By Caleb Thien and Daniel Chua
Lim Wei Ri is currently the Head of Compliance at Komainu’s Singapore Office and has more than ten years of working experience in audit, compliance, and risk management. In his free time, he is also an adjunct trainer at a boutique management consulting firm. In his previous roles, he had been an internal audit manager at a global bank and a senior manager at one of the “Big Four” audit firms in Singapore, leading regulatory audit projects for clients in the digital banking and payment services space.
In this article, he shares insights into his role as an internal and external auditor, as well as the evolving trends in the auditing and compliance industry.
At Komainu’s Singapore Office, I ensure that the company’s business processes and policies align with Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) regulations. Also, I conduct periodic compliance monitoring assessments and risk management reviews for the company.
In addition to my full-time work, I also design and deliver technical training programs on compliance and risk management topics for the internal staff and external clients of a boutique management consulting firm in Singapore.
I started out as a financial auditor in the firm’s financial services assurance department. The job scope included reviewing my client’s financial statements and applying relevant auditing procedures, with my clients being banks, capital market intermediaries, as well as insurance companies.
Eventually, I moved into a specialised role within the same department, performing regulatory compliance reviews and audits, which involved examining clients’ compliance policies and procedures against MAS’ requirements related to regulatory topics such as anti-money laundering, business conduct, outsourcing risk management and regulatory submissions. Reports documenting our findings and recommendations were issued to clients, in order for them to take action and remediate the gaps found.
At the “Big Four” firm where I worked, there was both structured and unstructured training to equip auditors, like myself, with the necessary knowledge and skillsets to perform our job well. As one of the senior members of my team, I had the opportunity to share my personal insights and knowledge on specific regulatory topics with my colleagues. This involved me developing training materials and sharing best practices.
As a result, this experience coupled with a strong personal interest to impart knowledge to others, provided a clear direction for me to take up a professional trainer role at the boutique consulting firm.
As a manager, one of the key challenges I face is managing stakeholder expectations. I must manage the expectations of my clients, and superiors, as well as balance engagement metrics such as revenue margins and staff utilisation rate. In addition to that, I must be mindful of managing the career development of my team members.
It is always difficult to strike a balance across all stakeholders’ expectations. However, through consultation and learning from other senior members of my team, I have picked up useful tips and applied them along the way with positive outcomes.
As clients’ business models are constantly changing, audit firms must constantly update their auditing programs and frameworks to be fit for purpose. For example, in the financial services industry, banks traditionally onboard their customers face-to-face at physical branches by having them meet a relationship manager and fill up hardcopy forms with supporting documents submitted. But now, banks are shifting towards non-face-to-face onboarding via digital platforms. Therefore, the review of hardcopy forms and documents by an auditor is no longer required and ascertaining the authenticity of a bank customer’s onboarding documents would be required instead.
The updating of auditing programs and frameworks to apply to a sunrise business model takes deliberate effort and audit technical know-how, which can take time to acquire. Furthermore, due to the retrospective nature of audit work, some audit findings may no longer be applicable by the time the audit takes place. This is due to the rapid evolution of business processes and control issues turning them obsolete.
Technological development in cloud software systems, artificial intelligence and blockchain will inevitably influence accounting. Some of the manual accounting functions will be replaced by automated systems. This trend has been accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses shift towards remote working.
However, this does not stop an accountant from being re-skilled and pivoting into other critical business roles. Accountants today can still apply a similar analytical and systematic approach seen in the maintenance, collection, analysis and reporting of financial information. They can also contribute to a company’s digital transformation journey, by partnering with their technology counterparts to implement sound and effective automated solutions through user acceptance tests.
Furthermore, accountants may pick up new knowledge in areas such as software development and cyber security to complement their existing skillsets.
To succeed in the audit and compliance field, a plethora of personal competencies and attributes are required. This includes business acumen, ethics, effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, strong technical proficiency, time management and technological savviness.
Audit and compliance professionals must deal with various stakeholders from different parts of the organization. They should have the ability to adapt their communication style to each stakeholder. This entails understanding their needs and how audit and compliance review results may impact their department.
Ethical conduct is important when performing audit and compliance review work to meet the objectives of the audit or compliance review while maintaining public trust. Failure to observe applicable ethical standards can result in serious financial and reputation damage.
During our audit and compliance review work, issues and recommendations shared in our reports are considered by our clients’ management team in strategic decision-making and planning. Hence, to add value to our clients, strong technical grounding is necessary to help identify potential issues and gaps in their business processes and controls.
I am an advocate for active learning and have a strong interest to impart knowledge to others so that they can succeed in their professional career development. Therefore, I plan to further my studies and attain a postgraduate qualification or enrol in professional coaching courses to develop my teaching competencies. Eventually, I hope to enter academia or establish an academy that provides skills training programs for adult learners.