In addition to overseeing Internal Controls in the Department of Finance, Rod Smith is probably best known on campus as the editor of the Internal Controls Update, a monthly newsletter that discusses prevention measures against fraud. In this month’s IN Focus, Rod discusses his role at the University and how he got started.
What’s a typical day like in your job?
I’m a one-person shop and my job stretches far and wide – it’s very complex, and it’s always evolving. For example, I’m responsible for establishing strong financial controls throughout our entire University. I oversee and conduct the Assessment of Internal Controls over Financial Reporting, a constant and very active living document of more than 100 pages which involves over 85 individuals to compile. Modeled after the Committee of Sponsoring Organization (COSO) integrated framework for internal controls, the AICFR consists of five interrelated components and 17 relative principles that are required for us to report on by the System Office and the Office of State Controller. Once the assessment is completed and I’ve finish writing the report, the certification is submitted for approval. After the AICFR is approved, it is presented to the Chancellor and then submitted the requiring agencies: the System Office, Office of State Controller, Office of State Auditor, and then to our own UNC Internal Audit Division. Once the report is issued, I schedule follow-up meetings throughout the year to check our compliance.
How does your job support Carolina’s mission?
I’m charged with the mission of cultivating a culture of strong financial control and compliance throughout the University and making sure we adhere to policy, laws, regulations and business operations. Our compliance helps the University develop and maintain reliable financial data and produce timely and accurate reports that promote order and demonstrate we’re efficient with public funds and contributions, and that we continue to offer a quality product and service. Creating such a culture safeguards resources against fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement and errors.
What do you like most about your work?
I’m very fortunate to serve in a position that I have a personal and passionate interest in and can achieve my own professional goals, along with the University’s. I like everything about my field of concentration and I especially like when I’m able to effectively help our University. One of my former college professors at Campbell University, Dr. Harris, sensed that I was very interested and passionate about financial compliance and controls after he read a term paper that I wrote on the subject. Afterwards, he coordinated a meeting between myself and a major organization. After I concluded my presentation to this organization, I met with four individuals who asked if I had time to meet with their policy and compliance team. Long story short, they zeroed in on a section where I recommended the separation of duties for tellers and liked the idea so much that they implemented my suggested protocols to their training program.
What do you think is most exciting about (aspect of the job)?
I really like that my job responsibilities cover so much territory – controls are very complex techniques and I find working in this field so intriguing and fulfilling — it’s never boring and it’s constantly evolving. I have to stay up and be current with all the happenings across the industry, especially with industry standards and laws. My daily work requires me to work from a formal plan and do a lot of research, thinking, planning, networking, etc. I must be very detailed and organized. I value that I get to work with campus departments and colleges and with all the various business units, too. For example, I may be working on something from the Office of the State Controller or working on System Office requirements, such as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Or, I may be consulting with a department to conduct a walk-through and help them implement new controls or perfect a reconciliation or business management report. I appreciate that my job doesn’t require me to do repetitive tasks, but it does require me to be very active and constantly engaged – there is no down time. It’s exciting when folks reach out and require my services and I’m able to address their needs and they can see the impact quickly. At the end of the day, I certainly feel like I’ve had a good workout, yet I find it all very rewarding.
What is something people probably wouldn’t know about you, or another fun item you’d like to share?
As a hobby, I make custom walking canes. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do it as often now, but on an occasional weekend or during a holiday break, I will work on one. Ever since I was a kid, I remember my grandfather would often talk about how canes were an accessory to their suits and style. My great grandfather and great, great grandfather had a couple of fancy canes in their collections. They were business owners who worked in fur and trade, but they also had a hardware store. I guess the stories that I used to hear as a kid, they kind of stuck with me and I was drawn to make wooden canes. About three or four years ago, I made a custom cane for a well-known country music star. The wood used for that cane came from my family’s farm – it was made from a hickory tree. It’s kind of neat knowing a famous person in Tennessee appreciated the details and the natural beauty of the wood.