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Claire Hanrahan , Auditor
Accountancy & Taxation

Claire Hanrahan , Auditor

Claire works as an Internal Auditor for CRH Group. She completed a Bachelor of Business Studies in University of Limerick and went on to do the ACCA exams thereafter. Travel is a big aspect of her current role and she spends half of her time away from home.

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first question!

Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?

My first boss in my 2nd job after college influenced my role as Internal Auditor with CRH. He had worked there previously and suggested it to me. Also, I had an excellent lecturer while completing my ACCA exams. He gave the lectures on the audit subjects and he was brilliant. After doing so well in these exams, I decided to take a role in Internal Audit

How did you go about getting your current job?

I heard about the role of Internal Auditor in CRH plc from my previous employer. He had worked for Internal Audit (IA) in CRH in the past and strongly recommended the role to me for career progression reasons. Accountancy Ireland held an opening evening for interested candidates looking for a job with IA in CRH. I went to this opening evening and submitted my CV to them.

I was called for an interview shortly afterwards. The first round interview was basic information (past employment, strength/weaknesses, career progression etc). The 2nd round interview was more specific to the role. You also had to prepare a case study with 6 questions - all specific to Internal Audit scenarios. A few days later I was told I was successful and got the job.

Describe a typical day?

There are 2 types of "typical" days in the life on an internal auditor.

Type 1 - on site with the client.
Here you look at the effectiveness and efficiency of operations, the reliability of financial reporting and check is the company compliant with applicable laws and regulations.

There are different types of audits:

1. Full scope review targeted principally at finance areas. Covers controls over completeness, accuracy and validity of transactions; security of physical / monetary assets; security of IT operations; accuracy of reporting within CRH. Where the business unit is classified as a tier 1 entity for SOX, the review will incorporate testing for SOX purposes

2. Limited scope review can take many forms: SOX testing, IA work for External Auditors, narrowly focused / specific risk internal control review, etc.

Type 2 - Back at head office.
Here a typical day would consist of preparing for an audit (writing planning documents, organising travel schedules, preparing lead schedules and test plans) or writing the report of the audit which you have just completed.

What are the main tasks and responsibilities?

The primary objective of an Internal Auditor at CRH is to review and evaluate internal financial controls across all businesses. There is an increased focus on internal controls in recent times due to corporate wrongdoings.

Internal Control is not simply about preventing fraud and theft, although this is an important element. We contribute to the organisation by providing a good system of internal control which comprises all those policies and actions which enable an organisation to respond to operational, financial and compliance risks.

For CRH - by managing business risk, good internal controls will improve earnings, RONA and increase shareholder value

What are the main challenges?

The most challenging thing as an Internal Auditor is convincing the businesses that we're there to help them improve their control environment and we're not "out to get them". Most of our businesses don't like to see us coming and think they have to hide certain things from us.

They forget we all work for the same company. It is very challenging to get the company to change certain things they have being doing for years but may not be the correct way to do things.

What's cool?

Honestly, what I like the most about my job is the travel. I've visited some pretty "cool" locations while working for IA in CRH. It's great to get to see how businesses function in different places. Europe operates differently to the US. France and Spain are quite close geographically but they have different work ethics. Its really great to meet so many different people, experience many different cultures and business environments. It never gets boring.

What's not so cool?

The audits are generally 4 weeks long and this can get quite tiring and stressful, especially by week 4. It's a lot of travel, early Monday morning flights and late Friday evening flights for 4 weeks in a row.

Sometimes you can be alone in a location and it's not that exciting sitting in a hotel room by yourself every night! The stress element can be eliminated by preparing well for the audit. But you never can tell what will "go wrong" when you're out on site!

What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?

  • Third level business studies/commerce degree
  • ACA/ACCA Qualified
  • Proficient with Excel and related reporting tools and have excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Ability to work within tight operating deadlines and strong attention to detail and accuracy.
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Flexible, professional attitude
  • Excellent financial and analytical skills
  • Teamplayer, with excellent interpersonal and communication skills to be able to build effective client relationships

What subjects did you take in school and how have these influenced your career path?

I chose a mixture of subjects. I chose a science subject & accounting as I was unsure in 5th year in school what I wanted to do.

By 6th year, I knew I wanted to work in Accounting. It was good that I chose accounting as well as the science subject and didn't rule anything out.

Looking back now, I should probably have gotten extra career guidance to help me. I wouldn't have taken the science subjects but instead Business Org.

What is your education to date?

  • Laois - Irish Leaving Certificate 1992 - 1998
  • University of Limerick - Bachelor of Business Studies (major in Accounting & Finance) 1998 - 2002
  • BPP Dublin - ACCA (professional accounting exams) 2002 - 2005

What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?

My ACCA exams were the most important so far in terms of my career. These are necessary for a position in Internal Audit with CRH. The audit committee of CRH requires that all internal auditors of CRH are qualified accountants.

What have been the most rewarding events in your career so far?

I am now working as a Financial Controller of one of the CRH business units in Barcelona. I did the audit on this business unit 4 months ago and after the audit, the FD (Financial Director) of the business unit approached me about the possibility of working as financial controller with them.

This to me was a great achievement as it showed that they were happy with my work during the audit and I impressed them with my skills. It also shows that CRH is a very good company with lots of chances for internal promotion / new job offers in many countries across the globe.

What personal qualities do you have that helps you in your career?

High level of communication, interpersonal and interpretive skills. Ability to work on own initiative. Very good organisational skills. Motivated and ambitious.

What is your dream job?

Being very unrealistic - a Hollywood actress! Being a bit more realistic, I'd like to become FD (Financial Director) of a company some day.

Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?

My role in Internal Audit involved a lot of travel. This travel was Monday - Friday. It was never a problem for me as I'm a young single person with no family commitments.

The audits were usually 3 or 4 weeks but you always travelled home at weekends. You had the option of staying in the location at weekends also and this was nice as it gave you a chance to visit the city. You generally get to stay in nice places so you have those extra luxuries to compensate the fact of being away from home for so long!

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

The candidate needs to have a desire to travel. That is the most important. Travel is a vital part of the role of Internal Auditor at CRH. Your travel percentage ranges between 40% - 70% per year. They do try to keep it at a minimum but with a high staff turnover, you could be placed on additional audits that are short staffed.

You need to get on with all the people you work with also as you're away with these people for 4 nights a week for 4 weeks. You need to be friendly and outgoing and easy to get along with as it can get stressful on jobs so the last thing you want is someone who has attitude problems or can't communicate properly! Those 2 aspects are the most important for me.

What are the three most important personal characteristics required for the job?

Sense of humour. Hard working. Flexible.

What is your favourite music?

Irish, Rock, Pop, Classical - all types. Whatever is on the radio at any time! Ipod is full of different types of music.

What is your favourite film?

Braveheart, Dirty Dancing (most chick flicks!), Shawshank Redemption

What is your pet hate at work?

Bitchy people! People with no sense of humour

What is your star sign?

Gemini

Have you undertaken, or do you plan to undertake any further training as part of your job?

In the future, I would like to take a management course as I think this is important as your career progresses and you get promoted. You will have direct reports and a management course will help you.

What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?

Internal Audit is so broad so any financial background experience would help. We've had people come from fund accounting, treasury, accounts assistants and tax backgrounds to work in IA.

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