Working as a Forensic Accountant: Valuable Core Characteristics

Ever since I was young, I knew that I would eventually end up perusing a career working with numbers. I have always found Math and numbers to be exciting and interesting. I always enjoyed the fact that with other subjects there could be a multitude of correct answers to a given problem, but with Math, on the other hand, there is the right answer and the wrong answer. The satisfaction of figuring out the right answer was always such an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment for me.

As I continued throughout my school days, I was introduced to several different options in Math while working with numbers, such as Trigonometry, Geometry, Algebra, Physics, Economics, Statistics, Accounting, and so on. Accounting seemed to be of the most interest to me. During my early twenties, I was studying and working as a Production Controller and working on some small accounting projects on the side. I eventually started to see the correlation between inventory and accounting, especially when it was time to perform the annual audits for the upcoming tax season.

Discovering Forensic Accounting

It became very apparent to me the importance of managing and tracking the financial data accurately and effectively throughout the organization. This is when I discovered the field of Forensic Accounting and started to take classes.  A great deal of what I was learning could be put into practice in my workplace, and therefore I was able to help the company, advance my career, and gain a great deal of knowledge that still benefits me to this day.

Learning about Core Characteristics

Perusing a career in Forensic Accounting is a very challenging and rewarding option but requires a person to have and maintain certain core characteristics to see success in the field. One major characteristic is integrity. Integrity is extremely important because the main role of a Forensic Accountant is to analyze data and look for discrepancies and fraud. Without integrity, how will an organization ever figure out whether their data is being recorded accurately or not! It is your responsibility to whomever your working with to make sure that you always them the truth and reveal any information to them that could be a sign of fraudulent activity.

Another core characteristic is hard-working with good study habits. Forensic accountants need to be able to research and compile a great deal of information, organize the information, and hold on to and use that knowledge in the field because that’s what is required every day. They need to have an in-depth understanding of each company’s governance policies as well as the laws that currently regulate those policies. They also need to have the ability to understand the ins and outs of fraud schemes in different scenarios, such as bribery, corruption, money laundering, and misappropriations. This is all on top of having to understand all of the laws, policies, and procedures put forth through the International Accounting Standards and the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Another important characteristic for a Forensic Accountant is to be non-bias. In this field, you will work with people of different ages, races, genders, social standings, religious beliefs, backgrounds, and so on. You have to be the type of person that works well with others no matter what your differences may be. Working in so many different organizational settings, you are bound to encounter people who you are not likely to get along with on a friendly basis, but you have to always maintain a professional presence at all times.

For example, I once worked with a gentleman that believed the role of a woman was to be at home with the children cooking and cleaning. He felt that there was no room for women in the workplace. I am not going to lie, he was a bit of a challenge to work with at times, but I had to keep my personal feelings to myself and focus solely on the task at hand which was to see where money was being unnecessarily used within the company. Just a side note, he was the culprit and had wasted over $200,000 of company money on unnecessary inventory purchases for items that would never be put into use with the organization. The company decided that it was in their best interest to set up a Separation of Duties moving forward to prevent future losses.

Forensic Accountants also need to be very detail oriented and thorough. These types of accountants can be working on cases as small as a bar/restaurant with a total of twenty employees, right up to a high-profile government case.  They need to be able to go through the data with a fine tooth comb and look for anything that seems out of the norm. Reports need to be written that are accurate and detailed, and all of the documentation needs to follow along with GAAP. A great deal of information gathered by Forensic accountants is used in court cases to prove the guilt or innocence of a given party. With this in mind, people’s livelihoods are actually in the hands of these accountants, so there is zero tolerance for errors.

Other Important Core Characteristics

Other core characteristics that would bold you well when working in this field are dedication and patience. These accountants are often required to work very long hours and for extended periods of time. For example, I worked on an audit for a manufacturing firm for several weeks. We worked six 12-hours days for over two months, and it was gruesome at times, but we had to hang in there because we wanted to make sure that everything was accurately recorded for the company. We would sometimes get cranky and want to lash out at a fellow coworker, but we had to be patience and show one another respect at all times.

There are several other characteristics that are beneficial for a person to have when working as a Forensic accountant but I thought I would focus on the characteristics that seemed most relevant from my personal experience. Forensic Accounting is such an interesting and sometimes intense field to work in but most definitely rewarding at all times. Sometimes when I’m joking around with family and friends, I tell them that I feel like one of the investigators on CSI or Criminal Minds but about numbers instead of people.

 

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