The Institute of Internal Auditors wrapped up its annual conference in Orlando this week, featuring prominent keynote speakers including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and best-selling business writer Tom Peters.

The IIA’s 72nd annual international conference attracted more than 2,000 attendees from over 110 countries this year and for the first time took place near the IIA’s Altamonte Springs, Fla., headquarters.

“The theme was to accentuate the nature of our profession,” said IIA president and CEO Richard Chambers in a phone interview Thursday. “It was one world, one profession, one destination. We had a really cool lineup of speakers.”

The conference opened with Chambers presenting Albright.

[IMGCAP(1)]“Madeleine gave a quick overview of how she sees the world in 2013,” said Chambers. “Then I sat down with her and I moderated a conversation between her and the audience. They asked a number of questions. She talked a lot about global risk and how critical it is in 2013 that individuals who do business globally have a recognition and appreciation of the risks that they face. She talked about auditors and the reliance that she placed on her own auditors when she was Secretary of State. It was a very good discussion. She was candid and she shared a view of the world that our members truly appreciated. I can’t remember ever getting that much positive feedback from our members who were attending a conference about a single session. She got a standing ovation at the end of it, which is very unusual in this day and age at a conference like that.”

Tom Peters, the author of business best-sellers such as “In Search of Excellence,” “Thriving on Chaos” and “The Pursuit of Wow!” also gave a dynamic presentation.

“Tom Peters was actually very pumped up about the internal audit profession,” Chambers recalled. “At one point he called it the coolest profession in the world right now. What seemed to really psych him up about the internal audit profession is how risk based it is, and the fact that because companies are now dealing with so many diversified risks, in his words internal auditing didn’t have to be boring because there are just way too many things to look at and be engaged in. It was good feedback for our profession, and we really appreciated his candor and his enthusiasm.”

The IIA also heard a presentation from Paul Druckman, CEO of the International Integrated Reporting Council. “The IIA was recently asked to join that, and I am serving on the IIRC now as the IIA’s representative,” said Chambers. “So we invited Paul to the conference to speak about the IIRC and the work they’re doing and the new framework. He talked a lot about how he thought internal auditors can play a very important role in helping organizations demonstrate the way that they add value to their stakeholders.”

In addition, New York Times reporter Diana Henriques spoke about her jailhouse interviews with Bernard Madoff and her book about the Ponzi schemer, “The Wizard of Lies.”

[IMGCAP(2)]“I think the keynote sessions of the conference truly paralleled the compelling issues for internal audit professionals in 2013: risk, controls, compliance, innovation and fraud,” said Chambers. “We were talking about how internal auditors really can drive value and improvement at organizations by maintaining a focus on risk, addressing key compliance risks, and being there to help assess fraud risk, and to keep key stakeholders informed about the overall effectiveness of internal controls.”

At the conference, the IIA also signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Federation of Accountants to create a formal basis for the advancement of risk management and internal controls toward a common goal of enhanced governance (see IFAC Signs Coordination Pact with IIA).

“We asked the president of IFAC [Warren Allen] to come and be with us,” said Chambers. “He and our chairman of the board [Phil Tarling] countersigned a new memorandum of understanding for the two organizations to work together and collaborate. We’ve had a relationship over the years so this was a re-commitment between the two organizations to collaborate and partner among our collective membership. IFAC has more than 2.5 million members around the world and we have almost 200,000. Because we have so much overlap of our mission and global footprint, we think we would be ideally positioned to collaborate together to help bring improvement to risk management, internal controls and corporate governance.”

Next year the conference will move to London. “We’re still working with our colleagues there to put together the program, but we think it will be the most widely attended conference outside North American in the IIA’s history,” said Chambers.

He noted that the conference often rotates between North America and other continents. Two years ago, it was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and four years ago in Johannesburg, South Africa. The London conference next July will be the IIA’s first in Europe since 2007.

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