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Companies count on corporate detectives to ensure all is well

Published on Thursday, 31 Mar 2011

Forensic accountants are no regular number crunching accountants; they are corporate detectives who look for fraudulent activities in a company.

Ajay Budhrani, a senior associate from the forensic accounting team of Deloitte & Touche Financial Advisory Services, says more companies are seeking help from these professionals.

"Financial institutions, which handle a lot of money on a daily basis, are at high risk of money laundering or other fraud," he says. "They actively seek us out for help to make sure everything is going well."

Forensic accountants check the computers of the suspects and interview personnel involved. Budhrani says he also works with the computer forensic team who will go through e-mails and recover deleted files to look for evidence of fraud.

"It is important to use our common sense, as we often come across information during our investigations that is not directly relevant, and we need to identify the right things to focus on in the investigation," he says.

Budhrani says he loves his job because it is challenging and never follows a routine. "I learn new things and meet new people every day. It is great for my career development."

A background in accounting is not necessary for forensic accountants, but knowledge of finance and accounting is useful. Budhrani says some of his teammates are lawyers or have worked in the police force, adding that he gets most of the training for forensic accounting from within the company.

Forensic accountants are usually hired by the "Big Four" accounting firms. Fresh graduates who start as an associate can become a senior associate after two years. They may move on to the role of a manager in another three to four years. Outstanding performers may be promoted to a partner of the company.

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