What is forensic accounting?

May 13, 2016

Alison Cregeen is our Forensics Senior Manager find out more about her role in this Q & A.

What is your business background?

I originally qualified as a chartered accountant with a Big 4 firm in London. After an initial spell in audit I moved into the firm’s Forensic & Disputes department, where I spent the next six years before moving to the Isle of Man. I’ve been here nine years now, and have spent the last seven of those working in PwC’s Advisory team.

Your background is in forensic accounting, can you explain what this is?

Forensic accounting is often thought of as the more colourful side of accountancy! A forensic accountant is a sort of financial detective, investigating fraud or financial irregularities, and advising on the financial aspects of disputes.

The role is incredibly wide, with projects coming in all shapes and sizes. The sort of work a forensic accountant might be involved with ranges from fraud investigations, to quantifying losses and analysing damages arising from breach of contract or professional negligence claims, valuing a business or other assets as part of a marital dispute, assisting with data protection issues (soon to include GDPR), or helping companies that have suffered (or want to prevent) cyberattacks.

Is there a role for forensic accountants on the Isle of Man?

Absolutely. It’s not a very attractive truth, but wherever there’s money, there’s scope for things to go wrong – whether that’s fraud, theft, accounting mix-ups or a whole range of disputes.

Sometimes my work might not necessarily be thought of by the client as a ‘forensic’ project, but the skills required – such as an analytical mindset, attention to detail, persistence and a natural curiosity – are very much those of a forensic investigator.

Advances in forensics technology have had an enormous impact on the role of the forensic accountant, and can be of great help to our clients. These aren’t technologies that are just there for the big projects carried out for multinational clients – I’ve been involved with cases here where electronic investigations have produced results that would have been impossible to achieve by manpower alone. The cost and time savings for clients can be significant, even on small projects.

What does an average day in your role look like?

I’m not sure I ever have such a thing as an average day! My work is project-based, and very rarely does one day look like another. Even when I think I have my week planned out, one call can change all my plans if it’s a client with a particular problem that needs immediate attention – and it often is!

What is the best part of your job?

It has to be the variety of the work, and the people I work with. I really enjoy the challenge of each piece of work being different from the last – of going to meet a new client not quite sure of what the problem is going to be, but knowing that we will find a way to help them deal with it, even if the problem is unique or unusual.

It’s also the people that keep me looking forward to each day in the office. I’m part of a relatively small but very enthusiastic team of people. Between us we have a wide range of skills and experience, and it’s a vibrant and rewarding environment to work in.

You've lived on the Isle of Man for a while now - do you have a favourite place?

I love being able to see the sea, and when we moved here from London sea views were a must. One of my favourite places is probably sitting in my kitchen looking out at the mountains of Snowdonia on a clear day. I think though that over the time I’ve lived here my favourite place has to be the beach – whether it’s rock-pooling on a cold day, popping down for an ice cream when the sun comes out or sitting watching my children sailing or just playing in the waves, every time I go I think how lucky we are to have it on the doorstep. Just don’t ask me to go in the water – it’s too cold!

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