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Accountancy Expertise

by Mr Raymond Saul Davidson
Chartered Accountant, Forensic Accountant & Business Consultant
(More about Mr Davidson)

Forensic accounting may be described as being the integration of an individual’ accounting and auditing knowledge with investigative skills that have been gained from years of practical experience.

The process

A forensic accountant will:

  • review instructions given by a client, usually through a solicitor
  • thoroughly investigate those instructions and the underlying circumstances
  • examine the financial information and any relevant contracts and other agreements
  • obtain appropriate evidence
  • prepare any appropriate calculations
  • form a conclusion, and
  • publish the whole in the form of a report suitable for presentation to the Court.

In conducting his work the expert will have regard to Civil and/or Criminal Procedure Rules which require the case to be dealt with, in so far as is practicable:

‘in ways which are proportionate –

  1. to the amount of money involved,
  2. to the importance of the case,
  3. to the complexity of the issues, and
  4. to the financial position of each party.’

Forensic Accounting often involves examining and commenting on a report prepared by an opposing expert. The forensic accountant should also expect to be required to assist those instructing him in preparing questions to be addressed to the other principals in the case, as well as the other expert, both prior to any hearing as well as in Court.

When is a forensic accountant needed?

Forensic accounting skills are called upon in many situations, but the principal ones may be considered to be:

  • Shareholder and partnership disputes
  • Matrimonial disputes
  • Professional negligence claims
  • Personal injury claims
  • Business interruption and similar insurance claims
  • Fraud investigations
  • Criminal investigations

The same skills, including those gained from attendance in Court, may well lead the forensic accountant to consider undertaking further training in mediation and arbitration procedures so as to become involved in dispute resolution.

What makes a good forensic accountant?

Seen as somewhat glamorous, at least in the accountancy world, cynics might say that the growth of forensic accounting has something to do with its relative ‘sexiness’ and headline grabbing. This may or may not be true, but what is clear is that many are keen to jump on the forensic bandwagon. Indeed, firms have undoubtedly seen the opportunity to move under-used staff from corporate finance and audit into the forensic field. There are worries, however, that inexperienced practitioners may not be serving the client’s best interest.

‘With the growth in demand for the service, there appears to be an increasing number of accountants who claim forensics as their speciality but are not always able to back this up.’

While a general consensus believe that someone who can manage complex information and make it accessible to the layman is a vital attribute, many agree that the ‘acid test’ that defines a ‘good’ forensic accountant is the ability to deliver on the witness stand. Practitioners need more than just accounting skills, and that ability in Court is an essential ingredient.

Experience is key

The growth of forensics has meant that people are being recruited directly into forensic accounting without having first gone through the experience of working as an accountant in general practice. (Indeed, in commercial and fraud work there is no doubt that experience – obtained very often over a number of years – is essential.) This is leading established practitioners to express concerns about a lack of both specialised training and knowledge of the rules of evidence.

So, when looking for forensic accounting expertise, the main factor to consider is the individual’s track record. He may be found in an established well-known firm, in a smaller provincial practice or acting as an independent consultant.

Sadly the standard of work does vary from firm to firm. It is also difficult to see how a smaller firm or independent accountant might act in a complex case in which he would be required to draw upon expertise from many different areas, e.g. company and personal taxation. Yet, as with everything, cost may be the ultimate determinant of which forensic accountant to use.


Forensic Accountant should be a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales or some other reputable accountancy body of equal standing.

by Mr Raymond Saul Davidson
Chartered Accountant, Forensic Accountant & Business Consultant
(More about Mr Davidson)


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