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    Ask the Expert : Making a Career Change 

    Allan Bachman, CFE 

    Education Manager  

    Association of Certified Fraud Examiners   

    Austin, Texas, USA  

    bachman-profile 

    Allan Bachman, CFE, is presently Education Manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners in Austin, Texas. In his role, he is responsible for seminar development and the educational content of all conferences and online learning. Most recently, Allan worked in higher education as director of an audit unit and was project manager on several IT implementations specializing in security. His largest fraud investigation of more than $1.5 million was conducted during this time. Previously Allan has worked in or has consulted for retail, real estate, manufacturing and has done extensive small business consulting where he has actively worked a number of fraud cases. Allan has conducted training sessions for national organizations and has taught college courses in accounting/auditing and information systems security.


    From Sven in California 

    I am thinking of moving into a career as a CFE. I currently work for a public accounting firm, but have always been interested in fraud-related cases. This may seem like a broad question, but what is the travel like with forensic accountants? I have been asking around and I have yet to find an appropriate response. Is it similar to the amount of travel for audits? I have heard rumors that forensic accountants can be gone for months at a time. 


    Usually I try to be as specific as possible, but the answer to your question really boils down to “it depends.” The short answer it that yes, on the whole, if in fact travel is involved, it would mirror time spent in doing field audits. This vague answer is due to the fact that depending on the case, company and organization of the fraud unit all of this could vary from company to company, engagement to engagement.
     

    Let me give you some examples. A multi-national company might have a fraud investigation unit which is decentralized and thus able to localize investigations whenever necessary. Some staff might be sent to the engagement, but it would depend on the depth and complexity of the case. Again, it would be case specific, too. A smaller organization might have some travel involved, but it would not be out of line with what you might encounter on a more complex audit.
     

    Fundamentally, I have never heard of months in the field. Some projects might take months and most investigations do. However, in this day and age data is portable and can be located where the expertise resides, mitigating the need for any extended travel.
     

    All of that said, I am sure there are cases which require focused, detailed work onsite and might extend beyond a reasonable length field assignment. In these situations, staff are usually rotated to prevent any chance of a road weary, error prone work product.


    I have some experience in the investigation/enforcement area; however, I don’t have an accounting or finance background. Will this hurt me in my plan to enter the anti-fraud field? 


    Most, if not all, frauds occur within or utilizing some form of accounting system, so a fundamental knowledge of how it all works saves investigators a lot of time if they understand these fundamentals. Training and further educating yourself in all aspects of fraud awareness, deterrence, detection and investigation is key. Knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know and keeping up-to-date in both are critical to being an effective fraud examiner.

     

      

    What specific skills should I highlight to prospective employers? What are they looking for besides a CFE/accounting background?  


    Highlight what you are good at, your past successes and things you had made an extra effort to learn on your own (i.e. training, etc.). Not everyone is an expert in all aspects of fraud examination. Be honest with what you know and can do, and emphasize those points.


    What specific networking steps should I take to expand my network to include anti-fraud professionals? 


    Meetings, chapter social and training events, conferences and training seminars are great places to meet practicing professionals from all walks of life. There are key social media sites which are important to participate in, for example LinkedIn. Join discussion groups even if it’s just to look over the shoulders of those who are working an open topic. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional you might want to make contact with, and use current links and associations to broaden your network. Carry lots of business cards all the time.


    I have a background in accounting, but would like to focus more on the law enforcement/investigative side of the anti-fraud profession. What are some ways to get my foot in the door of law enforcement agencies? 


    You may want to consider going back to school and focusing on criminology and other similar courses. Explore and research the different options so that you can make an informed decision about which type of law enforcement agency you want to approach: federal, state or local. Remember, this is a broad field in need of white-collar crime professionals, but it is a lot of work to change careers and it may require taking a step or two back before moving forward again.


    Obviously, when a career change is made, there is also an impact on salary. What degree of impact can I expect as an experienced professional in one field as I transition to the anti-fraud profession? 


    It depends on what direction you decide to go. An “impact on salary” can be negative and positive, and it’s not always measured in dollars. You could take a cut in pay and move to a region where the economics are more favorable, lower housing costs, etc. so there is a lot to the equation. Make sure you are transitioning for the right reasons and in the right direction. Salary takes care of itself and should not always be the deciding factor.


    A career in the anti-fraud field sounds interesting and could be a good fit for me. What suggestions do you have for getting a feel for whether or not it is the right career move? 


    Take some courses, read every newspaper article on fraud, attend meetings where anti-fraud professionals gather and talk to them about your interests. It is not all glamour; much of the work is tedious and time-consuming with little in the way of glamour. But, if you like solving complex puzzles, then the anti-fraud profession is a good field to be in.


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