- CA is a forensic accountant and partner at McGrathNicol, and chair of the CA ANZ Forensic Accounting Committee.
- Early intervention and risk management are two areas where Ashby identifies growing demand Matthew Ashby for forensic accounting specialists.
- CA ANZ members with a focus on forensic accounting can now study to gain formal accreditation as a specialist.
By Sally Rose
Demand for forensic accounting specialists is set to keep growing as more clients seek out their services – not only to investigate financial crimes after the fact, but also to work on early intervention in commercial disputes and advise on risk management.
Advancements in the technology tools available to assist forensic accountants is another reason why it is an exciting time for professionals entering the field.
Matthew Ashby CA is a forensic accountant and partner at McGrathNicol, based in the firm’s Brisbane office. Attracted to resolving controversies at the intersection of business and the law, Ashby’s career has largely been dedicated to forensic accounting, enhanced by experience in corporate recovery and corporate finance.
He reflects that there have been exciting developments in the field during his career, and that this is a trend he expects to continue.
“Certainly the demand for forensic accounting services has grown significantly over the past 19 years and there is every indication it will continue to grow,” Ashby says. “The business community today is so much better educated about the benefits forensic accountants bring.”
Early intervention and risk management are two growth areas Ashby identifies.
“One key trend is that businesses today are more aware of the benefits of working with forensic accounting specialists in the early stages of disputes to try and resolve matters before they go to court,” he says. “Business and government organisations are also increasingly seeking out advice on strategies on how to minimise the risk of fraud.”
“One key trend is that businesses today are more aware of the benefits of working with forensic accounting specialists in the early stages of disputes to try and resolve matters before they go to court.”
Meanwhile, there is no indication of demand slowing for the sorts of services more traditionally associated with forensic accounting.
Ashby says providing expert testimony in legal proceedings is one of the most challenging aspects of being a forensic accounting specialist, but also often one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
“Being cross examined as an expert witness is always a challenging experience, but it is also a rewarding one when your evidence truly assists the court.”
Picture: Matthew Ashby CA.
Embrace technology for better insights
Ashby reflects that over the course of his career the technology available to help forensic accountants analyse large amounts of data has advanced greatly.
“The sophistication of the tools we have at our disposal has really increased – we now use artificial intelligence and machine learning to augment our traditional e-discovery and investigation toolkits,” he says. “And the analysis of mobile devices is now a rich source of evidence into how persons of interest have been behaving.”
Ashby advises anyone embarking on a career as a forensic accountant to make sure they are keenly engaged with the understanding what emerging technologies can do.
“I think all accountants today need to be across technology and other broader business issues, not just the technical accounting issues,” he says. “Clients are looking for services that combine accounting with other skills, so our practice is increasingly multidisciplinary.”
Become an accredited specialist
As chair of the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) Forensic Accounting Committee, of which he has been a member since 2016, Ashby was a key contributor to the development of CA ANZ’s Forensic Accounting Specialisation program that launched in 2018.
Members of the CA ANZ Forensic Accounting Committee collaborated with Macquarie University to develop the content of the course.
The program is open to CA ANZ members who meet specific education and experience criteria. The program offers a choice of two pathways to entry. The postgraduate study pathway is designed for chartered accountants with at least two years of practical experience in the field of forensic accounting, while an online course pathway is available to members with a minimum of four years relevant industry experience (within the past ten years). Members who graduate from the program are may apply to CA ANZ to be recognised as a CA Forensic Accounting Specialist.
Ashby was among the first cohort of CA ANZ members to complete the specialisation, and says it helped him consolidate his experience and expand his professional network.
“The coursework component was a great way to consolidate the knowledge and experience I have acquired over my career,” he says. “The opportunity to network and do workshops with other accountants specialising in this area was also fantastic.”