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Women in Risk Advisory: Korynne Bernard finds risk in the numbers

As Deloitte honours its incredible Women in Risk Advisory, we recently sat down with Korynne Bernard to hear more about her career journey and what drives her to help her clients each day.

For Korynne Bernard, she looks for risk in the numbers. She’s been working with Deloitte for more than 15 years, currently as a partner in Deloitte Risk Advisory. She started in internal audit in 2005, but even then, she was looking at the numbers through a lens of risk.

For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, establishing auditing and financial reporting regulations, was passed shortly before Korynne started with Deloitte. One of her main jobs was to help clients comply with the act. This was a far-reaching responsibility — ranging from reporting accurate financials to making sure that processes and controls were in place to ensure auditor independence, drive corporate responsibility, report on acts of fraud, and more. The same is true for other departments — inherent in budget and financial reporting numbers are risks that might come from hiring the wrong people or agencies or engaging in new business processes that introduce risk into the organisation.

As a result, moving from internal audit to Risk Advisory was a natural thing for Korynne. “Internal audit defines risk,” she says. “The Deloitte Risk Advisory provides strategies for addressing those risks.”

Within Risk Advisory, Korynne is a part of the technology, media and telecommunications practice, where she works with clients mostly in the technology and media industries. Her role is to provide her clients with a “safety net” from risky endeavors. For example, companies in the media space have significant advertising risks and what they say in their ads is only the beginning.

“This is mostly contract compliance,” she says. “We look at the issues our clients are dealing with and we also make sure there’s appropriate transparency from the agencies they use.” By doing this, she ensures that her clients are not assuming unnecessary financial risk from agencies that are not performing to contract.

In other situations, she audits company controls across a variety of risk areas, including human resources, sales, marketing and more.

“We do a risk assessment and then come up with a risk audit plan,” she says. As might be expected, the risk audit is much more thorough than the assessment, according to Korynne and delivers recommendations for mitigating any risk.

“Risk is a real thing — you can wind up in the news or, worse yet, in jail,” she says.

Korynne continues: “And as we seek to address risk, I think it’s an advantage being a woman. Women tend to be problem-solvers. Understanding how to mitigate risk, or to deal with it after it becomes a problem, is important to the profession.”

The big moment and big move

Korynne’s “big moment” from both a career and personal perspective came in 2017 when she moved from the East to West Coast — going from Washington, D.C. to her current position in Deloitte’s San Francisco office. She had spent most of her life in the Washington D.C. area, but a large client had its headquarters on the West Coast, so moving to work out of the San Francisco office made a great deal of sense for her.

“For me, I had to really uproot myself,” she says. “I had a lot of connections out East, so it was a big thing for me to move out West.”

Whether with that client or others, Korynne makes sure each feels it is getting “the best of Korynne.” “I look at my calendar and get myself well-prepared to speak to clients,” she says. “I read the latest news stories about them, so I’m fully prepared and understand their current situations and priorities.”

It also helps that she has seen almost every type of challenge over the years. Almost nothing catches her by surprise, across client departments. “I’ve worked across a variety of clients — most recently technology platform clients. I’ve often seen it all before!” she adds.

Rising through the ranks at Deloitte

Korynne acknowledges that black women can face issues of inclusion and representation as they climb the corporate ladder, but she says this has not been the case at Deloitte. “Deloitte has been awesome — I’ve had a wonderful experience,” she says. “I understand how it can be an uphill battle for people in my position, but I have not had to face that battle. It simply has not been the case at Deloitte.”

She credits a large part of her journey’s success to Deloitte’s mentorship culture — both her being the mentee and the mentor. “You have a lot of people who are interested in your career success,” she says. “I have met these people at every stage of my career at Deloitte and I maintain relationships with them.”

As part of this, she is also mentoring several Deloitte employees so they too can have successful careers. “I’m big on mentoring women,” she says. “I’m constantly focused on ‘how can I help them succeed in a white-male-dominated world?’”

Korynne says that she makes a point of mentoring three-to-five women at any one time. She believes having and cultivating two key qualities will make them successful in Deloitte Risk Advisory. “You have to have an open mind and you have to have great problem-solving skills,” she says.

Most importantly, new professionals need to know what gives them joy, Korynne says. “We at Deloitte do so many different things; we are almost certainly doing something that gives you joy,” she adds. “Finding what you’re interested in is the key.”

View Deloitte’s Women in Risk Advisory Series.