What Skills Are Essential In Forensic Accounting?

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 by Lydia SinclairNo comments

Accountancy is a very broad field that encompasses a range of different skills, fields and industries all with the single goal of ensuring that financial information is consolidated, recorded and reported to all stakeholders and shareholders that need to know.

One of the most unique fields in the whole of accounting recruitment is forensic accounting jobs, as the field requires not only skills in accountancy, but legal knowledge, an exceptionally keen eye for detail and investigative skills to get to the bottom of a case and have evidence that could be used in court.

The field of forensic accounting is concerned with analysing potential financial crimes such as money laundering, fraud and embezzlement, using investigative techniques alongside accounting knowledge to trace funds, recover assets and establish the level of damages at trial.

Because of this, alongside the attention to detail, mathematics skills and legal knowledge required to succeed in any other accounting role, they also require a particular set of skills in order to successfully investigate and present their findings to the satisfaction of a judge and jury.


An Inquisitive Mind

Many financial crimes are by design obtuse, difficult to spot and are often hidden in a web of transactions designed to throw any forensic accountant off, so a financial accountant needs to look for results that do not quite add up and investigate them thoroughly.

For example, Harry Markopolos was one of the first to have serious doubts about Bernie Madoff’s investment scheme after working out through rigorous analysis that it was mathematically impossible for the claimed strategy to generate the claimed returns.

Even outside of grand court cases into more mundane divorce settlements or breaches of contract, a forensic accountant would need to investigate creative ways in which assets are being hidden and whether there was any intent behind breaches of the law.


The Ability To Easily Present Complex Ideas

Accounting inherently involves a great deal of work with numbers and the complex mathematics that go into the day-to-day running of a business, but with forensic accountancy, these figures need to be explained not only to stakeholders but to judges and juries who may not be financial experts.

Returning to the Bernie Madoff fraud, it was forensic accountants who managed to make an exceptionally complex scheme easy to understand for the courtroom so the connection between it and other Ponzi schemes was more clear, often using visual aids.


Investigative Communication Skills

Whilst a large part of a forensic accountant’s role involves the investigation of documents, bank accounts, transaction histories and other important information, they also have to play the role of a detective, right down to interviewing witnesses, people of interest and potential suspects.

As with other interviewing officers, they need to be able to draw out the information they need, either by easing a stressed witness or spotting a lie being told to their face, and pulling on threads that could later become critical in the case.

This can provide context to suspicious transactions or highlight that purchases that looked typical could have been part of a more elaborate scheme.

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