IIA head left legacy of accomplishment, concern

by Glenn Cheney

Altamonte Springs, Fla. —When William G. Bishop III, president of the Institute of Internal Auditors passed away suddenly on March 7 at age 65, he left three pillars: fatherhood, friendship and a fundamental underpinning of business — that of the internal auditor.

The most important of those pillars was his family — his wife, Mary, and his four sons, Bob, Bill, Mike and John. In a tribute to their father, the four wrote that “he provided us with a template for living that we can apply to all facets of our lives. Though Dad is no longer with us, his life, actions, example and love will always be felt.”

Almost identical words could be applied to Bill Bishop’s efforts to provide business with a template for reliability.

His entire career was dedicated to ensuring, directly or indirectly, honesty and reliability in business through competent internal auditing. His direct impact was executed as manager of European auditing for Ford Motor Co., then as general auditor for American Express and, later, Shearson Lehman Bros.

Bishop’s wider impact, however, was indirect.

Active in the IIA since 1982, he became the institute’s president in 1992. In that capacity, he was responsible for moving the organization much more into the global realm. During Bishop’s 12-year tenure, three chairmen and several governing directors lived in countries other than the United States, and over half its members live outside North America.

In September, during the IIA’s mid-year meeting, Bishop announced that he would retire in September 2004. At that time, the IIA engaged the executive search firm of Korn/Ferry to locate a successor

Richard Chambers, CIA, CCSA, IIA vice president of the IIA’s Learning Center and executive director of the IIA Research Foundation, is serving as acting president.

Basil Pflumm, former IIA vice president, global practice center, worked with Bishop throughout those 12 years.

“Bill looked over the profession at a time when it really grew,” Pflumm said. “More than anyone I know, he had a sense of professional internal auditing, a good fundamental understanding of the reality of the workplace. He spent his life trying to raise that level of professionalism and instill in members of the profession an understanding of how vital their profession is.”

Pflumm was active in the IIA as Bishop raised the profession from something concerned with basic internal control to concern with the integrity of an organization as a whole. The stature of the profession and its practitioners moved up in corporations as internal auditors became integrally important to chief financial officers and audit committees.

That change, Pflumm said, prepared the profession for the earthshaking scandals of the past few years.

“Bill saw the roots of what was coming, and the need for a higher level of integrity,” Pflumm said.

Pflumm said that Bishop’s famous “IIA” tattoo, often displayed at conferences, was probably just a stick-on.

Bob McDonald, current chair of the IIA and director of internal audit for Australia’s Department of Natural Resources, sent condolences from Brisbane:

“In my role as IIA chairman of the board, I had the opportunity few enjoyed to see and experience the many dimensions of Bill Bishop. What a privilege that was for me! Bill was the ultimate multi-tasker. He could juggle myriad projects without missing one tiny detail. His commitment to quality and efficiency was unparalleled, and his dedication to and pride in his profession were unwavering. He set an example based on the highest standards of integrity and honesty. Although we have all suffered a great loss by his abrupt departure, the legacy he has left behind will continue to affect and influence all the people he touched and the profession he loved.”

Tony Ridley, retired general auditor at Ford and a former chairman of the IIA, knew Bishop for 35 years.

“The IIA is going to miss Bill, and there’s no way any of us can imagine how he can possibly be replaced,” Ridley said. “The organization doubled in size and is more international and more professional. He was a wonderful man.”

John Flaherty, retired general auditor of PepsiCo and a former IIA chairman, was among Bishop’s best friends.

“Bill did an outstanding job of growing the institute, improving its professionalism, increasingly making it a global organization, and was very adept at dealing with volunteers and the management structure,” Flaherty said. “He didn’t blow his own horn. He let others take credit.”

Barry Melancon, president and chief executive of the American Institute of CPAs, also expressed sadness at Bishop’s untimely passing.

“Bill was a good friend and even better person,” Melancon said. “He was active in creating the COSO framework and was a thought leader in anti-fraud work. He helped build the IIA into an effective international organization, and he worked cooperatively with the AICPA and the CPA profession on numerous fronts. He will be missed by our profession.”

Bishop suffered a fatal heart attack while jogging near his home in Longwood, Fla. He had just returned from a three-day consultative forum in Nairobi, Kenya, where he had met with professionals from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda to discuss the role of internal auditing in fighting corruption and ensuring transparency of operations. The forum was part of a new initiative by the IIA and the World Bank to improve corporate governance in developing countries.

A history of service
Even before becoming president of the IIA, Bishop was its representative to the Advisory Board of the National Commission on Fraudulent Financial Reporting, known as the Treadway Commission, where he was instrumental in forming its framework. He continued to represent the institute after joining its staff. The findings of that commission are the basis of much of the accounting remediation required by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

“The Treadway Commission was expansive,” Flaherty said. “That’s where we started talking about tone at the top and assessing the ethical climate of organizations. Without that, we would have been far further behind in dealing with the ethical challenges of the 21st century.”

Bishop was also the moving force behind the IIA’s professional practices framework that links the profession’s ethical and practice standards, other guidance and practice aids, supporting documents and related educational events. As a centralized hierarchy of principles, practices and advice, the framework greatly expanded the scope, efficiency and power of the profession.

Bishop also testified before such key organizations as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange and the Public Oversight Board of the American Institute of CPAs. He served on the National Association of Corporate Director’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Audit Committees, and testified before the SEC’s Blue Ribbon Committee on Improving the Effectiveness of Audit Committees.

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