Edwin Mason, a Risk Hunter

Vatel 2011 alumnus, Edwin Mason is now an Internal Auditor in Accor Group’s Dubai office.

Edwin Mason, a Risk Hunter

Tracking down risks and improving work processes, that’s Edwin Mason’s daily job. This Vatel 2011 alumnus is now an Internal Auditor in Accor Group’s Dubai office. People often say that he’s a policeman, but this job can better be compared to that of a general practitioner who carefully examines his company from all angles: sales, accounting, taxation, IT, human resources, etc.

“After having graduated from the University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I wanted to gain more experience in Tourism, and in International Hotel Management, in particular. So I contacted Vatel, as I had heard so much about this school. And right away I was convinced by the mixture of practical application of hotel management courses and theoretical courses given by professionals who were still working in the field.

Today, I’ve got very fond memories of the three years I spent at Vatel. A lot of my classmates are still close friends I see when I come back to France! Vatel allowed me to try my hand at different jobs in hotel and restaurant management, jobs that I didn’t know a thing about. My schooling also allowed me to work in a prestigious hotel - Le Meurice, - in Paris, where I did my final internship and started working.

My last internship in the Hotel’s Financial department gave me the opportunity to use everything that I had learned when I was a student. I learned how things work and how important the financial structure of a Palace Hotel was. Just a few days after the final exam, my Internship Manager offered me a job in the Finance department, because one of his staff members was going to leave. So I accepted right away, and that’s how I got my first job.

I’m still in hotel management, but since then I’ve changed hotels, jobs and even work on another continent! I started working with Accor Group in October, 2012 as the Internal Auditor in their Dubai site. My responsibilities include assessment of corporate control using standards and procedures written by the hotel chain, and thus identifying potential financial risks stemming from operational activities (accommodations, catering, cash reserves, procurement and inventory management) as well as functional activities (accounts payable and receivable, human resources, investments, etc.).

Risk assessment and risk management takes places through planned or surprise audits, then by drawing up a corrective action plan, according to the results of the audit. My ultimate goal is to put in place new procedures that will improve internal control levels and decrease risk exposure, such as loss of revenues, fraud, poor cost management, etc.

So when I tell other people what I do, they often say that I’m a “corporate cop,” or a “teacher who hands out bad grades.” Though I do understand this image people can have of an internal auditor, it is much more than that. In reality, my role doesn’t just consist in highlighting all the negative points. In addition to my auditing missions, I’m also in charge of setting up and following up the corrective action plans I put in place. So, I also have a “support” and managerial role to play for the operational teams in our hotels. This is a very motivating job, as I have a daily contact with all the operational team members, even though I am working in a support function.

In order to do a job like this one, you need to have an eye for details, good organizational skills, an analytical and synthetic spirit as well as being at ease in communication. You also have to have previous experience in the operational jobs. How could I do risk assessment and convince the team members to follow the procedures if I don’t know what they’re doing? Thanks to Vatel and my previous professional experience, I know these things.

I’m going to stay in Dubai for a few more years as I’ll be taking on new responsibilities in our company in just a few weeks. In the longer term, I’d like to work in research and development for new hotels, if possible, abroad.” Edwin Mason, Vatel 2011