As someone who was already working in the field, Ponton was keen to challenge her skills and knowledge by signing up for the program. “The Forensic Accounting Specialist Program was created with input from some of the top forensic accounting specialists in Australia, so I wanted to be exposed to the best practice as thoughtfully set out by them,” she said.
“Forensic accounting can be quite broad, so while I was exposed to more areas than others, the course enabled me to consolidate my knowledge in areas that I didn’t have routine exposure to. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.”
When Ponton enrolled in the program, she had already had a decade of experience in the field. While she started her career in insolvency she quickly recognised she had a strong interest in investigations and financial interrogation.
“Forensic accounting was something I was naturally exposed to in my career when I was preparing reports, witness statements or affidavits … and I found it really interesting,” Ponton said.
At the time, there were few forensic accounting roles available in her hometown of Perth. So, Hollie relocated to Melbourne in 2011, taking a forensic accounting role. While she was gaining practical experience as part of her role, she realised she wanted to increase her knowledge and better understand how other forensic accountants approached their work.
So, when Chartered Accountants ANZ launched its Forensic Accounting Specialisation Program in 2018, Hollie wanted to find out more.
The program is designed to support Chartered Accountants who are actively involved in analysing and preparing financial information for the courts – which requires a combination of accounting, analytical, and investigative skills. It’s also for members who are typically engaged in reviewing financial records and information related to disputes, economic damages, bankruptcy and computer forensics.
The path to specialisationHollie says the program helped her confirm that her career was on the right track – she just wishes she’d been able to do it sooner.
“I would have loved for this specialisation to have been available when I first started my career,” she said. “It would have enabled me to demonstrate to my early employers the value of developing skills in forensic accounting, even in a broader accounting practice and other areas of specialisation. Forensic accounting skills are highly transferrable and bring a unique, but often critical, perspective to the complex issues CAs face in their day-to-day practice.”
As an approved Forensic Accounting Specialist, Hollie believes the accreditation has given her additional recognition from her peers as well as the lawyers and businesses who engage her services.
“It holds a certain amount of weight among our peers and is a recognisable achievement,” she said. “It’s a confirmation of my existing skills and abilities, while showcasing my desire to gain further knowledge that will add value to clients.”
“Also, when I'm preparing reports, witness statements or affidavits, I'm often required to outline my qualifications and experience. I know that being a CA Forensic Accounting Specialist easily conveys my credibility to those outside the accounting profession.”
A rewarding and growing field
Over her 15-year career, Hollie has noticed a huge increase in the demand for forensic accountants. “And I think there’s still more to come,” she says.
“There’s always been a lack of awareness of what forensic accountants do and what we can bring to the table. As the demand for our skills increases, I think this specialisation will become more important.
Personally, she’s happy to have had the opportunity to pursue forensic accounting – and to be recognised as a specialist practitioner.
“I’m grateful I realised early on in my career where I wanted to be. I feel really lucky to have found a career path that I enjoy.”
The opinions expressed in this article are those of Hollie Ponton CA.
Enrolment for the next Forensic Accounting Specialisation Program opens in June 2021.
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