The benefits of being a Certified Forensic Accountant: an interview with Paul Zikmund, Cr.FA; the benefits of being a Certified Medical Investigator: an interview with Marilyn Bello, CMI-III.
Article Type: Interview
Subject: Forensic scientists (Interviews)
Forensic accounting
Pub Date: 05/01/2003
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2003 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: May-June, 2003
Persons: Named Person: Zikmund, Paul E.
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 102840522
Full Text: The Forensic Examiner interviewed Paul E. Zikmund, M.B.A., a Certified Forensic Accountant through ACFEi, to find out how earning the Cr.FA designation has helped advance his professional accounting career.

Paul Zikmund is the Chairperson of the American Society for Industrial Security Economic Crime Council. He is the Director of Fraud Investigative Services for The Dow Chemical Company and is responsible for managing reports of fraud and financial abuse within the company. He has also worked previously as a Director of Corporate Security for Nortel Networks where he conducted fraud investigations, managed security projects and provided litigation support to the company's law department. Prior to joining Nortel Networks, he worked as a senior investigator for Union Carbide Corporation investigating fraud and security issues within the company. Mr. Zikmund worked in various capacities of law enforcement, including white-collar crime and health care and insurance fraud, for 10 years prior to joining Union Carbide. He holds an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut, a degree in Criminal Justice and an Accounting Certificate from the University of Pittsburgh.

Examiner: What does your position involve as a forensic accountant?

Zikmund: My current role as the Director of Fraud Investigative Services at Dow Chemical involves managing investigations of fraud and financial abuse within the company. Unlike other roles in forensic accounting, I concentrate specifically on investigating fraud. Many of our cases involve analysis of accounting and financial issues and therefore require forensic accounting skills.

We handle a variety of issues including kickback schemes, embezzlement, expense report fraud intellectual property loss and conflicts of interest. Fraud investigation involves analysis of documents, review of relevant evidence, interviews of appropriate personnel, data analyses and preparation of reports. We present our findings to senior management and human resources who then make decisions, if warranted, about appropriate disciplinary action to be taken against any employees responsible for perpetrating fraud against the company. We also prosecute a portion of our cases so I must also possess a comprehensive understanding of the legal system as it pertains to rules of evidence, expert testimony and courtroom proceedings.

Examiner: In what ways has the Certified Forensic Accountant, Cr.FA, designation assisted you in your career?

Zikmund: The largest benefit I achieved from pursuing the Cr.FA designation is the knowledge I achieved while preparing for the exam. The comprehensive study guide includes a great deal of reference material to study for the exam. I was fortunate because I already owned many of the books and had read most of them. However, there is a difference in reading a book for pleasure and trying to master its contents. I reread many of the publications and purchased the materials that I didn't own. I now have an excellent library of resource materials. The knowledge I gained while studying the materials has been very beneficial.

Examiner: What made you initially want to take the Cr.FA exam?

Zikmund: I developed a very strong interest in forensic accounting in 1998. It is ironic that my first exposure to the term and profession came from Dr. Larry Crumbley. I stumbled upon his bio and web site. I ordered all of his novels and have maintained a consistent interest in the field of forensic accounting ever since that time. I consider myself a prodigious reader and spend a considerable portion of my time reading about fraud and forensic accounting. When I came across ACFEi's Certified Forensic Accounting program I knew I wanted to pursue the certification. After receiving the study guide, I was convinced that I had more to learn. I wanted to achieve the certification because I believe the program acknowledges the fact that the applicant possesses a certain level of required knowledge to be considered a forensic accountant.

Examiner: Do you feel that taking the Cr.FA exam has been beneficial to you?

Zikmund: Absolutely! I have acquired greater knowledge of the overall forensic accounting field. I also realized that fraud investigation is just a small piece of the forensic accounting profession. My network of qualified Cr.FAs has also increased. I met so many fascinating people during the seminar. They were more than willing to extend an offer to share their experiences with me. I found that to be very beneficial. I will be teaching a course on Fraud Examination this fall at a state university in Michigan. I believe that I will be able to use some of the referenced study materials during my classes, which will benefit the students as well. I also believe the Cr.FA certification added credibility to my resume'.

Examiner. Have you seen the results you expected after taking the Cr.FA exam?

Zikmund: I have broadened my scope of knowledge in the field of forensic accounting. I am now trying to use that knowledge to increase the roles and responsibilities of my current position. I performed a great deal of litigation support in one of my previous roles. I would like to continue performing those services in my current position. I believe that the Cr.FA Certification will provide me with credibility and enable managers to see that we can perform more forensic accounting type services in addition to the traditional fraud examination services we are currently providing.

Examiner: What advice do you have for other accountants interested in developing a career in forensic accounting?

Zikmund: Be passionate about what you do. I see so many people jumping on the fraud bandwagon these days. Some have little or no experience but they call themselves experts. Even though I passed the exam, I am not offering services in areas that are unfamiliar to me. The study guide lists 75 different forensic accounting topics. If you truly want to be considered a forensic accountant and work in one of these fields, you must become proficient in that area. This requires dedication and years of experience. The Cr.FA must be proficient in rules of evidence, courtroom procedures, interviewing techniques, report writing and expert testimony. I have been involved in the field of fraud investigation for many years and I am still learning. These skills can be learned through reading of trade publications, attending seminars and relevant experience. It sounds simple, but placing yourself in a continuous learning mode is easier said than done.

I would also advise Cr.FAs to share their experiences through networking, writing articles or books, teaching and speaking engagements. When we share our knowledge, the profession grows and we develop as well.

This newly developed certification is attracting a great deal of attention. We must ensure that we all take pride in our profession and consistently display the utmost integrity and ethical behavior in order to avoid compromising the value of the program. Forensic accounting is a fascinating and rewarding profession. I look forward to every opportunity that comes across my desk because each situation is always different. It is very hard work, but at the end of the day I know that I make a difference and that is what is most important to me.

The Forensic Examiner also interviewed ACFEi expert Marilyn A. Bello, R.N.C., M.S., CMI-III, to find out what her experience was with taking the Certified Medical Investigator exam offered through the College.

Marilyn Bello earned her Master's degree in Nursing Administration at the College of New Rochelle in New York. During her nursing career, she has functioned in a variety of capacities within the obstetrical field from Clinical Nurse and Associate Administrative Supervisor to Nursing Care Clinician (Nurse Manager). In the latter role, she had 24-hour responsibility for nurses working on a new obstetrical service, which she helped establish, at the Allen Pavilion of New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Currently, she is a Perinatal Clinical Instructor in the Department of Education at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Ms. Bello has served as a conference speaker and lecturer for the New York Presybterian Hospital's Perinatal Nurses Network, the March of Dimes and other speaking engagements as requested. She is a Legal Nurse Consultant/Expert Witness to defense and plaintiff law firms and insurance companies and a member of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.

Examiner: What does your position as a nurse and expert witness involve?

Bello: As a perinatal clinical instructor, I lecture in orientation classes for newly hired nursing staff, validate the clinical competency of nursing staff, provide ongoing continuing education opportunities for nurses and conduct obstetrical specialty core courses and other hospital services as needed.

As a Legal Nurse Consultant/Expert Witness, I review obstetrical malpractice cases to determine whether the nursing standard of care was met and produce detailed reports of my expert opinions. I assist attorneys with deposition preparation, production of exhibits and serve as a testifying expert witness.

Examiner: In what ways did the Certified Medical Investigator designation assist you in the type of work you do?

Bello: The Certified Medical Investigator designation reflects to others the attainment of special knowledge and skill in conducting medical investigations. Many of the principles that are taught in the CMI workshop, such as standards of care, ethics, objective documentation, recognition of signs of child abuse and domestic violence, evidence collection and issues and trial testimony, are relevant to my role as an educator of parinatal nursing and Legal Nurse Consultant. I believe the CMI designation adds credibility to the information I disseminate, whether in verbal or written form.

Additionally, I believe that an instructor should be a role model to others. As I promote continuing education for the staff, the CMI designation is evidence that my own personal educational process is ongoing as well. The nurses at the hospital are intrigued by my CMI designation, which is evidence of the expanded roles that are now available to nurses.

Examiner: What made you initially want to take the CMI exam?

Bello: I have always been interested in forensics and wanted to gain knowledge about criminal investigations. I was an avid viewer of "Forensic Files" on Court TV and wondered whether I would ever possess the knowledge and skill to conduct such investigations. When I learned about the CMI designation and workshop being offered, I viewed this as one step closer to toward a goal I have set for myself.

My 10 years experience as a Legal Nurse Consultant was only one aspect of the scope of a CMI. I attended the CMI workshop in Orlando to broaden my perspective and knowledge base.

Examiner: In what ways has the CMI exam given your career a boost?

Bello: The CMI course was beneficial to my career in a variety of ways. The wealth of information I received during the course will certainly enhance my role as 'an instructor and Legal Nurse Consultant.

My present goal to be a member of a forensics team in New York may be realized, primarily due to my CMI designation. Initially, as I attempted to break into the world of forensic professionals, I encountered difficulty, as many practicing forensic professionals were unfamiliar with the CMI designation. As I enlightened everyone I met about the CMI program (always an instructor), I stumbled upon someone who had actually heard about the program and was willing to meet with me to discuss a preceptorship opportunity. It is definitely a start in the right direction.

The ACFEi staff has also been very helpful in disseminating information about the CMI designation.

Examiner: Do you feel that the course was challenging enough to you as an R.N.?

Bello: The course was difficult and challenging as well. While the section of the test that dealt with physiology was familiar to me as an R.N., many other topics--such as blood splatter analysis and forensic investigative procedures--were new and challenging.

Examiner: What did you like best about the CMI course in Orlando?

Bello: The wonderful opportunity to network with others in the forensic field is definitely something I enjoyed. Most of all, it was an honor to be attending the conference with speakers who are recognized as world-renowned experts in their field, such as Cyril Wecht, M.D., J.D.

It seems that ACFEi is trying hard to get good, well-known speakers in the field of forensic medical investigation to present at the conference for CMI.

I'm looking forward to my next CMI workshop where both Dr. Cyril Wecht and Dr. Henry Lee will be lecturing. I've read Dr. Lee's book and it will be amazing to learn from one of the best. Professionals such as Dr. Wecht and Dr. Lee add a lot of credibility to the CMI program, which is important when you're getting a new program started.

If you would like to find out more about either the Certified Medical Investigator, CMI, or the Certified Forensic Accountant, Cr.FA, continuing education programs offered through ACFEi, please call 800-423-9737, ext. 220.
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