Date posted: 29/10/2020 3 min read

Forensic accounting with Courtney Dennett

Peter Rupp FCA, President of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, speaks to Courtney Dennett CA, Forensic Accountant for the Australian Federal Government on the Gen CA podcast.

In brief

  • Opportunities for CAs exist outside traditional accounting teams and roles
  • CA skills can be a great addition to high performing teams
  • Communication is key when working in a multi disciplinary environment

A balance of skills is a key component of any high-performing team. In the case of forensic accounting specialist Courtney Dennett, the team is within the Australian Federal Police, a far cry from the big four firm where she started her career.

"When I undertook my accounting degree and then the graduate diploma in chartered accounting, I expected that I would definitely work at a firm in a client facing role. When I undertook my graduate position at PWC, I expected that I would climb the ranks there doing financial statements and tax returns, and what I have always considered to be the traditional role of an accountant," says Dennett.

In a traditional accounting role within a firm or practice, CAs will find themselves surrounded by peers with the same background and similar skills. But working on forensic accounting in Australia with the Federal Police, Dennett is often the sole expert in profit and loss, balance sheets and tax procedures. And from the moment she was seconded to the AFP in their national tax team that she saw there were some different opportunities, and a range of new skills she hadn't initially considered.

Being the only team member in a forensic accountant role among investigative experts means that Dennett contributes to the diversity of knowledge, views and perspectives needed on any high performing team, especially one solving complex puzzles of crime. According to Dennett, communication is key to the team's smooth functioning.

"I'm working with police investigators who have a completely different skillset to mine. I need to communicate really effectively on a financial basis so that they're across the financial aspects of an investigation," says Dennett

"The key challenge is not working with other chartered accountants. There is a great forensic accounting cohort at the AFP, but usually on each investigation, it's generally only one accountant, perhaps sometimes two depending on the needs."

Dennett has found that her CA designation not only gave her the skills she needs for her role, but also built trust in her abilities with her team.

"I had my degree but following that up with a graduate diploma in chartered accounting really held me in good stead for any career opportunities that came along. In my current role, I know that it provides my team and my managers the confidence in my ability as a forensic accountant because they know I have the right qualifications," says Dennett.

"They have a completely different skill set. They're not in the financial realm other than in the investigations, but it's good to know that they have confidence in my ability based on these qualifications."

While Dennett's team work together on their shared goal of catching "crooks", she says the day-to-day realities of forensic accounting are made up of detailed solo tasks, as well as working with law enforcement in tasks not usually associated with the accounting profession.

"I am lucky enough to be able to be out of the office doing search warrants with the investigators and networking with a lot of other people that assist in the investigations," says Dennett.

"But I am still an accountant, still crunching numbers. You still need the base knowledge of business and accounting."

"I am lucky enough to be able to be out of the office doing search warrants with the investigators. But I am still an accountant, still crunching numbers. You still need the base knowledge of business and accounting."
Courtney Dennett CA, Forensic Accountant for the Australian Federal Government.

"That will give you energy every day and keep pushing you along because you can never stop learning."

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Gen CA Podcast Series

Solving complex puzzles of crime is how forensic accountant Courtney Dennett spends her days. In this episode of the Gen CA podcast, hosted by Peter Rupp FCA, President of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Courtney Dennett CA reveals what it takes to be a forensic accountant for the Australian Federal Government. Subscribe via your favourite podcast app.

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