A Day in the Life of a Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting, and the work of a forensic accountant, is project-based and therefore varied in nature. That said, to give prospective employees an idea of the type of work that we do and the ‘typical day’ for someone working in forensic accounting, we have asked staff with various levels of experience to describe what they do and to outline their role at Axiom Forensics.

Michael Potter, Director
What is a forensic accountant?
A forensic accountant is an accountant who can investigate financial irregularities and value businesses or economic loss.

When should a forensic accountant be used?
Where fraud is suspected, if there is a financial dispute or when damages need to be quantified.

What is a good forensic accountant?
Someone with a keen attention to detail.

What is a good expert witness?
Someone who can present complex data and concepts in a simple yet comprehensive manner that can be understood by non accountants. It is also someone who is able to calmly respond to aggressive or difficult cross examination.

What is a proud moment for you as a forensic accountant?
When we assisted in the successful action by a regulator to recover losses for retiree investors.

Boyd Harris, Manager
How did you become a forensic accountant?
I had been working in commercial accounting for almost ten years and had started looking around for something different and challenging. I applied for a role at Axiom Forensics since it seemed exactly like the change I was seeking. Fortunately I was accepted.

What is a typical day as a forensic accountant?
It is difficult to define a typical day as a forensic accountant as much of my activity is determined by the details of whichever case or cases I’m busy with. Most of my time is spent either analysing facts and data or preparing reports and presentations in relation to the analyses I’ve completed.

What is the best thing about being a forensic accountant?
The best thing about being a forensic accountant for me is the project-based nature of the engagements and the variety that they bring to the work I’m involved with.
The cases I’ve been involved with have ranged from multi-million dollar fraud investigations to preparing business valuations in the context of damages assessments in support of high profile litigation matters.

What is a proud moment for you as a forensic accountant?
It’s always exciting to see the work I’ve done contribute to a successful outcome for my client, such as when they win at trial or achieve a favourable settlement.

Trent Butler, Senior Analyst
How did you become a forensic accountant?
Upon completion of undergraduate studies in 2009 I was fortunate enough to commence my career as a graduate forensic accountant with a mid-tier accounting firm.

What is a typical day as a forensic accountant?
Most of the matters I work on involve the valuation of a business in the context of a dispute between parties. For example, one party claims damages as a result of the acts of another and we are asked to quantify the resulting damages. Tasks in this process are varied, however they generally include:

  • Understanding the facts.
  • Identifying the financial evidence that might exist in order to quantify a loss or make an assessment of value.
  • Using the available evidence to build a financial model.
  • Preparing a ‘simple English’ report that documents our findings in a manner than can be easily understood by non-accountants.

What is the best thing about being a forensic accountant?
Analysing, understanding and quantifying drivers of business profitability. This develops a skill set that accountants from a traditional audit or tax background usually don’t possess.

What is a proud moment for you as a forensic accountant?
Working for a federal regulator and discovering a misappropriation of funds that belonged to a not-for-profit organisation.

Fiona Pang, Analyst
How did you become a forensic accountant?
I was studying a double degree in IT and Business whilst working part time in IT during the last two years of university. Towards the end of my studies I wanted to have a go at pursuing a career which would utilise my business degree so I decided to apply for a graduate role at Axiom Forensics.

What is a typical day as a forensic accountant?
While days vary depending on the status of each matter I am working on, the kind of work I am typically involved in consists of:

  • Dynamic modelling using Microsoft Excel to conduct financial and sensitivity analysis;
  • Discussing different perspectives with team members;
  • Meetings with clients;
  • Reviewing documents sent by clients;
  • Conducting industry research to gain a better understanding of trends and the economic and financial factors relevant to a company being valued;
  • Consideration of the relevant methodology to apply (valuation methodology or damages methodology); and
  • Report drafting.

What is the best thing about being a forensic accountant?
The best thing is that every day involves something different. Throughout the year you get the opportunity to work on numerous matters in a variety of different industries so there are always new challenges and new things to learn.
The matters I have been involved in often get you thinking about the issues, planning how to solve the problem and then taking into consideration how the work should be undertaken. It is often important to consider as many scenarios and outcomes as possible, so it can be an interesting challenge.

What is a proud moment for you as a forensic accountant?
Building a complex financial model from scratch which was presented at meetings with the client and used as a basis for discussion. There were a lot of complex issues and assumptions regarding the loss calculation in this model so it was a proud moment when the client was happy with the resulting loss figure.

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