What is your current job role and what does this involve?
I handle the forensic service line for SKP Business Consulting LLP, in India. I advise clients/corporates on fraud management/prevention strategy in the nature of setting up an in-house fraud control unit or support with operational fraud matrices in the nature of fraud analytics or fraud risk assessments, and assist in ethics or compliance investigations. With the increase in fraud, corporates are increasingly setting up in-house fraud control units to manage the risk of frauds. This includes defining the roles & responsibilities of the unit, exhibiting independence, developing a robust concern handling process and measuring effectiveness of the operations at appropriate intervals. Operational fraud management includes supporting corporates with fraud risk assessments and specific dashboards on fraud control. Supporting ethics and compliance investigations is primarily focussed towards gathering evidence from digital and documentary sources and conducting interviews of identified individuals (employees and third parties) with reference to the issue in question.
What kind of education/training do you need to work in this area?
You need to have an eye for details and you need to develop the capability of noticing inconsistencies and identifying patterns. These are enablers in this field. At the base, for the given nature of job, one should have a strong background in accounting and internal controls. Certified Fraud Examiner is a certification offered by ACFE, a non-profit working towards enhancing education relating to fraud. This certification helps resources to understand the essentials better.
How did you end up working in forensic accounting?
I was influenced by the way my mentor (Mr. Shanmuga Sundaram) worked on internal audit/internal control reviews, where he was able to spot complex frauds based on his unorthodox approach. Over time I realized that I had an interest in fraud investigations and wanted to explore that as a career. I joined Ernst & Young in their fraud investigation service line to learn and over a period the work experience supported by subsidiary reading has helped me in this field.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of this kind of work?
Gathering evidence is always challenging. In one of the reviews that I led, the issue in question was on the fraudulent manipulation of IT application data at the backend. The review involved gathering of specific traces of evidence from the logs and identifying inconsistencies. It also required exploring newer tools/techniques including wireshark attack or specific backup protocols to ensure that evidence was secured for subsequent analysis. These measures helped in concluding the investigation.
Similarly in another review, the instance of fraudulent conduct was identified in Japan. Investigation in Japan with known language constraints was challenging. We had to conduct interviews of the suspects with translators around.
How do you think this field of work could be improved?
Currently the technology is maturing in this field with digital forensics and analytics becoming more prominent than before. I believe that technological influence can change the playing field for the service in the decade to come. A move from service to solutions on fraud management also will be a game changer in the years to come.
Finally, do you have any advice for those seeking a career in forensic accounting?
My 3 points of suggestions to people joining forensic accounting are:
- Remember you are not a super human. You can gather only those evidences that are available, extractable and representable at the court of law. Hence be clear with the evidence that you can gather.
- Spend time learning. Learning gives a broader perspective of gathering evidence.
- Embrace technology. It will help you, add value to the field of work over time and bring in a change.
If you’re a forensic scientist (academic or industry) or a crime scene investigator and would like to be part of this series of interviews, get in touch by emailing locardslabblog[at]gmail.com.
This is Part 6 of our series of interviews with forensic professionals.
Interview Series Part 1 – Interview with Forensic Identification Scientist Alexandre Beaudoin
Interview Series Part 2 – Interview with Forensic Expert Robert Green OBE
Interview Series Part 3 – Interview with Forensic Expert & Consultant Gareth Bryon
Interview Series Part 4 – Interview with Forensic Identification Specialist Donna Brandelli
Interview Series Part 5 – Interview with Forensic Video Analyst David Spreadborough