In 2019, I shared a list of the internal audit thought leaders of the decade. The list alerted internal auditors around the world about outstanding men and women in our field who worked tirelessly to elevate and promote the internal audit profession through writing, speaking, use of social media and networking. The blog was so popular that I crafted a new list at the end of 2020 to recognize the ten thought leaders of the year.
After stepping down from The IIA earlier this year, I pledged to continue advocating for the profession around the world. I have continued to craft blogs and promote internal auditing on my website AuditBeacon.com. I also made a commitment to continue recognizing the internal audit thought leaders around the world who make a difference in our profession through The Internal Audit Beacon Awards.
In November, I published a call for nominations, and was amazed at the response. More than 50 names were submitted from 13 countries around the world. I suddenly felt an awesome responsibility to evaluate each one with an objective assessment of their contributions. As I noted last year, the danger in compiling such a list is not in who gets included, but who might be slighted by being left off. So, let me offer my apologies in advance.
As with my thought leaders for 2020, this year’s list is intended to acknowledge active contributions to advancing the profession through lectures, articles, publications, and social media during one of the most disruptive periods many of us have ever experienced. Some of those on my list are well known globally, while others may focus more on advancing the profession within their own regions of the world. In the end, I couldn’t limit the recognition to just 10. There were at least a dozen whose contributions I wanted to recognize in this blog. I call them the “Dozen Who Made a Difference.”
I am proud of the diversity on this year’s list. Seven of those recognized were not on the list in 2020. This year’s recipients come from four continents and reflect the global character of the internal audit profession. For each thought leader, I provided a very brief overview of their contributions, but to fully appreciate all that they do, I invite you to check out their LinkedIn profile (linked to each of their names). So, with all of the disclaimers out of the way, here they are in alphabetical order.
Katherine Ang – Singapore. Catherine is new to this year’s list, and is well known by young professionals in Singapore. She is the founding chairperson of IIA Singapore’s Young Professionals’ Working group, and is a fountain of enthusiasm and knowledge, whether speaking to students on careers in internal audit or organizing networking and educational events. Without a doubt, Katherine made a difference in 2021.
Alaba Awolaja – Nigeria. I first introduced Alaba to the global internal audit community when he was named to the 2020 internal audit thought leaders list. In 2021 he remained a shining example of a bright young thought leader who is motivating and inspiring fellow internal auditors every day. Whether conducting free webinars to inform and inspire internal auditors who want to pursue professional credentials, or posting videos about the need for professional internal auditors to focus on adding value, Alaba continues to make a difference. Twitter: @alabaawolaja
Robert Berry – USA.It probably seemed as though That Audit Guy (Robert Berry) was everywhere in 2021. That’s probably because he was! Rob hosts the Friday Fraudsters on LinkedIn Live every Friday as well as the Audit Bites Podcast. Rob’s popularity stems in part from the fact that he tells it like it is. In 2021, Rob made a difference for thousands of internal audit professionals around the world as a courageous advocate whose tireless energy should be an example for us all. Twitter: @thatauditguy
Dominik Foerschler – Germany. When I think of Dominik, I am reminded of the passion and innovative spirit of some of the world’s great entrepreneurs like Elon Musk. In 2021, Dominik and his colleagues, including Rainer Lenz, launched the truly remarkable Audit Championship using Serious Business Game training. The Audit Championship served to connect the global audit community like few events in history. The grand finale in Europe drew more than 1,350 live views on YouTube. I am excited to see what future innovative solutions Dominik will introduce next to make a difference for our profession. Twitter: @AuditChallenge
Hal Garyn – USA. This is the third consecutive list of top internal audit leaders to feature Hal. He continues to be a thoughtful and powerful voice in our profession. In 2021, he maintained a constant presence on key social media platforms, offering thoughtful provocative challenges to internal auditors to raise the bar in serving their organizations. His articles on InternalAudit360 continue to make a difference and are must read insights for professionals around the world. If you do not follow Hal on LinkedIn, I encourage you to do so today!
Dr. Rainer Lenz – Germany. Rainer is also a regular presence on any list of the world’s top internal audit thought leaders. In 2021 he continued to be provocative (but always thoughtful) in sharing his point of view. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to the profession was the role he played in organizing and promoting The Audit Championship in 2021. Along with Dominik Foerschler and others, Rainer offered us a glimpse of the future of this profession when technology is used to connect us in common pursuits. Twitter: @Rainer_Lenz
Norman Marks – USA. If there were a “Mount Rushmore” for internal audit thought leaders, Norman’s likeness would be carved front and center. He is a passionate and tireless thought leader – whether speaking at internal audit conferences, authoring books, writing blogs, or simply sharing his views on social media. When I launched my own blog series almost 13 years ago, Norman was already a prolific blogger and a voice of encouragement for the profession. I learned a lot from Norman about challenging the profession. Twitter: @normanmarks
Susan (Sue) Paul – USA. Sue makes her second appearance on this list. She remains a beacon for those seeking expertise in IT audit. As a prolific technology thought leader for the profession, a quick review of her LinkedIn posts will affirm why she is so widely admired.
Shailendra Ranjan – UAE. Shailendra is new to this list, but the contributions he is making to the profession cannot be overstated. He founded and facilitates the Internal Audit and Risk Club based in the UAE. Members routinely exchange a wealth of information on internal audit and effective risk management. When not facilitating the Internal Audit and Risk Club, Shailendra stays busy publishing knowledge papers/articles and is an active speaker in various industry events. He is a thought leader who makes a difference in his region.
Trent Russell – USA. Trent is another young professional who is making his mark on the profession globally. Trent has quickly emerged as one of the foremost experts on the use of analytics by internal auditors. Trent is one of the trailblazing pioneers in the profession on the use of podcasts as an educational and awareness tool. I encourage everyone to check out The Audit Podcast to stay abreast of leading practices in the use of analytics.
Liz Sandwith – UK. Liz brings decades of internal audit wisdom to her network, and she is unquestionably a thought leader who makes a difference. For that and many other reasons, she is an icon in the United Kingdom internal audit community. More recently, Liz has partnered with The IIA UK to provide internal audit insight and awareness related to technical guidance and leading practices. She was instrumental in the launch of the IIA UK Audit Leaders website.
Long Zhang – China. Mr. Zhang is the first member of the profession in China to make the list. His influence in this important market for our profession is powerful. In addition to serving on the Board of Meili Shanghai, Inc., he is also a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization Independent Oversight Committee. With a deep background in internal audit, and notable corporate governance roles, Zhang routinely provides training for internal auditors and college students in China on leading practices in the profession.
As I said above, there are countless men and women whose contributions to this profession should be shouted from rooftops around the world. I constantly strive to share the contributions of all internal audit thought leaders. They are all “internal audit beacons” for our global profession.
I welcome your thoughts on this list, and please remain on the lookout for any insightful and timely pieces of thought leadership that are published.