The forensic accounting market has seen a great deal of activity in recent years; the growth of regulatory compliance requirements and the increase in fraud has seen a related growth in demand for forensic accountants and forensic technologists both within and outside the profession. The creation of the Specialist Organised Crime Agency in April 2006 has also intensified the spotlight on forensic and anti-fraud matters.
Both specialist and generalist accounting firms are keeping a keen eye on the revenue growth generated by forensic work. From the 'Big 4' and the Top 20 to the specialist boutiques, forensic groups have cited an intention to triple their headcount. Some of the biggest non-conflict players involved in risk and commercial intelligence are also expanding their forensic arms. This demand has had an inflationary impact on salary demands.
Most in demand are those at the newly qualified level. With good academic qualifications are key. For the more established forensic boutiques, nothing less than a 1st class degree will suffice. For the Big 4, a 2.1 is the accepted minimum. Preferred candidates will be ACA qualified, with an audit or relevant corporate recovery background (i.e. with experience of asset tracing).
Candidates with analytical prowess, an innately inquisitive nature, and a robust personality are also in demand, as are those fluent in more than one language; UK forensic boutiques intend to build market share across West and Eastern Europe and will pay a premium for bi-lingual candidates.
Many of the major forensic players are bolstering their accounting services with non-accounting forensic or investigative services. Candidates for these roles can come from a skill specific (quantitative analysis, economics, journalism) or industry specific background like oil & gas, pharmaceuticals or construction. New areas such as crime in financial services are also creating demand for non-accountants with a banking compliance or risk expertise.
There has been a significant increase in demand for IT forensic specialists at both junior and experienced levels. Due to the ever changing and highly specialist nature of this work, Michael Page is registering candidates from a global pool including Australia, Asia and in particular South Africa, which is considered to be some years ahead of the UK in the application of forensic technology in regulatory and criminal investigations.
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