Adam Johnston is managing director, Hong Kong, at Robert Half .
How can I make a career out of forensic accounting?
I have been working for seven years as a tax accountant and, though I am good at my job, I find it a bit boring.
The idea of working as a forensic accountant, following the money trail in fraud and money-laundering cases, really appeals to me, but I am unsure what prospects there might be in that field in Hong Kong for someone of my background. Is it possible and would I need additional qualifications to move into forensics?
First of all, congratulations on deciding to make an exciting career move. Forensic accounting is a fulfilling profession and will keep you on your toes because there really isn’t a typical day. Some days you may be crunching numbers; on others you may be conducting interviews or reviewing documents.
Forensic accounting is an investigative methodology to follow the money or the proceeds, conducted on the premise that the results may be utilised in a court of law. As a forensic accountant, you will work alongside law enforcement, the government and the banking industry to investigate crimes such as fraud, bribery, money laundering and embezzlement.
To be successful in this job, you will need to have a strong desire to investigate, with experience in investigation being advantageous. A degree and a background in accounting and finance is also required, but as you’ve worked for several years as a tax accountant, you have already got a head start.
A CPA, which remains the “gold standard” for finance and accounting professionals in Asia and is well regarded internationally, will give you additional expertise and a competitive edge that could boost your chances during the recruitment process and set you apart from the competition when applying for jobs. Some employers also look for Certified Fraud Examiner or Certified Forensic Accountant designations.
A sharp mind and a thorough understanding of the financial markets in Hong Kong and the wider Asia-Pacific region also play an important role, as this will heavily influence how you conduct your job as a forensic accountant. Staying abreast of trends in the financial industry is also crucial. Changes within the industry, such as new or updated mandates in regulatory compliance, can affect the finances of a company or individual. Regardless of the purpose of your engagement. It’s usually all about following the money.
It would also help you in your career to undertake additional training or professional development programmes in your field, as well as joining professional associations, attending industry conferences and events, and taking online programmes. This will help you to maintain a firm grasp on updates and trends within the banking, investment or accounting industries.
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as How do I make the move into forensic accounting?