Please tell us about ourself
The word ‘fraud’ today is as ubiquitous as the internet. As technology advances, so do the breed of people who want to beat technology either to show their prowess or to make a quick buck. Not too many people are privy to a career in the world of fraud detection. We spoke to Apurva Joshi, who is one of the youngest Certified Fraud Examiner and Forensic Accountant in India and was featured in Rashmi Bansal’s ‘Arise Awake’ for her pioneering career choice. She launched her company Fraudexpress, which then merged with Riskpro which is into fraud Management. She is now an independent director in Quick Heal Technologies Limited – one of
the leading IT security companies of India.
WW: Could you tell us about the field of forensic accounting?
AJ: I discovered this domain accidently. We were working on an audit assignment when my team found out an incidence of fraud and I was supposed to quantify the damages. Till then I did not know that there is a field of accounting which studies this quantification and it is called forensic accounting. Once I got acquainted with this subject, my interest kept getting deeper. I also realised that this field has not been tapped by many accountants.
WW: What qualifications did you acquire to become an expert in forensic accounting?
AJ: I did my graduation in Commerce. I have done a certified bank forensic accounting course, a certified forensic accounting professional course and a certified anti-money laundering expert course conducted by India Forensic. I have also done the executive programme conducted by the Institute of Company Secretaries of India and the professional competence examination conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. November 2015 | 39
WW: What inspired you to set up Fraudexpress ?
AJ: Fraudexpress was set up at a time when India was attracting a lot of foreign investment, mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures. The presence of huge capital was giving rise to a lot of frauds in accounting. As chartered accountants, we were witnessing a surge in misdeeds and discrepancy incidents. I also realized that practitioners and students were not equipped to handle these cases. Hence Fraudexpress was set up with the objective of equipping students and practitioners with anti-fraud tools and training. We partnered with the University of Solapur to conduct programs for students in fraud investigation and money laundering. We created campaigns to create awareness about insurance frauds, banking frauds and others on social media and we subsequently published newsletters and books.
WW: There are not many women in forensic accounting. AJ: There are two main reasons for this. Primarily, not too many people know about it. With increase in frauds and with investors and government specific about due diligence, fraud accounting is getting its true recognition. Another reason is that it is perceived as a risky career option for women. Fraud fighting involves interaction with difficult clients and sometimes dangerous too. You need to be mentally tough to be in this profession. There was a time in our industry when three out of the Big Four Consulting firms were led by the women professionals in forensic audits but later they were replaced by the male leaders. Women constitute only 5% of the workforce in forensics.
WW: How would you explain the typical job profile of a forensic accounting professional to non industry readers?
AJ: Just as an accounting professional we look at the financial statements, do audits, and work on taxation, due diligence and compliances etc. for a company, as a forensic accounting person, we go a step further. We don’t only work on the above but we also carry out due diligence and similar activities by getting the information on the promoters, their nexus and their sphere of influence. We also perform due diligence on digital, legal, and strategic aspects of the firms and their promoters. A forensic accountant’s role is detecting misdeeds in cases of employee frauds, third party frauds, IP thefts and more.
WW: During your career, you have also worked as a research analyst. How did your research skills serve you in the anti-fraud profession?
AJ: Our research is always aimed at quantification of the fraud’s impact. Also, I have always supported numerous research projects, including studies on insurance fraud and corruption. In India, our research papers are considered benchmarks for academics and are often quoted.
WW: What do you consider your most special professional achievement?
AJ: I authored a book called Students Handbook on Forensic Accounting which was well received and read by thousands of students to understand the history of forensic accounting and basic aspects of this domain. Being the youngest forensic accountant in India, I realised the absence of literature related to forensic accounting and hence took it up on myself to write the book.
WW: What advice do you have for those who would like to explore this profession?
AJ: This is an upcoming specialized field. Frauds are increasing in the corporate sector and creating demand for experts in this field. I would recommend programs which provide global certifications like the CFE, apart from local accreditations like CFAP (Certified Forensic accounting professional) or CBFA (Certified Bank Forensic Accountants).
WW: What are the key attributes required for this kind of a career?
AJ: If you have an affinity for numbers, an analytical mind, patience, a keen eye for detail, and an open mind to absorb information from your surroundings, you have the right attributes for this domain. One needs to be mentally alert and be prepared for a lot of hard work, sometimes long working hours as well.
WW: Is there someone who has influenced you most as a professional?
AJ: Kailash Katkar of Quick Heal Technologies has been a professionally inspirational figure for me. With his vision and foresight, he has built an industry of technology security products in India and is a true example of the make-in-India mindset. His pioneering work has also put India on the global map in the space of digital security.
WW: What are your plans for the future?
AJ: I want to build a technology based product which will help in checking and decoding nexus between various individuals and businesses. This information will be useful for lenders and investors in reducing risk of exposure to fraud-prone businesses.
WW: Any message for women exploring this profession as a career?
AJ: I have perceived some gender bias against women in this domain. However like for any other profession, those who have the skills and passion can prove naysayers wrong.