My co-op job as a forensic accountant during COVID-19

dhanushaA two-fold experience

When I was debating between two co-op job offers, one as a forensic accountant at a public accounting firm, and the other as a financial analyst at a software company, I met an industry professional at a networking event and had a great conversation with him that helped me decide. I had no clue what forensic accounting except the definition we learned in AFM 131; he called it “sexy accounting” and said, “go for it, forensic accounting is a niche, and a niche makes you stand out, plus investigating is fun.” So, I ended up taking the job at BDO Canada in Toronto as a Forensic and Investigative Accountant. The industry professional I met turned out to be right, as I had a friendly and helpful team who guided me through tough tasks that helped make me become a better professional.

So, what is forensic accounting? Well, there are three subsections in forensic accounting; fraud, litigation and BI (business insurance). I was fortunate enough to be in a team that provided services in all three areas. Fraud investigation has to do with tracing and tracking potential theft or fraud. Clients would come to the company based on a whistleblower complaint to get an expert opinion on a specific fraud case for use in a trial. Litigation/TORT has mostly to do with clients seeking our expert opinion to use in trial or to critique an opposing side’s expert opinion. TORT claims are when there’s been an incident that causes the client personal injury and they would like to sue the company that is responsible. Business interruption is when you put the insured (one that is affected) in the same financial position absent the incident (flood, fire, earthquake). At a high level, this is mostly to calculate the loss of an event (e.g. earthquake, floods, fire, pandemics) that cost the insured. 

Examples of work I completed: 

Fraud: I was given general ledgers from the past five to seven years and was asked to build pivot tables to categorize expenses. This would help us identify any misrepresentation of funds or any expense that didn’t seem to fit in a business account.

Litigation: I was told to read affidavits and to look and understand certain calculations that pertain to the case we were working on. I also attended interviews with the client to take notes and to understand the whole picture. 

Business Insurance: I was working on a case for a pet store that required us to calculate the loss of revenue due to a lot of fish dying. Apparently, they were supposed to wait 24 hours before they operate the fish tanks after cleaning them with certain chemicals – but someone turned on the fish tanks before the 24-hour period ended. So, I was given two to three years’ worth of inventory count to put into Excel to run some analysis and calculate a weighted average unit cost per fish. This helped us determine the amount of revenue the shop would have made absent the incident.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish the cases I started regarding fraud and Litigation because of COVID-19. However, the training I completed in my first week of co-op helped me understand in-depth these service lines. Although half my co-op term switched to working remotely, my team and I still kept in touch through Skype and Zoom. This may not have been the ideal or usual co-op term, but this was an unprecedented time that taught me to deal with extreme conditions. This work from home (WFH) structure may very well be a permanent way of working in the future, and I’m glad my first co-op term gave me both a present and future experience.

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