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Media Centre :: Articles ::

Profiling Women In The Profession

Profiling: Ms. Nancy Warden and Ms. Karen Vanderzweerde

Professional certification is a process in which a person proves that he or she has the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform specific tasks. This month the ACFI has profiled two women, who had attained their CFI.

We asked them a few questions as to how beneficial the CFI designation has been in their careers.

But before we get to their responses we should clarify that professional certification is a process in which a person proves that he or she has the knowledge, experience, and skills to perform a specific job. The proof comes in the form of a certificate earned by passing an exam that is accredited by an organization or association that monitors and upholds prescribed standards for the particular profession and in this case the profession is the Association of Certified Forensic Investigators of Canada.

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development credits. It's a unit of credit related to participation in an accredited program designed for professionals with certificates or licenses to practice various professions. Continuing Education keeps professionals up-to-date on the latest practices in their profession.

PROFILING WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION

Our first CFI is

  • Ms. Nancy Warden CMA CIA CFI

    Assistant Director
    Strategic Analysis
    Shared Services
    Ottawa

Tell us about your position?

Currently, the task I perform related to my CFI is the quality assurance review on all submissions to the Treasury Board on behalf of our department. I perform other tasks which are unrelated to my CFI training.

 

How are you applying your CFI, your experience and education in your job?

Quality Assurance is basically an audit; hence I use all of my questioning, reasonability, verification, and reporting skills.

 

What made you decide to get your CFI?

I obtained my CFI when I was working directly in the Forensic Accounting field whereby it was necessary for me to enhance my accounting skills with investigative skills.

 

How has the CFI designation helped or changed your career path?

The designation gave me a Canadian body of knowledge that was currently unavailable elsewhere at that time. It also provided me with a network of peers who could assist me when I was outside of my realm of knowledge and experience.

 

What was the certification process like for you?

Fine as I enjoyed learning a different discipline. The manual is very comprehensive.

 

How has the CFI opened career doors for you and if so what kind?

It has led me toward more investigative work such as the special investigations and enforcement units.

 

Each CFI is required to attain 20 CPD credit annually. 10 of these must be fraud related and the remaining 10 should be related to each CFI's current position. How do you feel about this requirement?

I believe the CPD requirements are an excellent idea as every member wants the designation to retain credibility.

 

Would you recommend the CFI to other professionals? Who is this type of career best suited for?

Yes. People with integrity and backbone who understand when they are right. Life is not always that easy, but at least you can look at yourself in the mirror knowing you do not compromise.

 

Our second CFI is

  • Ms. Karen Vanderzweerde CA, CFI

    Forensic Investigator
    Law Society of Alberta
    Calgary Alberta

Tell us about your position?

  • I work as an investigator for the Law Society of Alberta. We investigate complaints about lawyer conduct. Because I am an accountant by training, most (but not all) of my files have a strong financial component. In the six years since I started working for the LSA, my cases have included allegations of misappropriations/defalcations, mortgage fraud, money laundering, accounting rule violations, inappropriate behaviour and ungovernability.
  • Our objective is to complete a fair and unbiased review. We present all the evidence regardless of whether it supports or refutes the allegations.
  • Once I have been assigned an investigation, I determine the investigative plan and develop a theory of the case. I identify any additional resources I might require, including forensic document examination, IT forensics, or contract investigators to help locate and interview witnesses.
  • When the investigation is complete, I summarize my findings in a formal report, supported by documentary evidence binders. The report is used to determine if citations will be issued against the lawyer. If citations are issued, the report is used by counsel to prosecute the Member in disciplinary proceedings.
  • If the matter proceeds to hearing, I may be required to testify.
  • I assist other investigators who are not accountants with the financial component of their investigations.
  • I also conduct investigations for the Assurance Fund of the Law Society, which is a fund set up to repay clients if their lawyer misappropriates trust funds.

 

How are you applying your CFI, your experience and education in your job?

Investigations at the LSA require a synthesis of many skills, including:

      • Being curious. The most important skill is wanting to understand and not making assumptions based on your own background or experience
      • Understanding and working with a wide variety of accounting systems
      • Understanding how lawyers are required to account for their clients' money and being able to trace diverted funds
      • Identifying potential sources of evidence
      • Interviewing witnesses and lawyers
      • Understanding what should be in a lawyer's file, depending on the type of legal work done (real estate, motor vehicle injury, etc.)
      • Summarizing the key elements of the case in a concise and understandable report
      • Testifying at hearing, which requires the ability to explain complex technical accounting evidence to those with little or no training in accounting

I use the skills I've learned as a CFI daily. My job is to find evidence, document it, corroborate it if possible, preserve its integrity and draw conclusions from it.

I use my many years of experience in accounting and office work to help determine if people are giving me truthful answers and to find alternative sources to prove or disprove their statements.

I also have a Master's degree in Adult Education. I use those principles when preparing to give testimony or present a précis of the case to counsel during case conferences.

 

What made you decide to get your CFI?

My employer wanted some form of accreditation.

The CFI designation provides credibility in a narrow field. I chose it over other designations because it is Canadian. I didn't see any point in learning material that wasn't relevant in my jurisdiction.

 

How has the CFI designation helped or changed your career path?

As a practicing accountant, I was always interested in fraud but didn't really know how to get training or work in the field. The CFI provided good learning tools: a manual, seminars, annual conferences, and contact with others doing the work I aspired to do. The ACFI, through the courses I took and the people I met, gave me the knowledge I needed and the confidence to make a career change.

 

What was the certification process like for you?

It was not hard to complete the application process. Plowing through the manual took a lot of discipline and determination. It took longer than I thought.

 

How has the CFI opened career doors for you? What kind?

My employer requires some form of accreditation, in addition to my CA designation. The Executive Director, Al Langley, has been wonderful about helping me make contacts and feel part of the community.

 

Each CFI is required to attain 20 CPD credit annually. 10 of these must be fraud related and the remaining 10 should be related to each CFI's current position. How do you feel about this requirement?

On the whole, I completely support the idea that we must stay current in our field. As you get on in your career, it can be a challenge to find PD that is truly relevant or that contains new material.

Of course, just because someone went to a conference or course does not mean they participated or learned - the downside is that people just show up because they have to but don't engage in the process. You can't force learning.

I also have PD requirements imposed from my CA designation

 

Would you recommend the CFI to other professionals? Who would this type of career be best suited for?

Yes, I would recommend the CFI. It is comprehensive, Canadian, and doesn't costs tens of thousands of dollars.

The best thing about the ACFI membership is its diversity - there are not just accountants or ex law enforcement officers but a wide range of people working on investigations in all kinds of organizations (commercial businesses, banking, government, regulatory agencies, etc.)

Career best suited to: those who are curious, compassionate, meticulous, strongly self-motivated, patient, organized and willing to stand up for what's right (without being sanctimonious and obnoxious).