Chief financial officers are working more closely than ever before with chief audit executive (CAEs) to assess risks and identify opportunities that could impact the organization’s bottom line.

However, that partnership does have limitations given that internal audit leaders and their teams have a responsibility to remain independent and objective in everything they do for the organization. It therefore can be challenging for CFOs to know exactly what is appropriate to ask their CAE — or even how to start the conversation.

These four basic questions can serve as good starting points for a discussion with your CAE:

1. How would you rate the overall health of the organization?

Benchmarking is critical for any organization. But it’s impossible to set benchmarks and timelines for achieving key goals without knowing your current status.

Discussing the overall strengths and weaknesses of your organization and its operations with your CAE can give you an excellent starting point for setting — and actualizing — future objectives for the finance function and the broader company.

2. What risk factors should concern us most?

Because of internal audit’s unique position in the company, the CAE can shed light on risks the organization may be encountering across the business.

The CAE may be able to provide input on everything from succession planning, hiring and retention challenges to regulatory compliance issues to cybersecurity risks.

3. What regulatory compliance changes do you see affecting our future?

Your CAE also will have a clear understanding of how new requirements, including industry-specific mandates, may affect the business’s ability to maintain compliance.

And if you’re looking to implement changes in compliance processes to help increase efficiency and control costs, your CAE can help steer you in the right direction.

4. How can we manage key risks?

Internal audit leaders and their teams can certainly offer suggestions for addressing specific risks the business faces. However, the decision to implement those recommendations is solely down to executive management, who also will be accountable for those decisions.

A final tip: Be sure to reach out to the CAE when the organization is about to undertake a major change initiative. Internal audit can provide valuable guidance during the transition and help identify potential risks the change might create for the business.

Did you know?

In one-third (33 percent) of U.S. companies, general accounting has ownership of key internal controls, followed closely by financial reporting and internal audit, at 31 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

Download Robert Half’s Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report to learn more.