This regular feature includes brief interviews with various ACFE members from the UK and Europe sharing their views on fraud. This month's interview is with Marcela Londoño, CFE, a senior consultant at Control Risks, a leading global risk firm based in London.
What does your job involve on a daily basis?
As a senior consultant for the compliance, intelligence, investigations and technology practice in London, I advise clients on a wide variety of cases. These include investigative due diligence, business intelligence, litigation support, fraud and asset-tracing investigations, and compliance and anti-corruption assignments. My role is mainly to manage complex multi-jurisdictional and large-scale investigations for a diverse range of industries across Western Europe and globally in cooperation with our overseas network of offices.
How did you hear about the ACFE?
When I was head of research at Control Risks’ office in Mexico, my colleagues and I took a collective interest in the ACFE; some of our colleagues had obtained the CFE accreditation and we knew it was an excellent way to acquire valuable technical skills for our career development. Control Risks was always very supportive of this initiative; the company backed me in becoming a member of the Mexico chapter in 2009, and I attended a training course in investigation techniques, which increased my awareness of the CFE as an accreditation worth pursuing. When I transferred to London I received further encouragement from Control Risks to obtain the qualification, and I completed my CFE Exams, as did several members of my team.
When did you become a CFE? How did you study for the CFE Exam, and for how long?
I have been a CFE for about a year and a half. I did take the CFE Exam Prep Course, which proved extremely useful; it allowed me to set realistic targets and organise my study time for each topic efficiently. I used to study for up to three hours per day, either after work or during lunch breaks; it took me about four months to complete the Prep Course and a week to take the mock exams. When I felt I was ready, I took the exams and passed them all in one go.
How useful has the CFE credential been in your current position?
Being a CFE has definitely been of great benefit to expand my remit in my work and enhance my value and credentials as an investigator. The whole study process to get the certification was quite comprehensive and equipped me with an understanding of a wide range of concepts related to fraud prevention, detection and investigation. More importantly, maintaining the qualification requires that I keep myself constantly updated on new types of fraud and novel ways to fight it. Since becoming a CFE, I have been able to get involved in more complex and highly sensitive investigations in collaboration with our fraud and financial crime unit. These have gone beyond my own area of business intelligence, which has made my daily work even more fascinating.
For example, months after qualifying for the CFE credential, we got an urgent call from a multinational whose European subsidiary had just fallen victim to a massive fraud by an organised-crime gang. Through sophisticated social engineering techniques, the gang had convinced our client’s accounting manager to transfer millions of euros to a third party. I was one of the consultants of a core team deployed to the scene within 48 hours of receiving the client’s request. Being a CFE really helped me to contribute to the team in establishing a timeline of events, gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and ascertaining how the fraud had been perpetrated. It also gave me added credibility and reassured the client, who was aware of the CFE as a globally recognised qualification. At the end the client was quite pleased with the results of our investigation and recommendations, not least because we assisted in freezing and recovering some of the stolen funds.
Where can we find you when you're not at work?
I practice hot Bikram yoga every day and it has now become a lifestyle for me. I also have a passion for photography and love reading spy and detective thrillers. I like to travel as much as possible, preferably to distant destinations, and every year I make sure this includes at least one visit to a different part of my native Colombia with my family.