Accountancy & Financial Management

Forensic Accounting

Conduct investigations to expose fraud and illegitimate financial practices, and help affected clients trace and recoup their losses.
Jevitha Muthusamy
Editorial Writer
Forensic Accounting

Forensic accountants help clients resolve financial problems by uncovering evidence of fraud, disputed financial movements, and alleged misconduct. They carry out investigations to obtain key information about any persons or organisations involved, and help clients quantify any losses incurred.

It’s a forensic accountant’s responsibility to identify and uncover illegitimate financial practices, identify suspects, and hopefully recover illicit funds. You will also work closely with other professionals, such as lawyers, law enforcement agencies, and affected stakeholders to provide expert opinions on complex financial matters in the event of a legal dispute.

Forensic accountants are typically employed by accounting and professional services firms, financial services companies, large law firms, or government regulatory and law enforcement agencies. Some may even run their own private practice and contract their services to larger firms as and when needed.    

Career Pathways

There are various entry points for graduates who are interested in pursuing a career in forensic accounting in Malaysia. Some firms recruit directly into this area, but those are relatively rare. Many graduates initially start off in audit roles or are rotated into a forensic accounting department as part of a larger graduate programme.

You will definitely need to be qualified by a professional accounting body before you can enter this line of work full time or advance up the ranks. Additional specialised qualifications, like the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification, may also be useful later on in your career depending on what areas of forensic accounting you aim to specialise in. 

Graduate-level responsibilities typically involve low-level data analysis like building spreadsheets and checking financial and written records for relevant information. However, these tasks form the building blocks of the entire investigation, and keeping the key facts of the case in mind at all times is crucial even at this level.

Once you are professionally qualified, you will have opportunities to start leading different aspects of an investigation. You may also start being tasked with higher-level responsibilities such as preparing official forensic accounting reports, or collating data for legal cases and testifying in court as needed.

Another possible career pathway is fraud prevention – helping companies pre-emptively prevent fraud or minimising the chances of fraudulent financial activities taking place. This is more commonly found among banks and insurance companies, or with consultancies that specialise in risk management. 

Some unusual perks from this line of work are opportunities to travel and meet professionals from diverse and interesting backgrounds. You may find your professional network filling up with contacts such as law enforcement officers, forensic technicians, security experts, lawyers, and even private investigators.

Required Skills 

Strong analytical skills and attention to detail are crucial for conducting forensic investigations and identifying irregularities in financial statements. Fundamental evidence may be buried within seemingly trivial financial data, so it’s important to have a keen eye to spot irregularities even if the work can seem like drudgery at times.

Critical thinking abilities are also essential for forensic accountants. Graduates need to have the ability to evaluate complex financial transactions and identify patterns and trends that may indicate fraudulent activities. They should also have strong problem-solving skills, which are needed to develop effective strategies to address these issues.

Effective communication skills, both written and verbal, are also crucial as you must be able to present your findings clearly and concisely to people from non-finance backgrounds. This is especially important when it comes to working with lawyers and law enforcement personnel. You may also find yourself having to deal with uncooperative or emotional interviewees, and being able to work around them may be key to getting the facts you need. 

Given the sensitive nature of the work, maintaining a constant façade of professionalism and confidentiality is critical. You must be able to draw a hard line between your professional and personal life, and watch what you say around others at all times. Maintaining confidentiality is key to making or breaking an investigation… and in some cases, key to protecting yourself too.