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At the request of the interviewee no further details are given.Her team is a kind of internal police force that investigates incidents, errors and suspicions of fraud inside the bank. She loves it. “A few weeks here, then on to the next assignment – which may be on a different continent. It’s high adrenaline work. You go in, you have a very short time to come to an understanding of what happened, you produce an assessment. Highlights are when people come up to say: thanks for making my job easier. Low points are when you feel you’ve missed something, that there’s more than you’ve unearthed.”
The key word is “push-back”, basically: obstruction and sabotage. “I ask for something, and they refuse point blank. So I send them an email stating my request, then ‘escalate’. Ask my manager to ask him. Then ask my manager to ask his manager.”
“In French and German branches of our bank, people are very open and co-operative. In the US they can be extremely uncooperative. The reason is that in the US it’s much easier to fire people so Americans are always scared for their career. The UK is somewhere in between.”
This correlation between degrees of co-operation and job security seems really important, and it would be valuable if other internal auditors and financial insiders with similar jobs could contribute their experiences and views in the comment thread below. The following point seems worth elaborating on, too, as it echoes many other interviewees’ worries about senior management’s ignorance of what actually happens in their bank*: “Generally speaking, the more senior people are, the more co-operative. They actually sleep better after our visit as they now have a kind of a stamp of approval; internal audit says they found nothing. That can be a big relief for senior managers who may be worried about what their subordinates are doing.”
This is a tough and demanding job, she says, and a world unto itself. “You can’t do this forever. It’s so tiring. In most banks people in internal audit have an agreement with management that they can move on to another job in a few years. That is my bet too, that this earns me a job in my mid-30s that is interesting and well-paying but does not require the same hours.”
“The travelling makes it impossible to have a family, or even a boyfriend. You are 100% mobile, meaning you can be sent on a six-month mission on very short notice. Our entire team is in their late 20s, early 30s. It can be great fun. Internal auditors often feel no one understands them since their life is so different from other people’s. Meanwhile your team members are usually from the same socio-economic background with similar levels of education. Every bank organizes its internal audit department differently. I know of one bank where internal auditing teams work truly incredibly hard. They sign up for more than five years, and they are called ‘the baby factory’ as so many of them end up marrying each other.”
She concluded with this nuanced point about sexism: “There’s a glass ceiling in finance but not in a formal sense**. If you want to get a real senior position, you have to become buddies with the senior managers, who are still all male. These men constantly have meetings together, travel together, eat together … When a woman joins such a team, its dynamics change. This is a very important barrier.”
This regularly updated page lists the top three best-read, most-liked and most-commented of the 70-plus interviews in this series so far. Plus a guide to those interviews that really deserve more readers.
* “… senior people in banks being in the dark about what actually happens in their organisation”. This senior regulator at the Financial Services Authority says the real threat is bank’s management “not knowing themselves what the risks are, either because nobody realises it or because some people are keeping it from their bosses”.
** “There’s a glass ceiling in finance but not in a formal sense”. This veteran stockbroker in her mid-40s talks about the bad old days of formal sexism (go to second half of interview): “the men would chew paper into little papier mache balls and try to shoot them up my skirt.”
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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