How To Set Up And Run Your Own Forensic Accounting Business

Many different types of financial professionals can fill the role of a forensic accountant. The attraction as a career path is that it can be more rewarding and interesting than mainstream accountancy. As with any business, there are pitfalls for the unwary who might jump straight in.

Before you even consider starting your own business you must determine whether or not self-employment is right for you. Many people cannot do without the support and mentoring offered by a conventional job, even (or probably especially) those at the most senior levels. Working for yourself can be lonely and the future is always uncertain. If the challenge of being your own boss outweighs the potential downside then you can look forward to an exciting and hopefully rewarding ride.

The next question to answer is whether or not you have the requisite experience and qualifications for forensic accountancy. A forensic accountant must be a competent accountant. Therefore, he or she will have some qualification as an accountant. Although some of the jobs of a forensic accountant will demand an “expert accountant”, much of the work does not require complex and high level accounting skills or experience. Most of the work requires good numeracy and financial understanding, but more emphasis is on analytic skills, precision and a logical approach to puzzle solving.

In order to avoid mistakes, which could be costly to your clients and therefore costly to you and your new business, it is essential that you obtain some grounding in basic forensic accounting. This will mean that you must spend a couple of years working for an experienced forensic accountant to be able to understand the process and get an idea of the area of the business you might like to specialise in. Forensic accountants that serve the financial centres as opposed to local markets can afford to specialise, for example in matters of fraud. In this case learning the criminal procedures within the prosecuting and Crown court system is essential.

There are many that will say that you must be time served as a forensic accounting expert, ten years or more, before you are capable of presenting your own reports to the court. This may be right in some cases but there are still areas of work where the entrepreneurial beginner can cut his teeth on. These can include corporate investigating, looking for losses in companies or auditing fraud controls in large financial departments.

Once you are in a position where you are happy that you have the skills, experience and direction to proceed in, you need to decide where your work is going to come from. Working for others previously you are likely to start with a zero client base. Your work could come from victims of fraud, intermediaries such as lawyers or from regulators such as the police. You will need to ensure that you are visible to the relevant parties.

Nowadays, the best and most cost effective form of marketing is via your own web site. A professional looking web site that has been optimised for a range of relevant keywords is the strongest springboard a new business can have. Networking and advertising is all well and good, but can be expensive and very difficult to target properly. An appropriate web site is money well spent.

When the first job comes in, you must deal with it as if it is precious, which it is. In forensic accountancy you are only as good as your last job, so every one must be nurtured and one hundred and ten per cent of your input given. Going the extra mile means that you will gradually build a reputation that provides a regular source of work.

Finally, as your business builds up, it is good practice to keep your records up to date. You need records not only for tax purposes and billing your clients, but also to monitor your business properly so that appropriate changes can be made from time to time to maximise your income.

Mark Jenner provides services as a forensic accountant in London and throughout the UK. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and a Certified Fraud Examiner and has a Masters Degree in Fraud Management. He specialises as a criminal defence forensic accountant.