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Home » Women in business » Outlining the qualities you need to succeed as a forensic and financial crime advisor

Deirdre Carwood

Partner Financial Advisory, Financial Crime, Deloitte Ireland

Forensic Advisory Services is an exciting and non-traditional financial career. It is also in constant demand because financial crime prevention has become a growing priority for private and public sector organisations.

“There are three inescapable truths about the magnitude of financial crime”, says Deirdre Carwood at Deloitte, the largest global professional services organisation.

First, opportunistic criminals are taking full advantage of new and established technologies — including online banking, ecommerce and cryptocurrencies — to perpetrate scams, fraud and embezzlement on a massive scale.

Second, while preventing and detecting financial crime is a huge challenge for businesses in Ireland. They must be able to comply with all relevant regulations in this area. Third — and this is often overlooked — financial crime has a devastating and tragic societal cost.

“If you facilitate illicit finance through your payments systems, you are enabling criminal behaviours such as terrorist finance, child labour, human trafficking and wildlife trafficking,” says Carwood. “Our role as an advisory and consulting firm is to help prevent illicit payments and help clients comply with money laundering and other relevant legislation.”

Recruiting the best talent for financial crime prevention

Indeed, Carwood’s expanding, gender-balanced team includes experts in fraud prevention, cybersecurity, sanctions, anti-money laundering, anti-bribery, and anti-corruption. They help clients predict, detect, and proactively respond to the threat of financial crime.

“We have different skill sets, but we’re a blended team,” she explains. “Team members include accountants, lawyers, risk and compliance officers, HR practitioners, software engineers, data scientists and data analysts. We also have forensic technology practitioners who, as their name suggests, collect digital evidence in a forensic way so that a robust audit trail can be produced in a court of law.”

Team members include accountants, lawyers, risk and compliance officers, HR practitioners, software engineers, data scientists and data analysts.

Employing the latest technology and skills

Recruiting the best talent is key, however, Deloitte also employs technology such as electronic discovery (e-discovery), AI and generative AI to seamlessly collect and analyse data. This means the make-up of Carwood’s team has changed in recent years.

“Five years ago, the people who joined our graduate recruitment programme were mainly business and accounting graduates,” says Carwood. “Now, they’re a much broader mix and include software engineers and coders from tech colleges.” Regardless of their qualification, anyone working in this space should be curious, good at problem-solving and always looking to develop new solutions, due to the varied nature of crisis support.

Considering financial crime prevention as an exciting career option

Financial crime prevention may feel frustrating at times because the problem is so vast. “It can be intense,” admits Carwood, “but it’s also extremely gratifying. Yes, we’re using technology in a more sophisticated way to help prevent financial crime; but, of course, criminals are using it too. So, we need to work in smarter, more efficient ways, like through public-private partnerships. If stakeholders — including consultancy firms, banks, payment companies and social media companies — shared data from their ecosystems, we could centralise that data and, using analytics, derive better intelligence.”

“Being a forensic practitioner can be overlooked from a career perspective, so more should be done to promote it as an exciting route for school pupils and university students. That said, Deloitte still receives a lot of interest from applicants from various backgrounds,” says Carwood. “They empathise with what we are trying to do, which is solve problems for clients while making a big impact on society.”

Carwood, who studied accountancy to a post-graduate level, has always loved her job. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and haven’t tired of it,” she says. “When I started out, I did not look at auditing or tax or any traditional accountancy pathways. I wanted to do something different — something alternative — and this has been incredibly interesting. Plus, forensic financial advisory expertise is in high demand because financial crime continues to grow. I don’t ever see a day where my, and my team’s, expertise will be irrelevant.”

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