An Ernst & Young survey of internal auditors found more of a need for specialty skills, especially in focusing on operational risks.

"Difficult economic conditions and heightened shareholder expectations have put pressure on executive management and audit committees to improve risk management and deliver greater value," said Ernst & Young global leader for internal audit Neil Aaron.

The survey of 348 internal audit executives in 35 countries showed a need for greater focus on operational risks over the next two years, with 75 percent of the respondents citing focus on IT, 61 percent on mergers and acquisitions, 53 percent on major capital programs, 45 percent on performance improvement, 44 percent on information security, and 39 percent on fraud. Yet, only 69 percent of respondents are at or above 90 percent of budgeted headcount, with 64 percent indicating that recruiting and retaining subject matter specialists in these areas is a challenge.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents indicated they are looking outside of their organizations to third-party providers to address the gap in specialist skills. Lack of time dedicated to training efforts is the key impediment to skills development, according to 55 percent of the respondents, while 71 percent of the respondents have no formal program to rotate business professionals through internal audit and into the business.

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