After Caleb forced me to write a few posts on Credentials for Accountants meant specifically for those of you who still do not know what you want to be when you grow up, I managed to bumble one so badly I was contacted by Scott Grossfeld, CFE CPA and CEO of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. See, it appears I made a typical media mistake in using fraud and forensics as interchangeable fields within the industry and Scott felt compelled to speak up.
This wasn’t exactly wrong (I was being lazy actually) but as CEO of the ACFE, he’s got a responsibility to make sure the media represent the field of fraud examination correctly, especially when it comes to giving forensic accountants credit for what he and his fellow CFEs do out there. Thankfully, we had a nice little chat and cleared up that little point.
Additionally, Scott promised us access to recent salary survey information available shortly that will give us a better idea of what CFEs make. For now, he told us that the data confirms a 22% pay premium for individuals with the CFE compared to individuals in the same position without the CFE. We liked this approach and wish more organizations would take an active role in monitoring and engaging in the conversation, as Scott was obviously doing by reading our series on credentials.
Along the way, however, I discovered that the ACFE is also on top of things by promoting the credential, interacting with their audience and reaching potential new members through new avenues like blogging and social media. The ACFE is excited to be launching a new social media campaign shortly that we can only hope rivals that of the AICPA’s total social media genius (except for that whole Feed the Pig thing, which still creeps us out but is brilliant and weird enough to get a pass).
The strategy of having a CFE on staff is akin to carrying insurance on your home or car, and diversifying a company’s staff can mean the difference between a lawsuit and a slap on the wrist thanks to our favorite unnecessary accounting legislation of all time, Sarbanes-Oxley. “If you look at the CFE, originally the idea behind it was that we had accountants who really didn’t know how to investigate and investigators who don’t know accounting so we were able to bring those two together,” he said. “If you look now, Enron was the big thing that really changed perspective… here’s a big financial risk but you could lose your company if you’re not careful (with SOX) and I think that really raised awareness. Before that fraud work was sort of like insurance, you knew you needed it but you couldn’t always justify it.”
But CFEs do justify their price from a prevention standpoint, assuming fraud to be a risk all companies are exposed to. “5 – 7% of the company’s revenue is lost to fraud, that’s where the fraud examiner pays for themselves,” he told us.
But how does the ACFE promote the usefulness of a 20 year old credential like the CFE? By getting to the kids when they’re still undecided, of course.
“It used to be that the CFE was a secondary credential. [Promoting the credential is the goal of] the higher education partnership we provide to educators. We have 300 colleges and universities in that program. Now it’s part of the discussion; risk is on the radar in terms of what companies are looking for. What we typically see is fraud being an elective type class though there are a few schools that specialize in fraud and or forensics.”
The ACFE also promotes its mission by encouraging those interested in pursuing a career in fraud-fighting to join the organization as a student member for something like $20 a year. Student Associate membership is open to undergraduate students enrolled in 9 semester hours (or equivalent), or graduate students enrolled in 6 semester hours (or equivalent) in an accredited college or university. We agree with this approach, as surrounding yourself with like-minded folks gives you a chance to expose yourself to those already on your desired path. There’s plenty of opportunity for mentorship, commiserating and gaining insight into what the credential actually means for your career.
All in all we approve of what the ACFE is doing and look forward to seeing whatever else they have up their sleeve unfold in the months and years ahead. Let’s face it, they’re pretty much guaranteed a job forever. We like.