Today we have Toshaj Oza sharing his journey as a Forensic Accountant.
He is a Chartered Accountant | Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) | FAFP – CIT ICAI | DISA – CIT ICAI.
Presently he is working in Risk Advisory – Forensic Investigations Team, PWC Bangalore (India).
He is very active on Linkedin and Quora – Toshaj Oza
To connect to him click on the link here – Connect to Toshaj
MY CHARTERED ACCOUNTANCY JOURNEY
Regarding my Chartered Accountancy journey, it has been a very intriguing one.
I am a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) from The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
I cleared CPT (1st level CA exam from ICAI) in the 1st attempt.
I cleared CA IPCC (2nd level CA Exam from ICAI) in the 3rd attempt and CA Finals (last level CA exam from ICAI) in the 1st attempt.
I guess I am a late bloomer!
I did my internship in Tax/Audit from J.T Shah & Co, a mid-sized Chartered Accounting Firm in Ahmedabad, India.
My articleship experience mainly consisted of Traditional Audit and Tax work (nothing related to Forensic Accounting).
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MY JOURNEY AS A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT
After qualifying as a Chartered I decided NOT TO get into – The Traditional Auditing or Tax practice.
I wanted to specialize in a field but I did not know which field.
I researched the available alternatives and Forensic Accounting just seemed to be perfect for me.
In Forensic Accounting:
- Every assignment involves something new
- There is no fixed way to reach a conclusion in each case, this novelty attracted me
- If you are a Forensic Accountant, every day is a new day with a new challenge!
- Data Analysis has always been my strength
4 TIPS TO GET INTO FORENSIC ACCOUNTING
1. Attend Seminars
- As soon as I realized I want to get into Forensic I registered for this seminar.
- I attended the seminar held by our regional ICAI Branch on Forensic Accounting which was conducted by Chetan Dalal – The Pioneer of Forensic Accounting in India.
- This session got me totally immersed into Forensic Accounting field.
- I applied for the post qualification course on Forensic Accounting & Fraud Prevention (FAFP) conducted by ICAI immediately after my internship was over.
- I was the youngest member of that batch.
- My main goal of attending FAFP – To meet different Forensic Accountants, speak to them and understand Forensic Accounting from them.
- I was also looking for potential colleagues who are into Forensic Practice.
- It was at the FAFP course I got introduced to Pipara and Co LLP, Ahmedabad (India) and took up the opportunity to work there.
- So my advice to all is – Even if you have no clue about Forensic Accounting join a few courses like this to network and connect to other firms.
3. Work in a Mid-size Firm if You Have To
- In fact, during my CA placements, I got selected by Deloitte (Statutory Audit role) and Capital First Ltd. (Credit Underwriting role) – I decided not to join them since I was determined to build my career as a Forensic Accountant only.
- It was a tough decision but I was clear what I wanted.
- A lot of us believe that to have a career in Forensic Accounting you need to get only into Big Accounting Firms. However, it is not always true!
- I learned so much at Pipara and Co, it was the best decision ever to start in a mid-sized firm.
4. Learn As Much As You Can
- During my 2 years with Pipara and Company, I have had the opportunity to work on many different kinds of assignments.
- In fact, not getting into a Big 4 Accounting firm at the start of my Forensic Accounting journey was a blessing!
- Always remember the learning in small/ mid-sized firms is always more, as one is not restricted to certain rules.
- So my advice to all – Take what best opportunity you get at the start of your career.
- Remember smaller/ mid-sized firms provide learning opportunities in different areas.
MY WORK EXPERIENCE AS A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT
Now, to be honest, I do not specialize in all mentioned below.
I would rather say I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work on many different assignments.
I tried gaining maximum knowledge from each and every assignment.
Handling and Managing Work with regards to:
- Fraud & Financial Crime
- Investigation Assignments
- Regulatory Enforcement
- Crisis Management
- Dispute Services
- Reconstruction of Complex Financial Records
- Risk-Based Internal Audit
- Systems and Process Audit
- ERP Implementation and other allied Forensic Accounting & Internal Audit services.
My Advice to All:
- There is always something to learn, one just has to be CURIOUS enough.
- It is not necessary that a Forensic Auditor has an experience in all these services, in fact, Forensic Accounting in itself is a vast field and has many branches.
- One could choose to specialize in any one of them or just a few of them. It is pretty difficult to gain specialization in all the fields.
- Also, the services which I have mentioned is just the glimpse of what services a Forensic Accountant can offer.
Few Areas a Forensic Accountant Could Specialize in:
- Insurance Frauds
- Health Care Frauds
- Procurement Frauds
- Anti Money Laundering
- Fraudster Psychology
- Digital Forensic
- Data Analysis
- Expert Witness
- Conducting Interviews
- Bankruptcy and Insolvency Proceedings
- Calculation of Economic Losses
- Business Valuations, etc
TERMS TO HELP YOU UNDERSTAND FA BETTER
Now my previous firm (Pipara & Co) did not give me an exposure in all the services but I did manage to learn quite a bit thanks to my curiosity!
Also when one starts off in a mid-sized firm the learning is always more.
Now let us try us try to understand some of the Jargons used above. The main purpose of explaining is to help those intending to pursue Forensic Accounting as a career.
Fraud and Financial Crime:
- It basically means White Collar Crimes. This is divided into Organizational Crime and Occupational Fraud.
- Organizational crime: It involves frauds committed by the Organization as a whole or it’s Corporate Executives like Financial Statement Frauds.
- Occupational fraud: It means a fraud committed by a person in his occupation/profession/ employment for his personal benefit or gain like Larceny!
- My experience: It basically involves investigation of the organizational crime committed by the organization and certain assignments of occupational fraud. In these assignments, there is suspicion of Fraud and it has to be established whether any wrongdoing has been done or not.
- This basically entails the following activities namely – Obtaining Evidence + Reporting + Testifying to Findings + Assisting in fraud detection and prevention.
- This is usually conducted when it has been established that – Fraud has already occurred and the evidence has to be collected to incriminate the fraudster.
Fraud Risk Assessment:
- It is the process through which we aim to identify and address an organizations vulnerability to internal as well as external fraud.
- Based upon the risk the assessment the organization would decide as to how to address those risks.
- Basically entails working with the Economic Offences Wing, CBI, etc. for assistance as requested by them during their investigations of financial crimes.
- Can also be termed as Fraud Risk Management.
- This basically refers to How to Respond when any fraud has occurred with the organization to minimize the potential impact of the loss
- Means conducting an investigation of the Digital Data of the company.
- This is mainly done with the help of Digital Forensic Experts although our role is to coordinate in that process like making a list of potential fraud words that is to be looked into the dump collected by them and sorting through it to identify the useful files.
- From what I have understood Big 4’s does not usually have any specific criteria for hiring in Forensics. What matters is that you are academically qualified for that job + have relevant experience.
- Digital Forensics team usually would consist of computer engineer’s/ Tech guys but as discussed earlier they cannot work alone and have to work in tandem with core investigators.
- Someone with a CISA, Engineering qualification and with an audit background would have an advantage.
Systems and Process Audit:
It includes an audit of Information Systems of the company which includes-
- Audit of where is information stored
- How the information flows,
- The logic of the ERP Programs,
- Business Continuity Planning,
- Disaster Recovery Planning, etc.
Risk-Based Internal Audit:
- Basically entails that – The Audit Committee of an organization keeps a risk register for each of its processes.
- Based upon the scope identified by that committee we are to conduct an audit in high-risk areas to try to reduce the residual risk after implementation of controls.
- It means that – Even though the engineers develop the software, they still need guidance as to the design of the system. They can code but WHAT TO CODE is given by the Information System Auditors.
- This process includes the complete System Development Life Cycle.
- To design a robust ERP System as per the need of the business is what an information system auditor does primarily.
- The software engineer is only for the coding part and later on the resolution of the bugs.
Is System Audit and Forensic Accounting Interconnected?
- Yes, I agree system audit is not associated with Forensic Accounting but is intricately linked with it.
- In fact, I would go on to say that all the audits nowadays are closely connected with the systems.
- While conducting Forensic Audit it is of utmost importance to understand the auditee’s environment and the sources from where evidence can be collected.
- In the current digital age, almost everything is managed and stored in the system so it is inevitable to conduct a proper forensic audit without understanding the systems.
- To arrive at a proper conclusion and to get more evidence it is very much necessary to understand the flow of information hence understanding systems come with it.
- So all of you DO NOT STOP and chase what you want.
- Everything is possible.
- If you decide on a career path even after qualifying it is fine.
- I realized Forensic Accounting is what I want to build my career in after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.
- It is not necessary that you have to know (it is good to know but it is not bad if you do not) what are your future career plans before becoming a Chartered Accountant.
- So DO NOT STRESS if you are clueless, just give your best.
- Most of all – It is okay to get lost, confused or to be unsure but it is NOT OKAY TO GIVE UP!
To connect to him click on the link here – Connect to Toshaj