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I've graduated in Finance, Accounting and Management from a reputable institution a few years ago, but decided to go into entrepreneurship instead of finance straight away. My company failed miserably, but this experience led me to discover something about myself: I enjoy turnaround/liquidation activities a lot. I've also been interested in forensic accounting ever since my early days at Uni, so it might constitute another option.

The question to my colleagues here is: 

Are those types of accounting/finance activity inherently exclusive, or is it possible to somehow become a credible specialist in both?

Also, I'd love to get input from you regarding sensibility of obtaining ACCA certificate (I'm exempt from half of the exams thanks to my degree). I've been hearing a lot of controversial opinions lately, and would like to know what do the practitioners think about it.

Thank you in advance

Maciek

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David Winch
By David Winch
25th Aug 2014 12:22

Re forensic

If you are considering a career as a forensic accountant - which will ultimately lead to you signing off reports yourself & giving oral evidence in court - then you need to be aware that this is an area of work (one of the few areas of accountancy work) in which a formal accountancy qualification is very important.

In English law the normal position is that a witness is able to give evidence about what he heard and saw but is not permitted to give his opinions in evidence.  So a witness might say that a company Balance Sheet was prepared & the figures on it were XYZ.  But, ordinarily a witness would not be allowed to say what the company was worth, or whether those figures were reliable.

However an "expert witness" is permitted in evidence to give his opinions concerning matters within his field of expertise if the court (i.e. the judge) accepts that this evidence would assist the court in reaching its findings.

To put it more formally, expert witness opinion evidence will be admissible if (i) it is relevant to a matter in issue in the proceedings; (ii) it is needed to provide the court with information likely to be outside the court’s own knowledge and experience; and (iii) the witness is competent to give that opinion.

Where the witness's area of expertise is accountancy then, in relation to assessing his competence the first question is likely to be 'Is he a member of a recognised accountancy body having passed professional examinations?'.

So, in that area of work, it would be very sensible to get a recognised accountancy qualification such as ACCA as an initial step.

After that you would need to gain experience of forensic work & undertake CPD to learn about the legal side of being an expert witness.

David

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By marting
16th Jun 2018 04:59

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By johngroganjga
25th Aug 2014 17:28

I will make no comment on the usefulness of a Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting, but I will just echo the point made by David that in order to become a forensic accountant it is first necessary to become an accountant. It is also then necessary to acquire some experience of working as a qualified accountant in a practising office. Then if one one wants to become a forensic accountant one has the qualifications to do so. A Masters Degree in Forensic Accounting may or may not be a useful add-on, but it is certainly not an alternative becoming a qualified accountant.

If I can also dispel a myth - forensic accounting is not a technical specialism in the same way that, say, audit, tax and insolvency are, it is just the activity of putting the accountant's knowledge and skills to work in a particular context - i.e. the legal one.

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David Winch
By David Winch
25th Aug 2014 18:45

@John

I agree that a forensic accountant is first & foremost an accountant, albeit an accountant aiming to assist the courts in dealing with legal proceedings which involve accountancy issues.

So it is, as you say, accountancy knowledge & skill in a legal context.

However I do believe a forensic accountant will benefit enormously from an understanding of the 'rules' applicable in court - and particularly the 'rules' relating to the evidence of an "expert witness" in court (independence, objectivity, relevance, etc).

Also I think one needs to understand the 'question' the court is addressing in which it is looking for the accountant's assistance.  That may involve a basic understanding of relevant law.

As a forensic accountant I find myself to be a 'wordsmith' as much as, or even more than, I am a 'numbersmith'.  My reports tend to contain many more pages of words than pages of numbers - but perhaps that is just me!

Finally I think some 'role play' experience in training for someone intending to go into the witness box is very useful too.

So there is some special knowledge and skill - in addition to all the accountancy knowledge and skills - which a forensic accountant needs.

David

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By johngroganjga
25th Aug 2014 23:38

David. Of course I agree. But I didn't say there was no special knowledge or skill. I just said it was not a separate specialism to compare with audit, tax or insolvency. They take years of study and practical training to master. The knowledge you refer to can be picked up in a couple of half day courses. And of course you are right that skill in report writing is to the fore in forensic work. That is not to say of course that it is not a vital skill to have in other disciplines as well, but perhaps it is easier to get by without it in other fields.

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