurance over them? When you are answering these questions, you find risks in an organisation, test the controls and recommend improvements wherever necessary.
In his career, spanning over 25 years, he has had experience working with some really good board members and some bad board members. He thoroughly enjoyed every bit of working with both types as he learnt a lot from all these experiences. According to him, few qualities that an internal auditor must possess are that he must be approachable, discrete, a good listener, be independent and practical. As the head of internal audit, he believes that the best auditor can be anywhere, not necessary in some selected parts of the world.
He wishes to change the conventional belief that if internal audit function costs you a lot, a lot more than maybe a fraud detected or a control lapse detected by the Auditors, then this function is not necessary for the organisation. His heart sinks to this thought as it is very short sighted and not looking at the long term picture. Education among people in an organisation about the Internal Audit function holds critical importance to change such beliefs.
A good organisation relies heavily on internal audit function for robust corporate governance in their organisation. It becomes necessary that you have good working relations with the board, the chair of the board and the head of the audit committee. In the future, he wants to have an audit function where he is able to consult any organisation sitting in any corner of the world.
The world of internal audit improves with networking. The world of internal audit is at its best when the wisdom of global community is utilized fully. Getting experience and knowledge in the totality of the organisation will help you as an auditor to audit the different functions better.
Tom draws his support in many different ways including being the harshest critic and the strongest supporter both are equally important. His inspiration in profound career early on were his parents and his four siblings to do the very best
He recollects to have met some extraordinary people in his first job who do this day remain the high watermark of integrity and decency. On further plans Tom is working on the theory of being 2/3 of his career and with his international recognition open to add value to organisations by helping them better see how their organisations manage risk.
Message for IA aspirants: “My message to any internal audit aspirant would be to try it out - you may not like it but equally you might be like me and find it the foundation of an extraordinarily fascinating career.”
Tom has worked closely and confidentially with the Boards and the Senior Executives of large multi-national organisations and major culturally significant Government enterprises. Well known for managing competing risk within time and impeccable team leadership Tom has capitalised CAE strength to transform how organizations identify, manage and assure their key risks to improve how they efficiently and effectively operate to ensure a sustainable future.
There are many achievements along the journey but his consideration is for the major four as below:
1. Tendered and managed largest global co-sourcing internal audit contract with a large complex organisation effectively
2. Tom has led placement of the largest property limit purchased in the Australian insurance market in challenging global risk financing environment
3. Explored all the facets of governance, risk assessment, compliance, insurance, internal audit, fraud prevention and detection
4. Tom has experienced “the line” moment and eventually resigned to keep his own integrity intact and he consider that to be his proudest moment of career.
Tom McLeod is currently leading Risk and audit function at RMIT University. RMIT is a major global public research university based in Melbourne, Australia which was Founded in 1887 it has an enrollment of approximately 87,000 higher and vocational students making it the largest dual-sector education provider in Australia.
It has approximately 11,000 academic staff. Tom has started his professional journey in 1988 with KMPG and progressed it for nearly 3.5 decades and served:
· Foster’s brewing company
· Pasminco Limited now Zinifex Limited
· Paperlinx Limited
· Rio Tinto
· Coeliac Australia
· Asialink · Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Tom has also been cofounder and managing consultant for Mcleod Governance and served as board member to Institute of Internal Auditors, Australia in his career regime
We wish him the best of his continued contribution to Internal Audit Profession for remaining 1/3rd journey and hope he will continue to inspire many professionals with his rich knowledge and wisdom
Internal Audit with it’s basic foundation strengthen the ethical growth of an organization and thereby economic growth of any nation. Through this series we aim to feature the unsung heroes of corporate governance, more on IA Circle page on this website.