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Ben Kinley

A career in the Investigations & Intelligence industry

The guide to a career in the Investigations & Intelligence industry: what it’s all about, how to find a job in the sector and what the future holds.

The guide to a career in the Investigations & Intelligence industry: what it’s all about, how to find a job in the sector and what the future holds

"People have been lying, cheating, stealing, paying and receiving bribes since the beginning of time and that hasn’t changed much. The methods that people use however have become far more sophisticated and the explosion of the internet and enabling technologies has expanded the pool of potential victims of financial crime to everyone on Earth."  -Scott Moritz (Protiviti)

Introduction

The Investigations & Business Intelligence industry is truly a fascinating sector with a reputation for employing some of the brightest minds & ambitious professionals around the world. The sector continues to evolve rapidly and now employs a diverse range of professionals from lawyers (attorneys) to journalists, accountants, sales professionals, ex law enforcement officers, ex military professionals, graduates from humanities, social sciences or quantitative disciplines, data scientists and more. 

My search firm, Lawson Chase, regularly supports both individuals seeking to break into the industry as well as experienced professionals who are looking to advance their careers and want expert support in navigating their next move. With the help of some of our clients from around the world and trusted contacts, I’ve put together this introductory guide to the Investigations & Intelligence sector which we hope will be of use to anyone who has an interest in learning more about the profession or those considering a career path within it. 

So what is Investigations & Intelligence?

The investigations & intelligence industry has ballooned over the past couple of decades and the definition of the work that falls under its umbrella has gradually broadened. From helping to search for and recover hidden assets, to proving or disproving employee misconduct, to arming business leaders with the information they need to consider investing in new regions or investigating accounting fraud - multiple projects would now fall under the Investigations & Intelligence header. In it's most simplest definition, the sector employs research and investigative techniques to establish the facts required to pursue the truth.

Professionals in the sector can choose to either work for a Management Consultancy firm or "in-house" and for the purposes of this piece, we've chosen to focus on the consultancy professionals. The distinction is this; consultancy firms work with multiple clients worldwide and parachute their staff into organisations (for example, they may be helping several banks, telecoms firms and manufacturing firms with investigations simultaneously). In-house teams are, as the name suggests, the internal department of professionals within any organisation that are dedicated to investigations & intelligence and this could be within corporates, government organisations or NGOs or Think Tanks. The majority (though not all) professionals either start their careers within the Management Consultancy sector or work within it at some point in their professional lives, so it seems an adept place to focus on within this guide.

Eduardo Sampaion (Independent, previously Senior Managing Director and Head of Brazil for FTI Consulting Group) helps to shed some light on the differences between Intelligence and Investigations:

"There are several types of engagements that BI&I (Business Intelligence and Investigations) professionals are involved with. For instance we could divide them in two large categories: preventive and reactive matters.

On the one hand preventive matters (Intelligence) are usually related to transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions, know your client (KYC), due diligence (DD) or market entry studies. And they typically include obtaining information about companies and individuals of interest to our clients.

On the other hand examples of reactive matters (Investigations) are legal disputes, cyber crimes, crisis management, internal fraud and those involving corruption. Also BI&I professional are often brought in to collaborate in cross-functional matters such as litigation and arbitration support, corporate turnaround and government affairs."

What type of cases or projects do Investigations & Intelligence consultancy firms do?

Some of the most senior & well reputed leaders within the Investigations & Intelligence sector have kindly offered to share their insights here.

Matias Mora, Managing Director and leader of South America at Berkeley Research Group writes:

"Our investigative service portfolio includes a broad range of investigations, such as internal investigations, corruption investigations, forensic accounting, fraud investigations, forensic data analytics, and investigative due diligence. Usually investigative due diligence projects are requested for understanding the legal, commercial, and reputational background of a subject of interest, such as a potential business partner or significant client. Regarding internal investigations, our services in this area cover a broad range of investigative procedures, including the review and analysis of accounting and business records, tracing of questionable financial transactions, performance of in-depth interviews of key personnel, electronic discovery of documents, or calculating the amount of potential disgorgement."

Richard Prior, Deputy CEO at Risk Advisory Group:

"The spectrum of business intelligence case subject matter is very wide. It ranges from programmatic due diligence in pursuit of relatively narrow and defined compliance objectives, to more qualitative research and analysis into companies and the people that own and manage them, often in the context of planned acquisitions, major capital investments or strategic corporate developments. At the lower end the scope of work is relatively uniform and consistent across all cases while at the higher end the approach to case execution is bespoke and specific to the client's particular requirements and objectives. 

The activities that our team members engage in will be tailored to meeting the case objectives. This is likely to include conducting detailed research into a vast array of information and data resources and indices, potentially across numerous different jurisdictions, and in various languages. Research data will be subjected to detailed and rigorous analysis. In addition to the research programme, the team may also be required to co-ordinate a range of human source intelligence enquiries to address specific issues of concern or interest to the client and to develop a closer, more informed and incisive perspective. 

By contrast with our business intelligence team accompanying clients as they seeks to develop and grow their businesses, our investigations team supports clients that are confronted by problems and issues that may threaten the integrity and well-being of their organisations, including actual or suspected internal fraud, confidentiality leaks, directors acting in breach of their fiduciary duty, or anticipated litigation. Our work is usually conducted as an element of an integrated resolution strategy, and for privilege reasons we are frequently formally engaged by the client's external counsel."

Rachel Sexton, a Partner within EY's FIDS team in London adds:

"The EY Fraud, Investigations and Dispute Services (FIDS) practice has experience working with our clients on a broad range of cases. Through our experience on investigations, we have developed an incident response methodology that we follow to enable our team to respond rapidly and effectively when the need for an investigation arises. We have worked with our clients and their legal counsel to investigate allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption, tax evasion, financial irregularities and misstatements, data thefts, cyber breaches and other regulatory breaches. We use our findings on these investigations to make recommendations to our clients on how to strengthen compliance frameworks. Our investigations team is comprised of forensic accountants, lawyers, former regulators and law enforcement, data analysts and e-Discovery specialists.

Our business intelligence practice performs third-party due diligence for our clients as part of a transaction or on-going business relationships. Our team conducts in-depth research and analysis on the background and reputation of third parties, joint venture partners or acquisition targets, to support better-informed decision making. We combine comprehensive analysis of publicly available data with the insights of colleagues across our global Forensics network.

We work across all industries with specific focus in financial services, government and public sector and pharmaceuticals."

Stewart Kelly, Managing Director & Europe Leader of Veracity Worldwide:

"At Veracity, we provide holistic advice on political and related challenges in the most opaque markets -- from market entry strategy, to complex due diligence and commercial disputes."

Nick Philipps Jones, Director & Co-Founder of Sargasso Group in Latin America:

"Sargasso Group supports clients entering new markets or establishing potential business relationships in Latin America and the Caribbean. The vast majority of our projects involve integrity due diligence investigations on potential business partners, relationship and influence mapping, and political and security risk analysis for clients in the US, UK and Europe. We are also engaged by clients in support of litigation, seeking evidence that can be used in court or identifying assets that can be frozen."   

Scott Moritz, Managing Director & Global Lead of Forensics at Protiviti:

"Protiviti is a large firm made up of many practices. I am responsible for Protiviti Forensic which provides event-driven financial crime, misconduct and bribery investigations; anti-corruption advisory and auditing services, fraud risk management advisory services, investigative due diligence and email investigative services.  The majority of our work is on the event-driven side.  Triggering events include the receipt of whistleblower complaints via hotlines and other reporting mechanisms, regulatory or law enforcement actions, civil suits, allegations from competitors regarding things like bribes, bid-rigging or collusion or through the vigilance of internal audit and controls that cause red flags to be generated.  The issues run the gamut from relatively small embezzlements, vendor frauds or thefts of intellectual property to very significant international bribery, financial crime, money laundering or securities fraud matters with heavy involvement on the part of the audit committee, our clients’ outside auditors (who often perform “shadow investigations”), the SEC, FBI or other law enforcement agencies. Shadow investigations are a bit of a misnomer since they are more procedures that the accounting firm does to understand the investigative work being performed and them then coming to a conclusion as to whether the approach being taken by the company and their advisors is sufficient given the allegations at hand. The accounting firms receive regular updates and ultimately reach a point in which they decide whether the investigation has yielded information that must be reported on the company’s financial statements such as a financial crime that it material to the financial statements the identification of material weaknesses in the control environment. 

While many of our clients are based in the U.S., often there problems are somewhere else in the world and the members of the practice are never without their passports as a result. We’ve had recent matters in Mexico (we’re there quite regularly), Brazil, Peru, Turkey, Qatar, Switzerland, India and China. The ability to efficiently obtain, process and review large volumes of email, file attachments and the contents of hard drives recovered from computers and other devices is of critical importance in order to be successful in the investigative field.  Email investigations differ somewhat from e-discovery in that investigations happen well before litigation is even being contemplated and what is known at the time of discovery is typically much more than what is known at the outset of an investigation any yet clients need to be able to be surgical in their use of email as an investigative tool.  We sometimes use email as part of a pre-investigation or triage phase in an effort to efficiently gauge whether they allegations at hand appear to have merit and provide the client with the justification to expend the resources necessary to embark on a full-blown investigation.  Like email investigations, business intelligence is also an incredibly important and valuable tool in our toolset.  While we perform plenty of due diligence investigations of prospective business partners and customers for our clients, it is also an essential component of most every investigation. The ability to assess the financial health an individual, if they appear to have assets well in excess of their known sources of income or conversely, appear to be under a tremendous amount of financial pressure resulting from liens, money judgements, foreclosures, repossessions or bankruptcies, this information can be extremely useful in an investigation. Likewise, prior criminal records, a history of law suits alleging fraud or theft, one or more companies that have been established using the subject’s home address or other known addresses or those of their associates, can often be an indicator of vendor fraud.   

One thing we’ve noted in the past few years is that there is a growing divide between companies that have fairly frequent internal investigations or other incidents requiring a timely response and those that deal with such issues less often in terms of their consistency of approach and allocation of resources. For companies that have investigative needs less often, they typically do not have much in the way of policies or procedures that govern investigations which can lead to confusion, costly delays, problems with regard to the attorney client privilege and data privacy and in a worst case scenario, lost or destroyed evidence.  I would encourage all companies, even those that have never had to perform an internal investigation to “war game” different investigative scenarios, think through who inside of the organization should be involved, realistic assess the resources within the company capable of taking on some of the tasks necessary and the identification of outside resources that may be needed to complement the company’s own resources because they don’t exist in-house. The act of thinking through the various investigative scenarios that could be necessary will enable the company to consider their state of investigative readiness and take steps to be better prepared when the inevitable happens."

Mike Malarkey, Managing Partner - Washington DC at Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA):

"Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA) is an international consultancy that serves AmLaw 100 law firms, global external counsel and Fortune 500 general counsel. We specialize in conducting white-collar accounting investigations and complex cross-border, multi-jurisdictional litigation support, including anti-corruption, anti-bribery and anti-money laundering analyses. We also provide a wide range of regulatory compliance solutions, from fraud investigation, forensic accounting, eDiscovery, and data forensic services, to complex valuations, disgorgements and expert witness testimony. We have litigation support and fraud investigation credentials in all major jurisdictions and many emerging markets to include work in more than 75 countries, and are regularly retained to support clients in DOJ, SEC and UK SFO investigations with special focus on acting as Independent Compliance Auditors and serving as corporate monitors resulting from settlements with various regulatory agencies.

Most of our engagements focus on complex, cross-border projects that require robust forensic expertise, through a combination of data mining technology and investigative forensic accounting experience, with full awareness of cross-border conflicts of legality and data privacy regulations. This can be in a variety of industry lines and compliance areas, such as supporting court-sanctioned monitorships; conducting internal compliance audit investigations; complex calculations for disgorgements and profitability analyses; reviewing potential trade control and sanctions violations; or providing expert testimony in counter-terror financing cases."

Stephanie Lhomme - Senior Managing Director of the Forensic Investigations, Compliance & Litigation practice of FTI Consulting in Paris:

"FTI Consulting is a global business advisory firm that provides multidisciplinary solutions to complex challenges and opportunities. Our leading professionals with deep financial, forensic, economic, technology and communications experience combined with extensive industry expertise throughout the world are committed to protecting and enhancing the enterprise value of our clients. We assist and advise clients in various areas :

The arbitration and disputes team, for example, is a leading provider of expert witness and other services to law firms, corporations, investors and governments in the areas of valuation, finance, economics, regulation.

The Forensic and Litigation consulting practice assists and advises clients on bribery and corruption risks assessments, makes recommendations to mitigate these risks; we lead complex fraud investigations and assist board on compliance and governance matters; we are a preferred provider for compliance and strategic due diligence, forensic investigations and technology in most markets. We bring to our clients an acute awareness of both the regulatory and enforcement environment and diverse cultural nuances which create various risks to companies and their stakeholders, and help them navigate their organizations through this difficult landscape to seize opportunities in increasingly complex and challenging environments. The type of projects in this field are mainly in these 4 areas:

1.  Governance: We work with firms to ensure they have clear organisational structures, role and responsibility definitions and that communication works effectively up and down the organisational structure. We work with Boards, helping them fully understand their roles, reviewing their effectiveness and facilitating education sessions

2.  Risk Management: We work with firms to ensure they have effective risk management frameworks, have identified all of their risks, and are focusing on managing and mitigating them appropriately. We also assist with business risk assessments, risk related education programmes and board/ExCo management information

3.  Conduct Risk: This key area of regulators around the world requires firms to ensure they deliver the right/promised outcomes to customers, maintain the integrity of the financial services industry, and protect their firm’s reputation. As part of our services, we provide risk assessments, conduct risk programme effectiveness reviews, and remediation programmes.

4.  Financial Crime: We focus on working with firms to ensure they have appropriate systems and controls in place to identify and mitigate the risks of money laundering, terrorist finance, bribery and corruption, and financial sanctions.

We also have a Strategic Communication business."

Jack Clode, Founder at BlackPeak Group in Hong Kong

Complex due diligence, business intelligence and research, internal and external investigations. "

Paul Austin, Head of Intelligence at Enyo Law:

"As head of BI for a litigation specialist, a lot of our BI work revolves around asset tracing, fraud investigating and the unravelling of complex offshore structures. We also conduct a lot of corporate document retrieval from obscure jurisdictions and identify potential witnesses who may be willing to assist on the evidence side."

What makes a career in Investigations & Intelligence appealing? 

"Simple, you get to help clients solve extremely difficult and complex challenges, and virtually 100% of the work is highly intellectually interesting." - Stewart Kelly, Veracity Worldwide

Having recruited in the Investigations & Intelligence world for over five years, I remain fascinated at the eclectic mix of backgrounds and characters found within the sector. The industry manages to attract and retain individuals who often have astute technical skills, a portfolio of language capabilities, extensive academic backgrounds and big-names from Government departments including the FBI (US), MI6 (UK) etc. It is also vastly successful in hiring graduates straight out of university who have multiple options available to them.

Some insight from our contributors about what drew them into the industry and why they believe the Investigations & Intelligence sector will continue to appeal to folks considering new career paths follows:

Nick Philipps Jones, Director & Co-Founder of Sargasso Group in Latin America:

"The sheer diversity of the backgrounds of the people in our sector is, aside from the variety of projects one gets to work on, is one of the things that initially attracted me 17 years ago and continue to make it a rewarding environment to work in. Some have worked their way up to senior management positions having started off as junior researchers and others have joined the industry from areas such as banking, insurance, journalism, law, NGO’s, military, law enforcement, government and international institutions, to name a few of the most obvious ones. It makes for an interesting mix of people and experience which is essential for the kind of complex multi-jurisdictional and hazardous environment projects that those in our industry are used to dealing with."

Scott Moritz, Managing Director & Global Lead of Forensics at Protiviti:

"There’s a reason why working as a forensic accountant or investigator is a highly sought after position. Whether in-house or on the consulting side, the dynamic, unpredictable and varied nature of the work is addictive. When I offer someone a job and they accept, they inevitably ask: “what will I be working on when I report for work?” The answer is always the same. It depends on what we are doing when you get here. It could be an enormous email investigation, a business email compromise, the reengineering of an anti-corruption or fraud risk program or a securities fraud whistleblower matter.  What the members of my practice seem to really enjoy is not only the variety of the work, but the visibility into the inner workings of large companies, interaction with their senior most executives and the fact that some of work finds its way onto the front page of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times."

Richard Prior, Deputy CEO at Risk Advisory Group:

"The investigations and business intelligence sector offers the opportunity for involvement with an extraordinary cross-section of organisations engaged in commerce, industry and financial services, often engaging with clients when they are grappling with critical issues and problems, or are considering how best to exploit and maximise opportunities through acquisitions and other major transactions. Your work can have a very direct and discernible impact on the outcome of such situations, and it is both exciting and professionally satisfying to be involved in the heat of seminal corporate events."

Jack Clode, Founder at BlackPeak Group in Hong Kong

"To work alongside some of the world’s best investigators and researchers and to have a fascinating career in investigations without having to join a law enforcement body.

The opportunity to learn about the interesting (and sometimes harsh) reality of the business world at a young age prepares individuals perfectly for any kind of business career they might be contemplating."

Rachel Sexton, Partner - EY's FIDS team in London:

"Professionals should be interested in joining the industry for the opportunity to work on the interesting and wide range of cases that we get involved. The cases do vary widely. Some require travel to far-flung locations and others can be performed remotely. In many of our cases, the issue is critical to the business so we are working directly with senior stakeholders at our clients. The content of the work is constantly changing with new fraud methodologies and evolving technologies so there are always new challenges and opportunities to learn."

Stephanie Lhomme - Senior Managing Director of the Forensic Investigations, Compliance & Litigation practice of FTI Consulting in Paris:

"The complexity of the world today and its rapid evolution makes it challenging but also tremendously interesting. This industry allows us and our new recruits to work on the biggest and most complex engagements in a fast-paced and challenging environment. It is a unique opportunity to grow and thrive and be exposed to complex matters. As the complexity increases for our clients, we also assist them at all level, from the operations on the ground to the board room."

Eduardo Sampaio (Independent, previously Senior Managing Director Brazil at FTI Consulting)

"This career offers great opportunities for individuals who appreciate continuous change and challenge. In other words, it is very attractive for those who prefer very dynamic environments, where there is not one day like the other. Furthermore, it is often the case that a young professional would be exposed to many different industries instead of becoming an expert on a small number only.

Also, most of the time our clients are very senior executives, such as General Counsels, CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen and senior partners from top tier law firms. This is the case because of the importance of the matters that we are hired to assist and advise."

Matias Mora, Managing Director and leader of South America at Berkeley Research Group:

"I believe one of the biggest attractions of working in firms involved in the investigations and intelligence industry is the breadth and variety of work. In our case, for example, we offer a wide variety of services tailor-made for specific industries (e.g. Construction, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, among others), and we also have clients from very diverse industries, which represents a great opportunity to enhance industry knowledge for our professionals.

Opportunity to travel and learn regional idiosyncrasies is also a big plus. Another factor to pay special attention is the opportunity to work with and to learn from the experienced professionals that make up our firms senior staff, which comprises highly credentialed experts, prominent academics, former government officials, experienced business leaders, and highly trained investigators, among others. In addition, taking into consideration the sensitivity of some of the requested investigation engagements, we usually deal with the client’s senior staff or directly with owners in some cases."

What sort of people does the Investigations & Intelligence industry employ and what are the skill sets most commonly sought by employers?

" Collaborative, sociable, confident, articulate, intelligent and inquisitive. Without these personal qualities, the best looking CV in the world will not get the individual a job with us." - Jack Clode, BlackPeak Group

Richard Prior, Deputy CEO at Risk Advisory Group:

"The basic skills that we recognise and value most highly in entry level research and analysis positions are language capabilities and an ability to absorb, assimilate and analyse information in pursuit of research objectives. The latter is likely to be signalled by successful completion of higher/research degrees, and demonstration at the interview and selection process of a well-functioning reductive and analytical mindset. We invest significant resources both through training and mentoring to develop further these basic skills to help our entry-level team members to grow into business intelligence professionals.

In the longer term we look for our analysts to develop their confidence in communication, both oral and written, as well as subject matter expertise - both regional and sectoral - so as to be able to materially contribute to our clients' pursuit of their objectives. Continuous training, as well as exposure to clients, and opportunities for team members to demonstrate their expertise and grow their professional skills and reputations through publishing articles and delivering presentations, are provided."

Eduardo Sampaio (Independent, previously Senior Managing Director Brazil at FTI Consulting)

"There is a broad range of academic credentials that assist in preparing professionals for this industry, such as law, accounting, journalism, social sciences and others. However, more important than a specific college degree is a certain mindset of multidisciplinary curiosity, self-organization, creativity to tackle problems, entrepreneurship, ability to articulate ideas and solutions, discipline and being savvy. These are really some of the key ingredients of professionals who typically succeed in this industry. For instance, I had the great pleasure of working with young professionals with degrees in physics, anthropology, fashion, chemistry etc who had stellar careers.  

In terms of support services, there are several functions that can be found in other professional services firms, such as marketing, finance, HR and IT. Similarly to other professional services firms business development is an integral part of the duties of senior professionals (e.g. Managing Directors, Partners)"

Nick Philipps Jones, Director & Co-Founder of Sargasso Group in Latin America:

"As with most professions, candidates for researcher / analyst positions in the business intelligence, investigations industry are expected to have a good bachelors degree or higher from a major university, as well as analytical minds, strong organisational, writing and interpersonal skills, and the ability to work independently or as a part of a team etc.

Companies often prefer candidates who already have a couple of years post university business experience in other sectors under their belts so that they have a good understanding of basic financial and business concepts. Languages are also very useful.

But more importantly, and less often mentioned in recruitment material, I’ve found the key attributes to becoming a successful researcher / analyst are an inquisitive nature, creative / lateral thinking, exceptional attention to detail and the ability to absorb large volumes of information. Add to this an ability to work to tight deadlines and juggle multiple projects. Working out whether a candidate truly has these attributes prior to hiring them is unfortunately not so easy. Early exposure to complex cases is usually what identifies those who are in their element from those who may be less so."

Carlo Miani, Associate at Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA):

"Our specialist team comprises forensic accountants, bankers, software engineers, financial analysts, database experts, and legal project managers. The team has lived and worked all over the world, has extensive language skills and first-hand experience of the particular challenges faced by companies operating in demanding compliance environments.

Usually young talent comes to us to apply the skills and knowledge developed in a variety of industries to complex forensic investigations. We focus on adaptability, technical capabilities and investigative rigor, in order to provide expert and apposite solutions, while meeting our client’s resources needs, and delivering industry best practices. Our younger professionals must exhibit a keen ability to manage multiple projects, perform exceptional client deliverables and work product, as well as generating new business for the firm.

Paul Enyo, Head of Intelligence at Enyo Law:

"One of the key skills is the ability to analyse multiple sources of information and distil it into a well written and punchy report. Report writing is the second key attribute and far too many analysts struggle with producing sharply written analytical reports. The university word count is a real problem because it suggests quantity is important – I would far rather have a well written executive summary spanning a couple of pages than reams of turgid material bulked out with long words."

Rachel Sexton, Partner - EY's FIDS team in London:

"The key attribute that we look for in our entry level hires is the ability to think critically. A forensic mindset is important in all of the work that we do. Beyond that, we are interested in candidates with backgrounds in accountancy, law, computer science and other related disciplines but we provide training in investigation methods, interviewing, etc. 

The type of positions we hire for include Forensic accountants, data analysts, e-Discovery professionals, BD professionals, marketing professionals, executive assistants"

Stewart Kelly, Managing Director & Europe Leader of Veracity Worldwide:

"We look for people with a commercial mindset -- who can assess the business relevance of the political issues at play. Regional and functional specialists tend to make up the bulk of our new hires."

Scott Moritz, Managing Director & Global Lead of Forensics at Protiviti:

"We don’t do a lot of entry level hiring but have done some in the past 2 years. Forensic practices are typically a little top heavy with senior subject matter experts since that is what clients are looking for. We are a part of Protiviti’s Internal Audit and Financial Advisory segment which recruits a lot of accounting students. 

In the past 2 years, I have hired 2 accounting students right out of college who are in the process of obtaining their CPAs, had a senior consultant move laterally into the practice from another practice and hired an experienced IT auditor from the Big Four.  At a more senior level, I have also hired two associate directors, one directly from the FBI where he was a white collar crime special agent and supervisor and the other from the financial services industry where he had been the global head of investigations for a very large bank.  

In terms of skills, accounting skills are of course important. Familiarity with business and banking records and operations. Prior experience with white collar crime or corruption investigations is very helpful at a more senior level. We find the Certified Fraud Examiner credential to be very useful and that it is something that resonates with clients.  

For practitioners, the most difficult thing to teach is critical thinking skills.  While you can hone those skills, a lot of what makes someone a talented forensic accountant is someone’s innate intellect and how their mind is organized. Without those baseline critical thinking skills, it’s difficult to get someone to the point where they can be successful in this field. Other skillsets that are important are an understanding and some degree of proficiency with investigative research, report writing, forensic data analysis and the process of securing, processing and analyzing electronic evidence are all extremely important. And of course, an understanding of criminal and civil law and procedures and the rules of evidence are very important as well.  An often overlooked skill is listening skills. Whether in a witness or subject interview or an initial meeting with a prospective client, my team members have to be very attuned to what’s being said and how it is being said."

Matias Mora, Managing Director and leader of South America at Berkeley Research Group:

"For entry level hires we look for demonstrated interest in problem solving and enthusiasm for learning new skills. We have interest on a variety of different backgrounds such as Business, Accounting, Finance, Economics, Compute Science, Math, Statistics, and others. The roles from our Global Investigations + Strategic Intelligence Practice include Junior Consultant, Consultant, Managing Consultant, Associate Director, Director, and Managing Director."

Stephanie Lhomme - Senior Managing Director of the Forensic Investigations, Compliance & Litigation practice of FTI Consulting in Paris:

"Given the breadth and depth of our services, our professionals come from a variety of backgrounds, with diverse capabilities and experience but the motivation and dedication is key as we differentiate ourselves by our unique “definitive expertise”. We look for analytical, creative people with deep interest in learning and providing best in class services to our clients. Depending on the practice they wish to join, we of course require relevant degrees in these fields (economics, finance, accounting…); attention to details and excellent language skills. The graduates we hire play a key role throughout our projects and we support them with training and professional qualifications."

What changes has the industry seen in recent years and how is the industry predicted to evolve in the years to come?

Scott Moritz, Managing Director & Global Lead of Forensics at Protiviti:

"People have been lying, cheating, stealing, paying and receiving bribes since the beginning of time and that hasn’t changed much. The methods that people use however have become far more sophisticated and the explosion of the Internet and enabling technologies has increased expanded the pool of potential victims of financial crime to everyone on Earth.  

The convergence of cyber-crime and traditional financial crime is particularly noteworthy and is growing exponentially. Cyber-crime is no longer committed for bragging rights amongst the other members of the hacker community. It is an enabler of significant, global financial crime utilized by transnational organized crime groups.  Insider trading, major embezzlements, wire frauds and enormous thefts of intellectual property, including Top Secret data, are what hackers are searching for with an unbelievably high success rate and low likelihood of being caught and prosecuted.  

Investigators must understand the inter-relationships between cyber-crime and financial crime and be able to work across both competencies.  They must have an understanding of, and access to, tools that will enable them to parse through terabytes of data in the furtherance of an investigation. They must have the ability to operate globally without necessarily flying people all around the world. Companies and their counsel want access to “local resources” and are no longer willing to fly and house 20 practitioners to another part of the world for months at a time. As a result, practitioners must be able to work across multiple countries, languages/dialects and cultures and be able to tap either their own personnel that are local to a particular country or their own established network of trusted partners that can assist on a project basis. 

On the business intelligence side of things, things have been moving away from the traditional investigative due diligence model that had its hay day during the days of the corporate takeovers of the 80’s and 90’s and having given way to high volume, electronic data centric due diligence and use of watchlists. While there is still a place for traditional investigative due diligence that makes extensive use of human intelligence, it is used more judiciously after the less expensive options have been exhausted."

Eduardo Sampaio (Independent, previously Senior Managing Director Brazil at FTI Consulting)

"There are several challenges to this industry. In terms of competition, small entry barriers and the growth of this industry attracted dozens of large and medium size firms competing against each other. When I began my career 20 years ago there were only two international and well-known firms, and the auditing firms had a small participation. And also we have witnessed the growing competition from sectors that are historically clients of BI&I services, such as law firms and investment funds (e.g. venture capital, institutional investors), which in some cases decided to internalize some of the BI&I functions.

Computer forensics and electronic discovery have grown in importance and complexity. This is because of a much larger volume of data to be analyzed in each engagement and the requirements to obtain and treat data in ways that would be presentable in court.

Additionally, the growth of globalization increased the number of complex multijurisdictional matters.

Another important turning point has been the easy and inexpensive access to very large amounts of information. Several years ago the important players in this market used access to private and expensive databases as ways to differentiate against each other. Nowadays it would be hard to build a case around this."

Rachel Sexton, Partner - EY's FIDS team in London:

"Investigations are becoming more reliant on the ability to capture and analyse large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. The review of the data is also becoming more automated with cognitive analytics and machine learning being tools we are looking at deploying. These tools allow for insights from data to be found quickly to inform the direction of the investigation. With the huge volume of data being created every day, the ability to analyse different types of data, both structured and unstructured to find anomalies will continue to increase in importance.

In addition to the reactive, we see that our clients want to be proactive as well. We are working with our clients to develop transaction monitoring and surveillance tools as well so that anomalies can be identified and investigated not long after they happen."

Mike Malarkey, Managing Partner - Washington DC at Forensic Risk Alliance (FRA):

"Global economic growth, technological advancements and big data connectivity contribute to the ever-evolving nature of compliance as an industry. On one hand, there is an overall increase in awareness on the part of the public of compliance-related matters, as highlighted, for example, by the recent Panama Papers leaks or the revelations of Operation Car Wash in Brazil. On the other, the same revelations also highlight how dynamically fraud is evolving, and how companies and governments still maintain a reactive approach to compliance.

Larger FCPA enforcements, the expectations set by the Yates Memo, Hui Chen’s stress on program design and strengthening, along with the DOJ’s focus on self-reporting, entail that the upcoming years will be full of opportunities for the industry and for us.

Because we bring a technology driven approach to our investigations, we have been experiencing a steady increase in the demand for all of our forensic services, and in particular for our mobile eDiscovery capabilities and our ability to deliver in geographies where no reliable provider exists. We are also very frequently engaged to develop a wide range of proactive solutions, especially for FCPA and UK Bribery Act compliance, by designing and testing programs, reviewing third-party and distributor networks, performing risk mapping exercises, as well as training clients for anti-trust dawn raids. Heightened data privacy and cybersecurity concerns are also contributing to a higher demand in our cross-border expertise and agility."

Richard Prior, Deputy CEO at Risk Advisory Group:

"Technology will play a greater role in the commissioning, processing and delivery of due diligence in the years ahead through increased use of platforms and web-based portals. The advantages for clients from greater control, access and auditability, not to mention convenience, render this inevitable. This will also play to the continuing trend towards commoditisation at the lower and of the scale in compliance due diligence.

However, no amount of automation and technological intervention can substitute for the skills and abilities of well trained and highly expert human analysts. 

This may well lead to some stratification in the business intelligence world between those who focus more on the process-driven, high volume, compliance sector, and those who pursue the more strategic and analytical end of the market."

Stephanie Lhomme - Senior Managing Director of the Forensic Investigations, Compliance & Litigation practice of FTI Consulting in Paris:

"There is an increasing demand for specialist knowledge in complex matters. Transactions are global and the world is increasingly interconnected so clients require definitive expertise but also multidisciplinary teams that can lead them through the challenges and complexities of the environments they operate in. This can be in terms of regulations, fraud or corruptions risks; complex financial structuring. “Big data” is also critical and pivotal in many of our clients’ operations today so our analytics and computer forensic tools are now critical in most of what we do. Communication has always been important for our clients but in today’s world where information travels fast, expertise in communication is critical as well."

Matias Mora, Managing Director and leader of South America at Berkeley Research Group:

"Considering that the vast majority of the information is currently stored in digital format, the industry is facing a greater demand for digital forensics, including cyber security services to protect company private data from external attacks. Also, given the exponential strengthening of financial regulations around the world, there has been a boost in regulatory compliance engagements that internal investigations to verify compliance and/or adequate current programs/internal controls to existing local laws and international best practices.

Globalization has made it mandatory for top players in the industry to offer a regional coverage, as sometimes significant clients with worldwide presence require their trusted advisors to be able to assist them in the diverse jurisdictions they work on. Reliance on human source networks have maintained its usual levels regarding investigative engagements."

Alison Taylor, previously Senior Managing Director & Head of Corporate Investigations for the Americas at Control Risks (now Director at BSR):

"Investigations and BI has evolved significantly over the last decade. BI has suffered immensely from the commodification of the due diligence process, and given regulatory requirements, most companies are tending towards automated solutions – there are very clear winners in this market (Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters) and most of the big investigative firms are still struggling to differentiate the commoditized from the strategic from the buyers perspective.

This has meant a few things:

What used to be called BI is now increasingly becoming aligned with political risk and treated as a subset of country risk analysis. This is probably appropriate. There are still jobs in research and consulting but country expertise is at a premium, as are languages, and employers tend to look for depth in a certain region rather than a generic international relations background. The country source network approach used in the mid-2000s is under pressure and served now by a wealth of smaller information brokers/subcontractors, who all the big firms go to because it isn’t commercially viable to maintain the direct source network. So, unless you are really a country specialist able to compete for a role in geopolitical risk, there is less of a career path than there was, as the established companies and players have a lot of senior staff that started in this space.

Many of the younger people entering the sector who have developed skills in the BI industry by their late 20s/early 30s have the opportunity to branch into other disciplines that call upon the same skill set: strategy consulting, sustainability, PR/crisis management, development etc. There are also some interesting new big data/analysis companies coming up eg PreData, Polecat, obviously Palantir, that are encroaching on what used to be BI.

For investigations, in the coming years it will be easiest for those from a law enforcement/accounting/law or technology background to enter the industry and forge a successful career path. Investigations, especially in the US, is a fundamentally different mindset and skillset from BI and they are becoming increasingly far apart.

Business development roles are an opportunity but the industry background helps for investigations to give them credibility, and on the political risk side sales is challenging because there is only really a clear internal buyer/budget holder in financial services, extractives and infrastructure, whereas legal and compliance are the clear target points in investigations."

Nick Philipps Jones, Director & Co-Founder of Sargasso Group in Latin America:

"Over the last ten years the sector has seen increasing emphasis on cyber investigations and this will undoubtedly continue to be a growth area for the foreseeable future with cyber crime becoming more widespread, more sophisticated and more damaging for businesses, both financially and reputationally. Forensic accounting is a service that is particularly in demand in times of economic uncertainty when companies are forced to scrutinise their accounts and fraudulent or other illicit activity is more likely to be spotted. Expansion into this area looks set to continue.

We have also seen a shift from firms concentrating their offices and people in the main business hubs (New York, London, Hong Kong), close to their clients, to a much more regional approach. Country analysts and due diligence researchers in some firms are now more likely to be based in regional offices, such as Mexico City or Dehli, than in London, for example, as this enhances their ability to meet their ever important human sources, develop their networks and also local clients. In emerging markets, much of the valuable information that clients require to help them make key strategic investment or operational decisions simply cannot be pulled off a database. The human intelligence network is as important as ever, and one needs to be in-country to develop this."

Paul Enyo, Head of Intelligence at Enyo Law:

"There are now a multitude of new BI firms in the market which didn't exist several years ago - this has led to margins getting squeezed by clients who are getting far savvier about how the information is sourced. The proliferation of new entrants in the sector has increased competition severalfold.

Everything sourced by BI firms must be admissible and there are challenges in the sector with some BI firms' reluctance to reveal information about their sources.

There are more investigators are going in-house at banks or private equity firms and I would say this represents the biggest change in the sector – law firms are more conservative but BI is still a crucial element of what they do both on a pre-event level (in terms of due diligence) and a post-event level (when assets need to be found or a fraud investigated)."

Stewart Kelly, Managing Director & Europe Leader of Veracity Worldwide:

"Industry players will continue to improve how they present information for a business audience. Dense reports have their use, but industry players need to be more agile in how it conveys advice to clients."

Jack Clode, Founder at BlackPeak Group in Hong Kong

"Critical areas in the next few years in terms of the industry's growth and change:

  • Cyber Security
  • Reliable human source networks (there are becoming increasingly important, not less important). 
  • Training top quality researchers - the trend of using technology to replace people in the database research process is extremely high risk, as human investigative ability remains far ahead of software."

How do I get a job in the Investigations & Intelligence industry?

This is one of the questions I'm most frequently asked both by graduates and those who have an established career path in related industries such as Compliance, Law, Government, Research, Information Technology and more.

As you'll have seen from the commentary from some of our contributors, there are certain skill sets highly prized by the firms that most proactively hire in the Investigations & Intelligence space. These include language skills, personable skills and attributes, strong academics (across a range of disciplines) and technology capabilities. There are so many entry routes into the sector these days and opportunities within the management consultancy firms, government departments, NGOs, law firms and major corporations.

There are a number of ways you can secure a role within the industry;

  1. Speak with headhunting firms like mine. Feel free to contact me on bkinley@lawsonchase.com
  2. Regularly browse the careers pages of the most frequent hiring firms in your local area (many firms are listed at the bottom of this guide)
  3. Use your own network and connections to scout for opportunities in the sector

You should of course ensure that your CV / Resume highlights your relevant qualifications, experience and skill set.

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