March 11-15th was Forensic Accounting week at Baruch College. For the Hot Topics panel, host Charles Hwang asked questions to several experts working in various positions within the Forensic Accounting department of several firms. Guest presenters included AnnMarie Broughton and James Guberman of ParenteBeard, Jeffrey Baliban of Alvarez & Marsal, Justin Offen of PwC, Jay Dawdy from Gryphon Strategies, and Bob Glasser of Dempsey Partners. Graduate students learned about the different challenges, skillsets, and opportunities associated with this exciting field of work.
The group of accountants was asked about the daily life of a forensic accountant. There is no typical day for a forensic accountant, as he or she faces new surprises and assignments everyday. The panel discussed a wide variety of tasks for which they had been responsible in various locations. Mr. Offen explained how he may find himself driving to Connecticut one day, and then flying to London the next day. The work may include anything from reviewing old financial statements and e-mails to categorizing vaults of videotapes. Sometimes investigations are cancelled before a forensic accounting practice can complete its research and reach any conclusion.
Forensic accountants take on the typical responsibilities associated with running a business such as building and maintaining relationships, selling services, and managing employees. Forensic accountants collect money from clients, cold-call prospective clients, and market services. Mr. Glasser emphasized the importance of making the clients happy while catering to their needs.
The panel of accountants also advised the audience on how to develop and improve upon the hard and soft skills associated with the forensic accounting career field. Mr. Dawdy recommended taking a course in interviewing to improve one’s skills in connecting with and understanding the person being questioned. He also advised accountants to be critical of their own work: “Self-evaluation is important. I always see spots where I could have asked more questions.” Forensic accountants also must keep up to date in mathematics and computer skills, and learn as they work. Mr. Offen recounted that 90 percent of his education in forensic accounting was attained on the job. Identifying fraud requires tremendous experience and expertise, because most fraud is committed by skilled professionals who are well aware of the risks they take on and how to conceal evidence.
The guest presenters ended the panel with advice on how to enter the forensic accounting field, and what firms look for in candidates. To be successful in this field, one must demonstrate the right education, skillset, and mindset. Candidates being interviewed typically have adequate knowledge and training for the job, and are interviewed to see if their personalities and attitudes are fit for the position. Mr. Glasser looks for enthusiasm in candidates, and evaluates how comfortable they are in their own skin; he also judges people by looking into their eyes. Firms value candidates who are committed to excellence in their field and have taken the time to educate themselves about forensic accounting and firms in the field. In additional to technical expertise, firms value how one applies himself/herself on the job. Mr. Glasser evaluates employees on their efficiency and reliability: “[There are] three rules… get the job, get the job done right, and get the job done on time.”