A typical forensic accountant’s chat up line is “…I hope you never need my expert accountancy services…” This is because expert accounting evidence is usually only required when trouble is brewing. You are embroiled within a financial dispute or worse still, facing the attention of the criminal regulatory bodies regarding fraud, tax or some other problem.
These are occasions when a forensic accountant is essential, to clarify and present a financial position so that it can be resolved in a balanced way. However, I feel that a competent and experienced forensic accountant is able to offer considerable value to any client regardless of the financial issue that prompts the contact.
Dealing with diverse cases of fraud, money laundering, financial loss, disputes over business interruption and loss of profits means that some experts also have the skills necessary to appraise the business integrity or financial viability of the entity being investigated, and on many occasions I have been able to provide additional value to clients by delivering recommendations alongside the core service of providing an expert report.
How To Recognise Professional Quality
Obtaining additional value to the core forensic services is desirable, but how do you appreciate that you are obtaining value from your forensic accountant. You will receive a report for use in your dispute, and win or lose you can never be sure that you have received the service you will undoubtedly have to pay for! Or can you? There are a few pointers to recognising quality that you should be aware of, that will indicate that your expert is performing properly and that the opinions he is presenting on your behalf are likely to assist your case.
I have been presenting reports as the named expert for over twenty years, and can provide a list of historical examples similar to those new cases that I am asked to take on. Demonstrating experience is essential, and discussing the outcomes of other assignments can provide a good indication of the expert’s ability.
An often-quoted adage applied to experts is “…you are only as good as your last case…” However, care must be taken when judging an expert after a case where his “side” has lost the argument. I have undertaken many assignments where the outcome is hopeless for a defendant or respondent. However, in this case my approach has always been to provide a frank explanation of the facts so that the decision to plead or agree a settlement can be made. If there is no smoking gun to find we cannot fabricate one, yet this is the service some clients expect. I guess that managing these expectations well is the sign of a better quality forensic accountant!
How to present a quality forensic accounting service
My advice to any aspiring forensic accountant learning his or her trade and building up their reputation is, even if you do not work for PWC or Deloittes, pretend that you do! At least act like you think a top tier professional should. Here are few tips:
- Quality is paramount, spend time…and more time…checking, rechecking and checking again. Typos are not acceptable, even in emails.
- Always be available to the client who is likely to have questions just before bed-time;
- Respond to enquiries, questions, report updates and new developments quickly, not next week;
- Add value to your service by making suggestions during a case, don’t just file a report based on a bundle of documents that are provided;
- Wear a suit, be early for meetings, travel first class….