The role: Investigators who are responsible for the detection, examination and prevention of occupational fraud and financial misconduct
The most common investigations they pursue involve employee misconduct, such as internal theft or the misappropriation of funds. “It could be anything from a conflict of interest involving employees, such as expense accounts, to something really extensive like a Ponzi scheme,” explains Steve Wilson, an instructor for the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Forensic Investigation of Fraud and Financial Crime program.
According to Mr. Wilson, investigators are employed by a range of public- and private-sector institutions, ranging from law-enforcement agencies to private security firms as well as within large institutions such as government agencies and consulting firms.
Once assigned to a case, fraud and financial-crime investigators are tasked with conducting interviews and reviewing documents. They are also increasingly required to collect and analyze digital evidence as well.
“It’s like a sponge; I’m trying to gather as much information as I can,” Mr. Wilson explained. “It could be witnesses, perpetrators, accounting documents, and more and more now we’re seeing digital forensic evidence like cellphones and computers, and analytics if it’s a large database we’re looking at.”
Following the investigation, fraud and financial-crime investigators typically present their reports and supporting documents to the client. If the client chooses to pursue charges they are also responsible for bringing those documents to law enforcement, although the majority of cases are handled internally, according to Mr. Wilson.
“If it's something internal involving an employee, the employee is usually just terminated, and that's as far as it goes,” he said. “The appetite for [criminal] prosecution isn't there, and on the civil side usually there's substantial costs involved, so you don't see too many people going that way unless there's a reasonable likelihood that they're going to recover something.”
Salary: According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (CFE) Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals, fraud and financial-crime investigators in Canada earn between roughly $53,000 and $110,000 annually. According to Mr. Wilson, who also serves as president of CFE’s Vancouver chapter, the primary factors that determine compensation in the industry are seniority, employer type and specialized training.
“If you look at law enforcement, for example, your compensation is based on your seniority; a sergeant gets more than a constable,” he says. “In the private sector it will depend on industry experience, with the only exception being if you have machine learning, AI [artificial intelligence] or data analytics experience you’ll be getting the top salary.”
Education: While there are some career opportunities in the field that don’t require specialized education or training – such as loss prevention – the majority of practitioners are required to obtain a private investigator’s licence through their provincial regulator. Law enforcement agencies, however, typically conduct their own training.
“There are certain industries you wouldn’t be able to get into without additional certification,” Mr. Wilson added. “A forensic accounting role would need an accounting degree, a lot of industries – like automotive insurance – want your CFE, or certified fraud examiner [credential], so there are other certifications you can get.”
Job prospects: Job prospects for fraud and financial-crime investigators in Canada are “really good,” according to Mr. Wilson, who says the CFE association has recently seen a jump in job postings.
Challenges: While investigations were once primarily conducted through document review and interviews, fraud and financial-crime investigators are increasingly required to utilize new technologies, and staying current can be a challenge.
Why they do it: Fraud and financial-crime investigators enjoy the opportunity to solve problems while making a positive impact. “They love the curiosity and trying to solve puzzles while helping people,” Mr. Wilson said.
Misconceptions: While the role overlaps with policing in a number of ways, the majority of fraud and investigators don’t actually work in law enforcement, which Mr. Wilson says often comes as a shock.
“Most of the students that want to get into the fraud and investigation field figure they have to go into law enforcement, and that’s actually not the case. We’re finding it’s more the other way,” he says. “Really any company, but especially large accounting firms, government agencies, even the mining industry, is looking for investigators.”
Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.