Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Elizabeth Alves, CFE, CPA, CA, CIA
Vice President, Internal Audit
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
It didn’t take long for Elizabeth Alves, CFE, CPA, CA, CIA, Vice President of Internal Audit at Cogeco Inc., to realize that internal audit was her passion. Beginning her career at ING Canada, Alves honed her skills and moved up through the ranks using her love of identifying fraud and risk to take her where she wanted to be. “I love conducting business process reviews, identifying organizational risks and making value-added recommendations to mitigate risk, and then seeing management implement the recommendations accordingly,” Alves said. “Being viewed as a valued business partner by the organization is a truly satisfying feeling, and the internal audit world provides me with ample opportunities to make a difference in an organization.”
What steps led you to your current position?
After I finished my bachelor’s degree in 1995, I started work as an external auditor with Arthur Andersen. I stayed with them until 1998 at which point I decided that I wanted to transfer from the external auditing field to the internal auditing field (tick and tying numbers was not my cup of tea!). I joined the Corporate Audit Services department of ING Canada (in the insurance field) where I obtained a senior internal auditor position. I worked for 10 years at ING Canada going progressively from a senior internal auditor position to the Director of Internal Audit. At ING Canada I truly developed my love of the internal audit field. In 2008, I was offered the opportunity to start an internal audit function from scratch at Cogeco Inc. (in the telecommunications field) and decided to leave ING, as I felt that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I started as the Senior Director of Internal Audit and was promoted two years later to the position of Vice President of Internal Audit.
What is your current role and what does it entail?
I am currently Vice President of Internal Audit at Cogeco Inc. This entails overall responsibility for the internal audit function whose mission is to provide independent, objective assurance and consulting services designed to add value and improve Cogeco’s operations and systems of internal controls. I am also responsible for the development, implementation and monitoring of Cogeco’s anti-fraud program.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
Ever since I got into the internal audit profession I have been passionate about fraud, as I believe that fraud is an integral component of internal audit activities. Many times, frauds occur because of a lack of internal controls which was not detected through a proper risk assessment process. I have always integrated an assessment of fraud risks as part of all internal audit reviews that I have conducted and I find it absolutely fascinating to put myself in the place of a fraudster and try to imagine all possible ways that I could conduct fraud in order to identify fraud exposures. The impact of fraud can be devastating at so many levels, and being able to contribute to reducing fraud exposure for an organization brings about a great level of satisfaction. My passion about fighting fraud is what led me to decide to obtain the CFE credential, as it brings that additional layer of credibility when talking about fraud exposure with management.
How have you seen the role of the internal auditor change over the past five years?
The role of the internal auditor has dramatically changed over the past five years because of a shift in stakeholder expectations. Five years ago, a lot of internal audit shops still focused much of their activities on compliance-related activities, such as SOX, because this is what was expected by stakeholders. In current times, stakeholders want more from their internal audit function and expect an overall review of governance, risk and compliance-related processes (they want a return on their investment!). This is not an easy transition to make as different skills and competencies are required, but it is an opportunity not to be missed. Internal audit functions have always had to work hard to demonstrate the value they bring to the business because of old stereotypes, but this has changed as organizations seek to get more from internal audit and are really looking for a valued business partner.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on? Feel free to alter details to protect confidential information.
I had the opportunity to work on a case that involved allegations of bribery and corruption involving a supplier. I found this particular case to be memorable because I got to work on all steps of the investigation from beginning to end. We were a team of two that worked this case and we gained a great amount of knowledge from analyzing the different components of the case. This case also led to significant alterations in terms of internal processes and it elevated the importance within the organization of having proper fraud prevention and detection mechanisms.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Reading, gardening, watching movies, working out and any activities with my two boys!
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