If you’re the type that enjoyed spy shows as a kid and loves scoping out financial statements like CSIs love autopsying dead bodies, you might want to consider a CFF (Certified in Financial Forensics) when you grow up. Anyone considering this designation may want to add CFF to the end of their name with a CFE or CFA. If you’re looking at a CFF, you might want to hurry up and decide before future CFFs are required by the AICPA, starting September 1st, to pass the CFF examination.
In May of 2008, the AICPA introduced the CFF as a professional credential that combines specialized forensic accounting expertise with the core knowledge and skills that make CPAs among the most trusted business advisers.
Because the CFF is a credential that represents an extensive knowledge base, CPE is an important component to qualify for and renew a CFF designation. New CFFs are required to demonstrate a certain amount of Lifelong Learning (based on the point system below) and must complete 60 hours every 3 years with renewal of the credential.
In order to qualify to become a CFF, CPAs must be an AICPA member in good standing, have five years professional experience in the field of accounting and must score at least 100 points on the application (points based on professional experience, knowledge, lifelong learning and forensic accounting credentials already held). Only CPAs can apply as a valid, unrevoked license to practice public accounting is a requirement as well.
The CFF Exam
The exam, which will be introduced as a requirement on September 1, 2010, is a four hour, 100% multiple choice exam administered by the AICPA. It consists of the following areas and weights (check out the CSOs from the AICPA here)
Professional Responsibilities and Practice Management
• AICPA 5%
• CPA Professional Responsibilities in Civil and Criminal Matters 5%
Fundamental Forensic Knowledge
• Laws, Courts and Dispute Resolution 5%
• Planning and Preparation 5%-10%
• Information Gathering and Preserving 10%
• Discovery 5%-10%
• Reporting, Experts and Testimony 5%-10%
Specialized Forensic Knowledge
• Bankruptcy, Insolvency and Reorganization 5%-10%
• Computer Forensic Analysis 5%-10%
• Economic Damages Calculations 5%-10%
• Family Law 5%-10%
• Financial Statement Misrepresentations 5%-10%
• Fraud Prevention, Detection and Response 5%-10%
• Valuation 5%-10%
Many with the CFF credential stick to private practice and use the CFF as a way to distinguish themselves as passionate about forensic accounting.
Compensation and Other Benefits
We all know more letters = more money but in the case of the CFF, little real data can be found on the difference in compensation for CFFs versus plain old forensic accountants. We’re guessing this is because the CFF is a relatively new AICPA credential but as time goes on and frauds get larger and more complicated, we trust that this data will be much easier to come by. As a general rule, crendentialed CPAs are more valuable simply because pursuit of a credential in one’s specialty shows a level of professional dedication adored by HR departments and managers alike.