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Lina Xu-FenzLina Xu-Fenz — Structured Preparation Key to Certification Success

Lina Xu-Fenz, CIA, CRMA
Head of Internal Audit
Helvetia Versicherungen AG
Vienna, Austria

1. What prompted you to become certified?
Initially, I decided to become CIA-certified to build confidence in my internal audit knowledge and demonstrate my commitment to the profession. While I was preparing for the CIA certification, it became even more clear that I am not only doing it to obtain a well-known and globally accepted internal audit certification, but to truly broaden and deepen my internal audit horizon. As the CIA requires you to understand a wide range of internal audit concepts in detail, you have to prepare yourself in a structured and planned manner for the exams.

2. What IIA certifications do you hold, and why did you choose to pursue them?
I hold the CIA and CRMA certifications. While preparing for the CIA, I also started to prepare for the CRMA exam to strengthen my risk management knowledge and validate my ability to provide risk management assurance and advice. Personally, I think that both certifications complement each other very well and enhance your understanding of risk management topics.

3. How do your IIA certifications set you apart from your non-certified peers?
The CIA and CRMA require you to understand a wide range of internal audit/risk management concepts and support you in applying these concepts in your daily audit work. Obtaining well-known and internationally accepted certifications such as the CIA and CRMA makes it easier to communicate your skills and knowledge to the outside world and people who do not know you well.

4. How have your IIA certifications helped your career?
While preparing for the certifications, I became more engaged with the local IIA chapter and enjoyed the regular knowledge-sharing and networking. I recommend the local IIA activities to everybody who wants to meet internal audit peers and learn about current and emerging audit topics.

5. How has earning your IIA certifications enhanced your skill level?
The certifications cover a wide range of internal audit and risk management domains and definitely help to refresh and deepen my knowledge about them.

6. What advice do you have for others who are considering obtaining an IIA certification?
I recommend that every exam candidate: (1) select a learning system you feel comfortable with, e.g., Gleim, IIA CIA Learning System, Hock, or Wiley, (2) study the additional resources mentioned in the learning system, (3) prepare and stick to a realistic study plan, (4) complete practice exams to get a feel for the time-limited exam situation and the distribution of questions across the domains, (5) quickly rule out unrealistic answer options during the exam and concentrate on the remaining options, and (6) do not waste time during the exam so that you have review time left at the end. In addition to memorizing definitions, it is crucial that you understand the concepts behind and can apply them in various audit situations. I also recommend gaining internal audit experience before starting the CIA certification process. Being an experienced auditor definitely helps in understanding and applying the CIA learning material.

7. How does career planning and development play a part in your growth?
In general, it is important to have goals and strategies for achieving them. This also applies to career planning and development.

8. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Do what you are passionate about and never stop developing yourself and your team. Be creative and open to new developments, and keep in mind that it is always about people.


Lina Xu-Fenz, CIA, CRMA, is a passionate, results-driven internal audit professional with more than 10 years of experience in the finance and insurance industry. She is currently head of internal audit at Helvetia Versicherungen AG in Austria. Previously, Xu-Fenz worked in risk management and controlling positions in the consulting and finance industry. She holds a master’s degree in international business administration and a second master’s degree in Chinese studies from the University of Vienna. Being a sparring partner to auditees, senior management, and board of directors; working with inspiring people; and delving into the various audited business fields are her main motivational drivers.

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