Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
David Kirtland, CFE, CIA, CRMA
David Kirtland, CFE, CIA, CRMA, is not one to slow down any time soon in his fight against fraud. Since joining the ACFE in 2013, the current compliance manager at AXIA Partners has kept extremely active in continued learning. “It is so important for us as anti-fraud professionals to guard against complacency in our development because the people committing fraud are not stagnant,” Kirtland said. “Fraud is a continuously evolving thing that is constantly trying to gain and retain the upper hand, and if we do not continuously seek out new knowledge, we will quickly become irrelevant.” He is also a pillar in the anti-fraud community — Kirtland serves as program director and vice president for the ACFE Houston Chapter.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I grew up in a small town in Texas near Houston and fraud always seemed like something that only happened in the big city. As I began to study accounting for my undergraduate degree, I saw how fraud was a major concern for businesses, regardless of whether they operated in a small town or in a large city. As I began my career in internal audit, I saw how much fraud can affect people, both professionally and personally. I became interested in how fraudsters learned to bypass controls as well as how they rationalized their behaviors. I decided that I needed to put myself in a position to try to help corporations and individuals protect and educate themselves on fraud so they had a fighting chance.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
I am currently Vice President of Internal Audit at Cogeco Inc. This entails overall responsibility for the internal audit function whose mission is to provide independent, objective assurance and consulting services designed to add value and improve Cogeco’s operations and systems of internal controls. I am also responsible for the development, implementation and monitoring of Cogeco’s anti-fraud program.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
Learning to ask questions has been one of the biggest lessons that I have learned since becoming a CFE. There are always more questions to ask and sometimes the ability to solve a fraud scheme is just one series of questions away.
There have been times when I have walked out of interviews and immediately thought of additional questions that I should have asked but didn't. In sharing my experiences with other anti-fraud professionals, I’ve realized that we all have similar challenges of wanting to ask certain questions, but we might let trying to be courteous or not knowing how to phrase the question get in the way. I have learned, though, that asking those tough and uncomfortable questions can help lead us to the most important information. As in most things, trust your gut. Ask the question. A question that is not asked is an answer that is not received.
What steps led you to your current position at AXIA Partners?
As an internal auditor, it became more and more evident that capable and confident managers were not paying much attention to how fraud could be perpetrated within their organizations. I chose to go into consulting so that I could reach more of these managers and help educate them on fraud as well as teach them to identify situations within their organizations where fraud can occur. The key to succeeding at this is to help them assess fraud opportunities as part of their normal processes. Having the opportunity to reach more managers meant that I could help prevent and detect more fraud. Opportunity is the only part of the fraud triangle we can truly control and my role as a compliance manager allows me the opportunity to help eliminate more of those opportunities.
What unique challenges do you face in your position?
The biggest challenge in my position is getting companies, and their management, to see the need to change their mindset towards controls and fraud in general. For so long management has focused on ensuring that they hire the right person for the job — and a large piece of that is hiring trustworthy employees. Many members of management will interpret the need for internal controls as an attack on their ability to identify, hire and retain capable and honest employees. It is important to educate these managers so they can begin understanding that trust is not a substitute for strong internal controls. This is the first step in an organization growing from apathetic to proactive with regards to fraud prevention.
What is a memorable project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?
My proudest achievement has been serving on the Houston ACFE Chapter Board of Directors for the past four years. The city of Houston has some of the most diverse groups of individuals and professionals, and it can be difficult to try to cater to everyone. During my time on the board, we have doubled our average attendance at our monthly meetings, typically having 80 or more attendees. Our annual conference has been increasingly successful and has allowed us to provide more and more benefits to our members as well as help us foster relationships with local universities. Helping cultivate and develop both the current and future generations of anti-fraud professionals allows me the opportunity to help prevent, detect and prosecute fraud on a much greater scale, which helps keep my community safer. When a person takes what they learn through our organization and uses it to stop fraud in some way, that is what makes me the proudest.
How has earning the CFE credential benefited your career?
The CFE credential has provided me with a better perspective and a higher level of understanding when it comes to how processes work together, which in turn gives me a better understanding of how and where fraud can occur in organizations. As auditors, we don’t often take a step back to understand how the processes we review affect the organization on a macro level and we need to make sure we are mindful of that. This perspective has not only helped me in my career development but has also made me better at providing useful and applicable solutions to companies. If we, as anti-fraud professionals, want members of management to fight fraud, and recognize it as a real problem, they have to trust we have their best interests in mind. This perspective helps build that confidence.
How has membership in the ACFE impacted your professional development?
Being an active member of the ACFE and my local ACFE chapter has given me the opportunity to learn from professionals with different backgrounds and develop skills I would otherwise have never been exposed to. Learning from other anti-fraud professionals from other areas or industries gives us a larger knowledge base that could be the difference in preventing fraud from occurring in our organizations.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
When I am not working, I like to spend as much time as I can with my wife, Kelly, and our four children. We enjoy the outdoors so we can typically be found fishing, relaxing outside or attending one of our children’s sporting activities.
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