The Middle East’s first Vice-Chairman (Global Services) for the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Global, explains his role and the importance of serving our profession.

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In an exclusive interview, Internal Auditor – Middle East spoke to Mr. Karem Toufic Obeid, CIA, CPA, CISA, CCSA, CRMA, and MBA, who is the Vice Chairman of Global Services for the Institute of Internal Auditors’ Global Executive Committee. He is the first internal auditor from the Middle East to assume this leadership role. Mr. Obeid has more than 22 years of experience and is currently the Chief Audit Executive of Tawazun in the UAE.  He has also served in Internal Audit leadership roles in several leading organizations in the UAE. Mr. Obeid is an active supporter of the UAE Internal Auditors Association (UAE-IAA) and a member of its Executive Committee.  He has also served as a member on several audit committees/boards and is frequently invited to speak at local and international conferences and training events.

Internal Auditor – Middle East conducted a telephone interview with Mr. Karem Toufic Obeid.

How did you start your journey with the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)?   

I joined the Institute in 2005 and dedicated time and effort along with a group of professional peers to promote the UAE counter part of the IIA Global. This paved the way to advocate the Internal Audit profession and raise its profile in the UAE and the region. I then moved on to be a member of one of the IIA Global committees and that led to my election as a member of the board and then the Executive Committee of the IIA Global. Furthermore, I was privileged to always get the support of the companies I worked with, especially my current employer, which made it easier for me to achieve this.

What does it mean to be Vice Chairman of Global Services?

Being a member of the IIA Global Executive Board has two aspects, one being part of the board that drives the strategic goals and plans of the IIA and determines the future direction for our members. The other as the Vice-Chairman of Global Services, I am currently overseeing two (2) committees namely the Institute Relations Committee (IRC) and Global Professional Development Committee (GPDC). IRC oversees the formation, development and expansion of IIA institutes around the world, while the GPDC promotes and enhances the global development of internal audit professionals.

Are there other IIA members from the Middle East on these global committees?

Currently, we have seven (7) internal audit leaders from the UAE IAA who are active volunteers in IIA Global committees. The global committee members are selected by the committee’s chairman and the nominating committee in IIA Global. I always encourage the members of the UAE-IAA to be involved and be active in the IIA.

How has the work of the IIA benefited the internal audit profession in the Middle East?

I have witnessed the development in the UAE’s internal audit landscape over the past decade and would say that the UAE-IAA has been instrumental in advocating the internal audit profession in the region. The UAE-IAA opened the door for professional development of the internal auditors in the region by promoting the profession, standards and best practices. This increased the number of its members significantly over the past years especially Emiratis who have joined the profession. Additionally, we work together closely with other internal audit institutes in the region.

 “For me, internal audit is not just a career or a profession, it is a passion”

How does volunteering with the IIA help you with your work as a Chief Audit Executive?

Volunteering provides opportunities to enhance one’s knowledge and experience and be abreast of all contemporary matters. When I reflect on how volunteering with the IIA at the local and then at Global Committees and Board level influenced me, I instantly realize the positive impact on my professional career and personal level. Additionally, it also provides a great venue for networking opportunities with enthusiastic self-motivated auditors from all over the world who team up to enhance and add value to our profession.

Given your global role with the IIA, what do you think the future holds for our profession?

The profession is very promising; it facilitates effective governance and achievement of the organization’s business objectives. Internal auditors have always worked hard to demonstrate the value they bring to the business, however, this is changing as organizations now appreciate the value addition of the internal auditors.  I believe that internal auditors nowadays have bigger responsibilities and they should aim to be the trusted advisors for management in the areas of Governance, Risk, and Controls.

Any advice to internal auditors and Chief Audit Executives on how they can support the IIA?

Internal auditors should always take the opportunity to elevate and advocate our profession. In addition, they should pursue professional growth by participating in events, conferences and training initiatives that will connect them to a network of peers who are also committed to enhancing the practice of internal auditing.