Forensic Accounting: Graduate Area of Work
Forensic accounting is a niche within the field of accountancy that employs accounting and financial skills during investigations of fraud, disputes, and suspected transgressions.
It is the responsibility of a forensic accountant to identify and uncover illegitimate financial practices in order to identify suspects and recover illicit funds.
These investigations make the nature of this job a sensitive one. Following the analysis, they are required to report to the senior management of the (hiring) company.
Some forensic accountants, however, specialise in the division of fraud risk management, where they work to reduce the likelihood of financial fraud.
Depending on their job scope, some forensic accountants will have to work with law enforcement authorities and lawyers, and may even be requested to act as expert witnesses in court.
Most graduates spend some time training and gaining experience in an audit or forensic department before they join forensic accounting, although some may be enlisted directly into the field.
During the earlier stage of your employment, you can expect to have to trawl through quite a bit of low-level data analysis – creating spreadsheets, trawling through financial records for relevant information, and checking through written records.
However, as you gain more experience in this line of work, you will eventually be given more responsibility with regards to how individual investigations are conducted.
Possessing a finance-related degree and/or additional training in criminal justice or law enforcement will be added bonuses, but you will first be required to obtain a recognised professional qualification.
Most firms in Singapore accept qualifications such as Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and/or Chartered Accountant of Singapore.
Aside from specialised qualifications and good numerical skills, an inquisitive and analytical mind are of utmost importance.
It is your responsibility to identify the source of fraud and to pin down the culprit, so you will need to practise caution and question most of the reports and numbers that come to you.
You will also need to remain focused at all times, bearing in mind the key issues of the case and being aware of the significance of the information being analysed.
Most of the details that you will be handling are of a sensitive nature, so you should approach them with care. Attention to detail is very important – important evidence might be hiding in the depths of seemingly trivial data.
Similarly, it is immensely important that you portray a professional image at all times. It reflects an identity of independence, integrity, and credibility – traits that cannot be stressed enough in this field.
As a representative of your company, you need to convince your clients that you stand for objectivity and unbiased judgement.
Ups and downs
Some of the obstacles that you can expect to encounter during your work include uncooperative clients or emotional employees who feel wronged or that their loyalty to the company is being judged.
Work can also get tedious and laborious at times, especially routine record analysis. But if you do pull through, the sense of satisfaction that you get is immense.
Finding crucial pieces of information that helps with solving the case is just as rewarding.
Working in forensic accounting may also lead to quite a bit of travelling, and you will meet a lot of people from diverse and interesting backgrounds such as law enforcement officers, forensic technicians, lawyers, and even private investigators.