Clare Gillbe is an Assistant Manager in Deloitte Forensic, based in their Birmingham Office. Clare joined Deloitte in October 2011, having previously worked for Grant Thornton, both in Birmingham and in Auckland, New Zealand.
Tell us a little bit about a day in the life of a Forensic Accountant?
One of the best things about being a Forensic Accountant is that there is no such thing as a “typical day”. I tend to be involved in reasonably large investigations where things can change fairly quickly. An investigation will typically include a combination of interviewing key individuals, analysis of accounting records, a review of emails, and reporting on the findings. Depending on the nature of the investigation, we may also perform office searches. We liaise with our forensic technology team to ensure we get the most out of the data available, and in the most efficient way possible. For example, I might spend one day reading through several hundred emails to identify evidence or information that may assist with an investigation. The next, I might be preparing interview questions, sitting with a colleague to interview an individual about the background or the specifics of an investigation, writing up notes, discussing the outcome with lawyers and following up points raised in the interview by reviewing accounting records.
I have also worked on a couple of disputes; these tend to have a different focus. The key is to ensure I understand the nature of the dispute and any underlying contracts – for example, specific clauses in a sale and purchase agreement which can affect the purchase price of a business by substantial amounts. We then work on applying the technicalities of the contract to the specific situation and accounting records in order to come up with a solution; we may be working for one side of a dispute or another, or acting as an independent arbitrator.
What did you study or what experience did you obtain in order to get in to your current role?
I studied mathematics at Warwick University. During my student years I had some experience of accounting from assisting with a personal tax business in the holidays. After graduating I spent a couple of years in a variety of part time jobs and travelled which gave me a very broad experience, including some teaching and management, both of which have been an asset in my current role. I then began a training contract for my ACA qualification in 2005. I spent 6 years in total working in audit and financial reporting advisory, both in the UK, where I gained my ACA qualification, and on secondment in New Zealand. My time in New Zealand, as well as traditional audit, included some technical work in applying financial reporting standards to complex situations. The attention to detail and logical thought required for this, as well as the writing skills necessary to communicate my findings to clients have been invaluable to the work I do now.
What do you most enjoy about your role?
The variety of work and the possibility that priorities will change at any point. Also, I enjoy being able to ask questions, be a bit curious, and hopefully get to the bottom of an issue.
Can you tell us a little bit about what is great about working at Deloitte?
The two things that stand out to me immediately about working at Deloitte are: the opportunity to work alongside some of the smartest people in the country, and also the Corporate Social Responsibility agenda of Deloitte. Deloitte encourages its employees to get involved in charity and community work and I have seen the outworking of this through our relationships with local schools in Birmingham, as well as the Prince’s Trust. In addition, I appreciated Deloitte matching my fundraising in a recent sponsored challenge for a charity of my choice.
Do you network either internal or externally?
Networking is an important part of my role, although it can be more difficult when I move quickly from one investigation to another with little time to catch up with people in between. I network both internally, with people across all departments within Deloitte, and externally with a range of professionals, with a focus on solicitors involved in commercial litigation. I am the accountant for, and network regularly through an organisation called Chaplaincy Plus – a network and resource for Christian professionals in Birmingham.
Tell us about your own career aspirations?
Whilst I am not particularly ambitious in terms of job titles and salaries, I always aim to be in a role where I am being challenged and am making the most of my potential. That is certainly true at the moment and I hope to be able to further my career within Deloitte Forensic.
What advice would you give to someone wanting a career in your profession?
Few people start out their career in forensic accounting; it can be approached from a number of routes but the most common is a Chartered Accountancy qualification, often obtained through experience in audit. It is important to develop your networks, particularly amongst lawyers, and key personal attributes would be attention to detail, curiosity and adaptability. Try reading up on financial dispute cases in the courts as this will help to give you an idea of the Expert Witness work and dispute resolution that we can get involved in.