Longtime IIA CEO Richard Chambers plans to step down in March

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Richard Chambers, who has led the Institute of Internal Auditors for 12 years as president and CEO, will be stepping down, effective March 31, 2021. The IIA plans to begin an immediate search for a new CEO.

Chambers provided the IIA with nearly nine months’ notice of his planned departure given the importance of giving the organization ample time to seek out and secure a highly-qualified successor to helm the organization, which has more than 200,000 members worldwide.

Chambers said his decision came after months of reflection on his personal priorities and what would be best for the organization. Those plans were affected by the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I have plans to stay active,” Chambers told Accounting Today. “I don't know exactly what form that will take. It's a little early, eight months out, for me to make any definite plans. But I still have some time, I think, to spend helping this profession.”

“Serving as CEO of the IIA has been the honor of a lifetime, but we are at a critical juncture,” Chambers said in a statement Thursday. “The association industry in general, and the IIA in particular, will likely look quite different post-COVID-19. The IIA has a strong foundation and outstanding leadership, so I am confident a new CEO with fresh ideas and perspectives will ably execute bold, decisive, and agile strategies to address this new frontier.”

Chambers is the IIA’s ninth chief executive, appointed in January 2009. Only the organization’s first leader, Bradford Cadmus, has served longer, from 1947-1962.

As a longtime champion for the internal audit profession, Chambers brought decades of experience with him when he joined the IIA as president and CEO during the Great Recession. He led the IIA to record membership levels, certifications and financial performance, with revenue last year of more than $65 million and members in nearly 200 countries and territories. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed lockdowns, Chambers and his team have steered the IIA into new ways of interacting with and serving members around the world, including the addition or expansion of virtual conferences, training and certification exams.

“Richard has brought us through an incredible period of progress and stunning growth,” said the IIA’s newly elected global chair, Jenitha John, in a statement. “His passion and enthusiasm for internal auditing, and his powerful global voice advocating for the value and importance of the profession, have elevated The IIA to incredible heights. While he will be missed, I am certain he will leave The IIA firmly planted for a great future and will ensure a smooth transition for his successor.”

Chambers has been ranked by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the profession year after year. He has also been named by the National Association of Corporate Directors as one of the most influential leaders in corporate governance.

Chambers’ 45-year career in internal audit has included serving as inspector general of the Tennessee Valley Authority; deputy inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service; and director of the U.S. Army Worldwide Internal Review Organization at the Pentagon. Prior to becoming president and CEO of the IIA, he was national practice leader in Internal Audit Advisory Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers and, prior to that, served as vice president of what was the IIA’s Learning Center.

He will be working with the IIA as it makes the transition. “The last few times this position has passed, there's been a search facilitated by a global search firm and they’ve identified the candidates and submitted them to the board for approval,” said Chambers. “My guess will be that’s the way they're going to do it. Obviously, I just gave them my news this week, so they're still sorting out exactly what process they'll use and so forth. But I am very excited about the fact that IIA will get new leadership. You always get close to your role and close to the assignment, and sometimes it's hard to think that someone else could do a better job. But I think that the organization is at a place right now, and the profession's at a place, where someone with new, fresh ideas, sort of a fresh vision to collaborate with the board, I think that's what would be good for the IIA.”

In addition to a weekly blog “Chambers on the Profession” and a social media presence of about 30,000 followers, Chambers has written three award-winning books: Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail (2014), Trusted Advisors: Key Attributes of Outstanding Internal Auditors (2017), and The Speed of Risk: Lessons Learned on the Audit Trail, 2nd Edition, which was released in 2019. He is at work on his fourth book, also to be published by the Internal Audit Foundation, for release in early 2021.

His new book is scheduled to be completed and published around the time of the IIA’s next annual conference, and at that time the IIA may be announcing a successor. Chambers anticipates the new leader will be announced around the beginning of next year to allow time for a transition. He anticipates that the IIA will remain in Central Florida, although the search firm will be looking for a new CEO around the U.S. and globally. It previously moved from New York City to Altamonte Springs, Florida, to its current location in Lake Mary, Florida near Orlando.

Chambers has seen many changes at the IIA over the years. “This is actually my second stint at the IIA,” he said. “I joined the IIA at the end of 2001. Within about two months of my joining the IIA, Enron and then in quick succession WorldCom happened. So I spent the next three years at the IIA at sort of the epicenter dealing with some of that. And then I left the IIA in 2004 and went to PwC. I spent five years there and came back to the IIA right as the second major catastrophe was happening: the global financial meltdowns of late 2008. So I had a chance to be there for that. Over these two decades. I think our profession has really evolved and changed a lot. If you look back at where it was at the turn of the century, there were still a lot of questions about what internal audit would look like in the future, because people realized that it was no longer going to just add value for organizations by doing assurance audits. Exactly what form that would take was still a little uncertain at the time. But we became very risk based around that time, and new standards came up. I think the profession today has matured and evolved a lot. I'm very proud to have been there when that happened and hope that I had some small part to play in the evolution and development of it. But I think we still have work to do. The destiny of our profession has still not been reached. I think that will be when we really are considered a central element of risk management and control and governance at organizations. I hope to be out there as a champion for that.”

Chambers' colleagues at the IIA reacted to news of his departure.

“This is a bittersweet time,” said 2019-20 IIA global chairman J. Michael Joyce Jr. in a statement. “Richard has led our organization to great triumphs and through challenging times. His contributions to the profession will leave a remarkable and lasting legacy. It is thanks to his extraordinary leadership that The IIA can move confidently into a ‘new’ tomorrow.”

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