Forensic accountants help clients resolve financial problems such as fraud, disputes and suspected misconduct. They carry out investigations to uncover key information about the person or organisation in question and quantify the losses involved. This might involve interviewing people to verify facts and pin down the perpetrator, tracing and recovering illegitimate funds or searching through delicate information for incriminating evidence. There is also scope to specialise in fraud risk management, reducing the chances of fraud taking place in the first place.
Where do graduates work?
Forensic accountants can work in a specialist department of a professional services firm, on behalf of an individual, a private organisation or a public body such as the Serious Fraud Office, the Serious Organised Crime Agency or HM Revenue & Customs. Forensic accountants often work alongside lawyers and are sometimes asked to give evidence in court as expert witnesses. The area of work has become increasingly important over the years as there is more demand for accountability in both the public and private sectors.
Some firms recruit directly into this area but many graduates initially train in audit or work in a forensic department as part of a rotational training programme. Graduate level responsibilities might include creating spreadsheets, extracting relevant data from financial records and checking written reports. An important aspect of a graduate role is to keep the key issues of the case in mind at all times and understand the implications of the information being analysed.
Key skills required for a forensic accountant
Forensic accountants need the inquisitiveness and sound judgment of a detective as well as the numerical and communication skills to effectively convey complex conclusions to people from a nonfinance background. Attention to detail is very important as fundamental evidence might be hiding in the depths of seemingly trivial data.
Satisfaction, travel and interesting colleagues
The routine record analysis can be quite laborious, and working hours will come in peaks and troughs, but finding a crucial piece of information is very satisfying. Investigations can sometimes lead abroad, offering scope for international travel. The area of work attracts people from a wide range of interesting backgrounds too, such as law enforcement, forensic technology and private investigation.