Robert A. Bonavito, CPA PC

4 Traits That All Successful Forensic Accountants Should Have

I've been doing forensic accounting for over 30 years. In fact, I was a forensic accountant before there was such a thing as a forensic accountant, believe it or not. That's how long ago?  

So, a lot of people ask me, what does it take to be a successful forensic accountant? And I've put a lot of time thinking about this, a lot of different things that make you successful as a forensic accountant.

One of them is you have to think differently than everybody else because, when you go into courtroom, the lawyers think the same, the judges...and you need to think differently and you need to be able to show them why you are right.

And the best way that you think differently is...a lot of people who have many, multiple disabilities growing up that were not treated, they make great forensic accountants, believe it or not. Just think of the movie with Ben Affleck, called "The Accountant."

The other thing is that you need to have a PhD level of understanding of business. You have to know marketing, finance, taxes, you need to know everything. 

What I tell people is, "What I think you should do is go to a good state school, major in accounting, graduate, get an MBA at one of the state schools. And then, become a CPA. Work in the field a while."

But then, what I always tell them is, "Go back to an Ivy League school, like Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. And go back and relearn a lot of stuff and just got through it. Because you need both, in order to be this, what I call PhD level. You need both. Don't go into an Ivy League school in the beginning, because you need the street smarts of the state school." And if you do it this way, what I find is most of the people that I deal with, who are really good at this stuff have done that path.

The other one is physical stamina. And here, I like to have someone who, in their childhood, competed in combative-type sports for at least eight years, like mixed martial arts, wrestling, football, high level soccer, really intensely played sports when they were young, because that will build the stamina you need.

The last thing that someone needs is the ability to time-travel. What do I mean time-travel? I mean you need to go back in time, and you need to travel forward in time.

For example, I had a case years ago. I had to go back 80 years and figure out what happened. And what you do is you put yourself in a state of mind where you picture you're back in this company 80 years ago, and what happened and why it happened, and you've got to be able to piece it together. And then you've got to travel forward and say, "Okay, this happened 80 years ago, this is the situation now, how does this affect the future?"  

And these four things: think differently, PhD level of understanding, physical stamina, and time travel, usually make for a good forensic accountant.

If you have any questions on this video, feel free to email me.

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