Six CAs in forensic accountancy

Forensic accountant
By Eleanor O'Neill, CA Today

16 September 2016

Have you ever wondered about the detectives of the accounting world? Eleanor O'Neill speaks to six CAs who investigate and report the legality of financial dealings.

Kenneth Murray MA CA, Head of Forensic Accountancy, Police Scotland

Kenneth MurrayWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

Most chartered accountants, though not necessarily all, are naturally drawn towards analytical ways of thinking.

If you are equally drawn towards synthetic or creative ways of thinking, and you are able to combine the two productively, then forensic accountancy might stimulate you in ways that other accountancy roles may not.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Working every day for the people of Scotland sounds like a logo, as indeed it once was, but it captures what drives me in law enforcement; apart from the people I get to work with, who are the best kind of people anyone can work with.

What has been your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement will be realised when I am absolutely sure, beyond unreasonable doubt, that forensic accountancy has been accepted as a necessary and enduring part of law enforcement in Scotland.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It opens doors that would otherwise be shut.

Who has been your inspiration?

Mrs Kate Murray, not just because she is my wife, but because of her approach to her professional role as a Senior District Nurse.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

It’s not the kind of role where ‘usual’ often applies: expect the unexpected at all times – otherwise you’ll probably miss the point.

But I have done quite a few of the things you might imagine that would go with this kind of environment. And others too; I certainly didn’t expect to publish so much, or anything at all really, when I started.

Jeffrey Meek BA MBA LLB CA, Partner & Head of Forensic Accounting, Jeffrey A C Meek LLP

Jeffrey MeekWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

It is a great way to use the many skills that I gained during my time in professional practice and to keep learning new skills and doing new projects.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Making a difference to the client; whether it is helping quantify and build a fraud case or helping to quantify loss of profits in a commercial case.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Providing a report for the defence, in a criminal case, that played a part in the case being dropped.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It has given me a set of tools to build on, whatever the assignment, along with the desire to question 'Why?'.

Who has been your inspiration?

Primrose McCabe CA (who was the first female president of ICAS and First Head of Quality) was a great inspiration with her quest for quality in the profession and importance of ethics.

I had worked for her at Deloitte and she invited me to leave with her and join her in her own new start firm, Primrose McCabe & Co, in 1987.

I went on to become managing partner of the firm, which eventually became McCabes Accountants and took over the Edinburgh office of BDO.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

Being asked by a Russian licence holder to undertake a royalty audit on a video games publisher in Paris. The client was delighted with my report that found a substantial sum had been undeclared.

Bill Cleghorn CA, Director, Aver Chartered Accountants

Bill CleghornWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

I have always been interested in the investigation, detection and prosecution of fraud. As an insolvency practitioner, it seemed a natural follow on to the investigation and recovery of assets and funds from errant directors. 

So, in a way, the move was seamless; but the insolvency aspect of investigation still plays a large part in what I do on a daily basis.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Giving the best value to the client, whether that is in a civil litigation in a quantum dispute; providing forensic accounting evidence in a criminal trial that will allow a jury a clear understanding of the complex issues which frequently occur in fraud cases; or in a civil proof, providing the same degree of concise information, which can again be complex, to the court to allow judges to make their decision.

What has been your greatest achievement?

As a forensic accountant, I don’t really think about achievements. Rather that my client feels, whatever the instance, the facts have been clearly presented and that as a result an outcome has been achieved that they consider is satisfactory. That can be difficult in quantum cases where judges may not agree with one side or the other but may take a middle line.

From my own point of view, every happy client is an achievement. I also think that it is incorrect to think about 'achievements' in specific cases. I remember reading a judgement in an English case many years ago when the judge took the view that the expert (and it may not have been an accountant) became “an advocate for a cause”. 

The forensic accountant is there to present his client’s case in a way that does not omit facts which may be damaging, but in a way to allow the court to make its decision.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

Very much so. It gives credibility in the court that both judges and jurors understand that whatever is presented it is based on my training as a CA.

What has been your inspiration?

To see forensic accountancy recognised by law enforcement and the civil courts as essential in cases of financial crime or financial disputes.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

I suppose that it has to be when, in 1998, I led the PwC team investigating the collapse of the pyramid schemes in Albania.

One of the businesses which I looked after was a dental surgery which employed a large number of dentists, none of whom spoke English, and I had a permanent interpreter with me when I met the surgery manager to discuss matters.

Graham Cochran CA, Forensic Director, KPMG

Graham CochraneWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

An exciting and challenging career that promotes a real growth mind-set. 

Tracing money across the world, investigating fraud perpetrated by senior executives at blue chip companies and preparing reports that could be challenged in court is a lot of fun and highly rewarding.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Client service. Going that extra mile to exceed their expectations.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Getting married to my wife, Sheena. Although I wouldn’t think that she has a comparable view!

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

Providing an opportunity to work with and for really talented people across the world.  

The CA qualification also exposes you to professional norms that stand you in such good stead in life.

Who has been your inspiration?

My daughters Eleanor and Amelia. They inspire me to be the best I can.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

Having a meeting in a board room in which the windows, which were bullet proof, had been shot at. Thankfully, the meeting was short.

Jennifer Stewart CA, Assistant Director, Deloitte Forensic

Jennifer StewartWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

For me, it has always been a way to combine my professional knowledge and skills with my interest in the interactions between others, considering different perspectives and putting ethics into action.

I have worked on a wide range of projects, many of which have been high profile and/or relating to sensitive information. From a professional point of view, forensic accountancy deals with what happens after individuals err or conflict, by looking at the impact of decisions made by others.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

I am passionate about bringing objectivity and clarity to what others find confusing or daunting by applying my skills and experience, whilst empathising with clients in a crisis. This is what really makes me tick. 

Getting the ‘right’ result is often rewarding, whether that is clarity for clients during a fraud investigation or when the judge in a dispute adopts analysis or arguments I had drafted.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Getting my CA qualification on first time passes. It really was the toughest set of exams I have ever sat and I’m still very proud of it.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

Studying the CA qualification encouraged me to challenge and ensure acceptable ethical behaviour in all that we do as CAs, which is never more relevant than now with ICAS’ Power of One and Moral DNA initiatives.

In many ways, the TPE stage of the ICAS exams is similar to lot of days at work as no two days are similar and I never really know what might happen!

Who has been your inspiration?

I’ve been lucky to work with a wide range of talented people who I have learnt a lot from. But often it’s the incessant ‘why?’ questions from my five-year-old god-daughter that remind me to be determined and to never to lose the desire to challenge.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

I have found myself in some interesting situations and locations, not least as we are often interacting with individuals who have been under extreme stress and pressure. You never quite know what you are going to get in investigative interviews or meetings with the other side’s experts, so working in this area requires empathy, objectivity and being able to think on your feet.

One of the most memorable situations I have been involved in was whilst assisting what was then Grampian Police and the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency with securing financial records as part of a dawn raid of a business in the North East of Scotland.

Coincidentally, it was my mother’s birthday and the launch of a new lifeboat at the neighbouring premises was being filmed by local press. I was concerned that my mother would spot me in the background of the lifeboat launch on the evening news!

Claire O'Donnell CA, Forensic Services Manager, PwC

Claire O'DonnellWhy specialise in forensic accountancy?

It’s exciting, fun and innovative. It is also far reaching and can cover not only fraud work but areas such as dispute resolution, forensic technology solutions like data analytics and E-discovery, corporate intelligence and cyber threat detection and response.

Which part of your job are you most passionate about?

Investigatory work, particularly fraud focused, as it keeps you on your toes! 

These types of projects always have their twists and turns and where you think a project will go at the start is very rarely where it will end up. My advice to anyone is do not write anything in emails that you can’t stand behind or wouldn’t want people to see!

What has been your greatest achievement?

Being involved in the development and delivery of the first Diploma in Forensic Accounting in conjunction with the Irish Institute of Chartered Accountants (CAI).

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to do this along with some of my fellow team members whilst working in the forensic team within KPMG Dublin.

How has the CA qualification benefited your career?

It has given me a sound financial and business grounding that I have used and built upon in all of my roles. The CA qualification provides credibility to employers and is a brand that is internationally recognised.

Who has been your inspiration?

My parents. They are honest and trustworthy people who have worked hard all of their lives and I admire that. They have always been there to support me during my career, even when things haven’t quite gone my way.

What has been the most unusual situation your job has led you to?

Most unusual and a little scary - having to lock myself in a shipping container in a dark courtyard of my client’s premises to review documentation on a suspect during an investigation.

The shipping container had been specifically procured by my client due to the security risk of the documentation taken from the suspect. Said suspect had links to the local gangster community in Dublin and it was therefore thought that they may want to get access to this documentation in case it incriminated them in anyway. 

With no way of telling who was outside the door of the container, no windows and very limited phone signal it wasn’t the highlight of my career!

Would you like to feature in CA Today? Contact the team to get involved and share your CA story.


  • CA life
  • Accountancy

Previous Page