In our latest ‘Five Minutes with…’ series Alistair Illstone sits down with Richard Coward, Head of Audit at National Grid, to find out more about his team and the super charged careers on offer.


What is your background?

I have come through a fairly traditional route; I qualified with Deloitte and also worked for EY before moving in to industry. Although I have predominately worked in assurance roles, I have also had experience of working in operational finance and I feel this gives me good insight as I have been a receiver of audits.


Why are you passionate about working in Risk Assurance?

To put it quite simply we are here to help support, improve and help the business achieve its strategic objectives. We are in a unique position where we have a global view of the organisation, our understanding of the strategy, our risk profile and the controls we need to have in place to mitigate this. Audit is not about delivering an audit plan and writing lots of reports; it’s about been an assurance partner, working collaboratively across the business and lines of defence to deliver insightful, value added assurance work.

Why did you join National Grid ?

For me National Grid is the most important business in the UK; without us nothing operates. We work in a highly challenging environment; delivering gas and electric to millions of people; reducing CO2 emissions; use of renewable energy sources and operating in a highly-regulated market with political scrutiny.


What does your role consist of on a daily basis?

Delivery of our work programme; stakeholder management; people development and recruitment; strategy development and delivery.


Can you give us an idea of the typical upcoming projects for the risk assurance team?

We have a really varied audit programme that includes financial (P2P, Balance Sheet etc); operational (outage planning, circuit breaker replacement programme); people (succession planning, talent management and gender pay); and strategic (ERP delivery, legal separation).


How would you describe the team at National Grid?



What are your plans for the team over the coming 12 months?

To continue the journey that we are on. We are delivering some insightful work, building good relationships with stakeholders across the business and developing as a team together. What we must do is continue this, deliver our internal strategy (talent and capability, better technology, reporting and insight and improved coordination across the lines of defence) and be agile in the way we work with our stakeholders and the changing risk profile faced by the business.


What about the longer-term strategy?

Over the next 5 years, we will see exponential changes in technology. Internal audit (in general) needs to embrace and utilise this opportunity whilst having the talent and capability to support. If we don’t grasp this opportunity, we will lose our relevance in the organisation.


Why are you hiring ?

One of National Grid strengths is the opportunities we provide for our employees. Corporate Audit is no different and we have had great success in people moving out of the team in to business roles. This creates gaps that we need to fill so we need a flexible resourcing model to support.

What does the role of a risk assurance professional look like at National Grid?

 I take technical skills as a given so softer skills are important. Building effective relationships across all levels of the business; being a “critical friend” rather than an auditor; some one that people in the business feel that they can reach out to; open-minded with a view on the external environment; being able to challenge in the right way; delivering insightful work in a context that understands the business and risks that we face; a team player with an inquisitive mind.


What are the opportunities for people at this level in the long term?

National Grid offers great career opportunities; it is up to the individual to take them and have a passion for the organisation. Our Chief Executive joined the business as a graduate…….that says it all.


What would you say to anyone who has a slight intrigue or interest about these positions?

 Look up National Grid to understand what we do – it is far more complex and wide ranging that you realise. If that interests you and you have a passion for the role, let me know and we can have a chat over a coffee to discuss.


To find out more call Alistair Illstone on 07376 128768 who will put you in touch with Richard directly.