Certification Corner

Published By The Institute of internal Auditors   
April 2014

CIA Spotlight

Steve Geopfert, CIA, CRMA
Steve Goepfert, CIA, CRMA
Vice President - Internal Audit 
United Airlines 
Chair, Professional Certifications Board
1.       What prompted you to become a CIA?   
Former IIA President Bill Bishop kept encouraging me to take the exam. He tried for quite a period, but because I had my CPA I resisted his pleas since I was already “certified.” But one day he asked me why I took the CPA exam right out of school, and without hesitation said, “I wanted to have the premier designation of my chosen field, public accounting.” Bill, with a big grin on his face, said “so why don’t you want to take the CIA and be recognized with the premier designation of your chosen field, internal auditing?” And I knew I was had. He was very pleased that he convinced me and didn’t give up. I was awarded my CIA certificate in November 2002.
2.       Did your organization fund your exam fees or preparation materials? If yes, was it the corporate culture or did you have to sell the value of certification?
No. Since I was the CAE and held a certification already, I felt I should cover the expenses for the CIA myself. But my company believes that for our staff, covering such expenses to include their study materials is important because we want certified members on our team.
3.       How many of your colleagues are certified?
More than 75 percent of our professional team has at least one professional certification.
4.       How does having the CIA set you apart from your non-certified peers?
Certification shows that you are committed to your chosen profession, and you demonstrate that through obtaining the premier designation available. It’s just like getting your Ph.D. as a medical doctor or your J.D. as an attorney. It also demonstrates to your team that this is something they should attain. Actually getting the CIA as a CAE sent a very strong message to my team of the importance I placed on having the certification of my profession. I remember when I took the exam  — the old version on paper — that I made it a point to sit in the very front of the room so the younger internal auditors could see the CAE sitting in front of the room, like them, taking the exam. 
5.       How did you prepare for the exam?
I studied Micromash on the computer. It was a great study tool and I recommend that everyone use some form of study tool that enables you to see your progress in areas tested. This program also directed questions to me that focused on my weaker areas, so it really helped prepare me for the exam.

It’s important to know that it was 27 years between the time I sat for my CPA and when I sat for my CIA, and while I knew the Standards inside and out, those “accounting” concepts like EOQ and statistical sampling were good for me to get some refresher materials. 
6.       How has being a CIA helped your career?
Shortly after I was notified I passed the CIA, I was asked to serve on The IIA’s Global Executive Committee (2003-09). I also had the pleasure of serving as the Global IIA Chairman (2006-07), and today I am chair of the Professional Certifications Board. Earning my CIA has allowed me to have a voice in my profession of internal auditing.
7.       What advice do you have for others who are seeking certification?
Don’t wait 27 years to take the exam. Take it the first opportunity you have when you become eligible. It becomes much harder the longer you wait. As an employer, I wish I had a dollar for every resume I see from Big 4 auditors who say they are “planning to sit for the CPA exam”! I could have retired years ago with that amount of money.

Planning audits is important, but eventually you have to execute those plans, and as an employer I would much rather have someone who shows commitment to take the exam than someone who simply thinks about it but never executes. And of course in any venture, commit to studying. I committed six hours a week from the time I registered for the exam to the date I took it because I wanted to ensure that I passed. If you don’t properly prepare yourself, the best plans will likely fail. Certification exams — including the CIA — are difficult and require preparation. 

8.       As a CAE what do you require for your staff in the way of certification and why?
All managers and above are required to be certified. My direct reports are required to have CIAs, and we encourage all staff members to be certified. The company pays for the exam and study materials to facilitate taking the exam.

Steve Goepfert, CIA, CRMA, is the vice president, internal audit and CAE  for United Airlines in Chicago. He had previously been chief auditor at Continental Airlines for 21 years before they merged with United where he assumed the leadership role.    

Steve was The IIA Chairman of the Board for 2006-2007. At the global level, Steve served on The IIA’s Executive Committee and Global Board. He previously served as senior vice chairman and vice chairman – professional services and is a past president of the Houston Chapter, serving on its Board for 17 years. In 2012, Steve was inducted into the inaugural class of The IIA’s American Hall of Distinguished Audit Practitioners.   

Steve has held industry audit posts including chairman of the International Association of Airline Internal Auditors (IAAIA) and chairman of the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) Audit Panel.   

Steve is a member of the LSU Center for Internal Auditing Advisory Board and serves or has served on the Texas A&M, University of Texas at Austin, University of Houston, University of Tennessee - Knoxville and Southern Illinois University (SIU) at Carbondale Accounting Advisory Councils.  A CIA, CPA, and CRMA, he started his career with the Big 8 firm of Coopers & Lybrand.   

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