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Episode 19 | An introduction to Conor McGarrity

August 24, 2020
Episode Summary


In this episode we learn a bit about Conor, one of the co-hosts of the show.
He explains what inspires him to promote the use of data for integrity and assurance.

Episode Transcript

Yusuf: [00:00:23] All right Conor. today we're going to talk about who you are. An introduction to Conor McGarrity.  The format is going to be 10 questions. You probably know what all of them are, but we might try to do change them around a little bit as we get to them. First question, tell me who you are.

Conor: [00:00:35] Okay. Conor McGarrity. Originally from Ireland. Now living in Brisbane, Australia with my family, wife and two kids, based in Brisbane, Queensland. Been in Australia for 18 years. It's hard to believe whenever I say it out loud, it seems to have gone pretty quickly. Originally from the Northern part of Ireland, place called County Tyrone for anybody who understands where that might be and decided to emigrate to sunny Australia. Not primarily because of the weather, but that certainly was a draw card.

Yusuf: [00:01:08] Were you born in the Northern part of Ireland?

Conor: [00:01:11] Yeah,  born in Northern Ireland in a little town called Magherafelt, grew up, in a time close by called Cookstown. did my primary schooling there  and, moved on to a secondary school as we'd call it in another neighboring town called Dungannon and spent seven years there, commuting  to school every day. And then enrolled at university in Belfast - Queens University Belfast.And that's where I did my tertiary education; lived in Belfast for four years while I studied management and French. The subject of management was quite new at the time. In fact, I think my year was the first year that it was being given as a course; we may have been one of the first universities in the UK and Ireland actually delivering that course.

Yusuf: [00:01:51] Okay. So you're from Ireland. And you've explained a bit about your family. What is it that you do that you get most joy from, or that you find yourself spending the most amount of time doing outside of work?

Conor: [00:02:03] My kids give me most joy. Suppose that's a pretty obvious answer. So I've got two young kids.  Tom who's just turning nine and Rosie who at the weekend just turned six. So they keep me pretty busy, with the school and kids' sports and their social activities.  I'd say out of work, I enjoy sports, most sports teams, sports, both participating and watching,  I do rugby union and rugby league, which are pretty big over here . I play soccer weekly . For the oldies, for the old boys, over forties. that's good, fun. And it's a good sort of a way to decompress after, dealing with, work all week. We're not very competitive. We're probably more competitive than we need to be given our age and our vintage. but it's just a really good outlet to try and catch up with a few guys. give each other a bit of stick as we'd say, and maybe try to win the game, although that's probably a third consideration.

Yusuf: [00:02:58] So plenty of time with family. Obviously we'd like to spend a lot of time with family, but most of what we do, most of what consumes us, unfortunately, , as professionals is our career, where did that start for you? do you want to walk us through where you've come from before Rsk Insights in 2017?

Conor: [00:03:12] I'll go back into the annals of time and talk a bit. My first professional job in Ireland after I left uni,  I worked for, a local government for the local console, there as a project officer, essentially in their corporate area,  working on lots of projects and at the time I was based within the leisure facility.

there were done a lot of sort of infrastructure and development of larger facilities in the time. So I was based within what's called, the leisure center there and my local tone, just working in lots of little different things and, also had a supervisory role in, making sure kids didn't drone when they were swimming in the pool from time to time. I guess you'd call it a lifeguard, although nothing compared to the Australian lifeguards who are Putting their own lives at risk it, and the CRS is a more confined to a 25 meter indoor pool.

Yusuf: [00:03:57] something like they would have slough in Baywatch, that sort of thing.

Conor: [00:04:01] potentially only,

Yusuf: [00:04:02] Speedos,

Conor: [00:04:02] only, I was a far better singer than David Hasselhoff. Although he was very successful in Germany. I had the life. I didn't have his black car there to help me out with taking the ladies on dates. yeah, so spent early formative years of my professional career working in local government, then immigrated to Australia and, spent some time sort of touring about as you do, didn't know whether  I was going to stay in Australia. And so I spent the one year traveling around, getting to know the country here, doing the visitor sightseeing thing then to set it up  should get a real job and maybe use some of my qualifications or settle down in Brisbane. Met my wife in Brisbane, through work. And so the first, I suppose you would call it professional job. I had here in Brisbane,  17 or 18 years ago was working for the state government in Queensland. And I was working on, what was then called, crime and misconduct commission, which was an anticorruption agency here. And they had jurisdiction over, the state of Queensland.

So I went to work for them in their integrity division, essentially. my job was to, meet members of the public who had complaints about certain public sector agencies or interviewed them over the telephone and make some preliminary inquiries and some early investigations into the substance of their complaints and make recommendations about how they could be addressed.

So stared in not organization for almost 10 years and moved to different areas within that. And towards the end of my time, I was.  working on much larger projects and leading larger projects, including public inquiries, into serious fraud and corruption issues within the state.   specializing in corruption prevention.

And, I used to lead the team that , worked with public sector entities to help them mature and develop their corruption prevention.   while I was at the commission and I was lucky enough to be succonded to for one year to two, a major, inquiry. We had some significant floods in Queensland and there was a whole of government review years to what could have been done better in terms of the response and prevention for future floods. There are a lot of people lost their lives.  The commission of inquiry spent a year looking at what happens.  And then I got lured by the private sector went to work for  KPMG   in their forensic practice so spent almost four years at KPMG. which was fantastic experience getting to see up to that point. Most of my work and career had been in the public sector. I got to see work with the public sector from the outside in, so to speak, working from the professional services side, got to work on some terrific.

projects there again, mostly around the sort of fraud, integrity anticorruption,  and even performance audit work. but the key Struan was it's always, either helping public sector entities dealing with particular risks, so a prevention lens, or maybe they had a significant motto that required a response, either an investigation or fixing off some systems   and then  spent, 300, two years with the auditor general of Queensland in his performance audit division,  leading performance audits, across Queensland.

Yusuf: [00:07:02]  Long and varied background. a lot of fraud, blur, integrity, lots of assurance related reviews, obviously quite squarely focused in the assurance and integrity world. What's the most memorable thing through your career. So what is the thing that if I say, look at the last 20 odd years, what's the thing that you remember best.

Conor: [00:07:22] The thing that I remember best would be the year I spent at the Queensland floods commission of inquiry. and there's a couple of reasons for that.  primary reason being that, the, that particular inquiry was set up because of, as I said, there were a lot of deaths and destruction because of the floods and it was such a widespread natural disaster. And hadn't really been addressed in any sort of, governance perspective previously. So we got to  , lay bare.  everything that   could have been done better and should be done better. And the impact for that will be that hopefully we can help prevent deaths in the future because as we all know, climate change is a real thing. Natural disasters, particularly in Australia are going to become far more commonplace and far more, intense in their nature.  So that's the most memorable thing

Yusuf: [00:08:10] all of the work that we do is assurance or integrity related with quite a heavy focus on data. What is it that keeps you in assurance and integrity work? What is it that makes you, or keeps you motivated to continue to use data for the work that you do?

Conor: [00:08:24] The key motivating factor for me is that, there's so much noise and misinformation  available nowadays, and lots of channels that it's really difficult to see what the real facts are, what the truth of the matter is and how something is actually performing and how that could be communicated in a more accurate way. And I find that the assurance and the integrity work that we do, plays an essential role in making sure that.

The people that need to know information, whether it be members of the public or an audit committee or the parliament or the legislature, as you may have heard that they are actually being apprised of the proper facts in the proper way at the proper time. And so the most powerful way to do that is to be able to use data, to help you tell that story and use it to support what you're saying through your work. The seam or the continual strand that's run through my professional career, I would say, is being able to get to the absolute facts of the matter and get that information to the people that need to know what to make decisions.

Yusuf: [00:09:22] what do you like most about your current work and the focus that you have?

Conor: [00:09:26] biggest kick I get out of our current work is where  . We are engaged by a client to assist them with a particular problem. And we're able to bring a new perspective or an independent view into something they may have been dealing with for a little while. And it's not because we have all the right answers. It's because we're a little bit removed from the detail of the problem itself, we can help them unlock the answers that they probably had  all along. They just needed somebody to prod them . Or invoke a response from a different angle. you're realizing the capability that exists within an organization already. It's just that they may not have recognized or discovered that themselves. And that's what I really get a kick out of.

Yusuf: [00:10:04] what's at the top of your work agenda. So in terms of focus that you have. what's the thing that you're looking to do most of over the next few years, and that you find to be of most value and most interesting.

Conor: [00:10:17]  We are massive advocates of the use of data and our work. And it's central to everything we do. over the next few years,  I'd like to take advocacy work to the next level and be able to demonstrate  data can actually help . Deliver so not just in conceptual terms about, Oh, data's great. It's fantastic you guys should be doing more, actually help so that it becomes central to everything  and not just an ardent.

Yusuf: [00:10:39] where do you think that will help you to take your clients over the next few years? So if you had to look five years into the future, where would that then leave your clients? What would the uplift be?

Conor: [00:10:52] So the uplift there has to be in terms of their ability to focus their own resources and. Developing the capability of their people.

Yusuf: [00:11:00] And as part of that, you're looking to release a book soon.

Conor: [00:11:03] Yes. So our book's coming out soon.  should be available, within the next six months on bookshelves, all being well.  and that book will focus on how we can , better use data in our audit work

Yusuf: [00:11:16] And that's all auditors directly using data themselves.

Conor: [00:11:19] Every single auditor.

Yusuf: [00:11:20] Okay. So quick plug. Alright, Conor,  so that's the first and last time we'll hear you talking about yourself, fortunately.

Conor: [00:11:25] I'm happy about that.

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Conor McGarrity
Podcast host

Conor McGarrity

An authority on data-focused audits, Conor is an author, podcaster, and senior risk consultant with two decades experience, including leadership positions in several statutory bodies. He’s driven to help auditors uncover new insights from their data that help them to improve organisational performance.
Yusuf Moolla
Podcast host

Yusuf Moolla

Fellow podcaster, author, and senior risk consultant, Yusuf helps performance auditors and internal auditors confidently use data for more effective, better quality audits. A global leader in data-focused auditing and assurance, Yusuf is passionate about demystifying the use of data and communicating insights in plain language.