From the President: Stronger Together

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FROM THE PRESIDENT AND CEO
Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA

What you do matters. Over the last year, we’ve seen your impact in powerful and unique ways. In the face of uncertainty, new challenges and evolving risks, you responded quickly and innovatively, reflecting and reimagining at every step. Many of you shifted your teams, your investigations and your anti-fraud programs to a remote approach on a moment’s notice. Some of you were challenged to do more with less, and to effectively prevent and detect fraud, even in the face of budget cuts and staff reductions. You found creative ways to move your engagements forward when the usual approaches were not an option. 

Whether interviewing witnesses and testifying in court cases on Zoom, or using GoPro cameras and drones to conduct physical inspections remotely, you rose to the challenges before you, and worked to keep your clients and organizations protected from those who wished to take advantage of the situation. You found solutions to assess and respond to a rapidly evolving fraud landscape, from new cyber risks to unemployment and loan fraud, from supply chain issues to challenges in third-party due diligence. In short, you displayed impressive resilience, overcame obstacles, and stepped boldly into the unknown. 

The unknown for us here at the ACFE was the shock of an empty parking lot. I still remember looking out from the back porch of our building in downtown Austin, Texas, seeing a deserted office and feeling a heavy weight on my shoulders. In the midst of helping distribute phones to staff and scrambling to settle into what we at first thought would last just a few weeks, we realized it was going to be an uphill climb.

Fifteen months later and we are still climbing. I remember the uncertainty we all felt when we gathered for last year’s virtual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. We had questions then about how the pandemic would affect us — our professional responsibilities, our personal lives, our companies and our fraud programs. But we came together, and we learned together. 

Over the last year, that has continued. You’ve shared your observations and learnings, enabling us to compile this information into benchmarking reports, training programs and educational materials for our whole profession. Even during a time of so many questions, with your help, we created resources that gave you the answers you needed to continue your work.

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In our latest effort to provide you with the information you need, we’ve partnered with Grant Thornton to explore the evolving fraud environment. In this benchmarking report titled, “The Next Normal: Preparing for a Post-Pandemic Fraud Landscape,” we hope to give you an enlightening picture of both what we’ve experienced over the last year, and what lies before us as we move forward.

The findings in the report emphasize that, even though we’ve accomplished much over the last year, and even though we are seeing positive shifts in the overall landscape, we cannot let our guard down. We must remain vigilant. The heightened risk of fraud is not going away anytime soon.

You may be asking yourself, “When will this trend plateau?” I know you are tired, and you want to shed the increased efforts the pandemic has required of us all, but we can’t forget that lowering our defenses is exactly what fraudsters want us to do.

The reality is that remote work and our increased dependence on technology are here to stay. And both of these shifts come with challenges — and with opportunities. So how do we ensure we are keeping ahead of the emerging risks, while also using these developments to our advantage as fraud fighters? And where do we go from here?  

As we collectively explore these questions, the ACFE remains committed to providing you, our members, with the resources you need to adapt to the “next normal” of your anti-fraud work. We’ll continue to offer virtual and hybrid training options on the topics we know you need to do your jobs well.

We’re planning additional benchmarking surveys and reports to give you global, real-time insights into the state of our profession, our shared challenges, and best practices in preventing, detecting and responding to fraud. So please keep an eye out for survey invitations and continue to share your observations with us. Your participation is necessary to make these resources insightful and useful. 

We’re also excited to launch a brand-new platform for the CFE Exam. Our new partnership with Prometric, a global leader in exam delivery and security, will provide an enhanced experience for our members who are taking the CFE Exam, including the ability to take the exam either remotely on your own computer or at any of Prometric’s testing centers throughout the world. It will also further extend the security of the exam process to maintain our high standards and ensure the ongoing integrity of the CFE credential.

And, I am excited to share that ACFE.com, the website where you spend time finding the resources you need, managing your CPE and registering for events, is getting a full makeover. We’ve rethought every page, link, photo and sentence on the site to make it as user-friendly and helpful as possible.

I know this site, along with the other initiatives we have undertaken, will give us even more tools and reasons to stay connected in our fight against fraud.

Connected. That word may have a new meaning to many of us after this past year. I, for one, know that what we used to think of as connection looks a little different these days. We have all worked to stay connected — virtually — across borders and time zones. The challenges and events of the last year have shown how, now more than ever, we must intentionally foster the communities that we belong to.

The ACFE is made up of nearly 90,000 individuals of all races, genders, religions, cultural backgrounds and individual identities — each with their own personal experiences, perspectives and contributions. And we are undoubtedly stronger because of our diversity. Fostering a truly global and inclusive community means we must intentionally recognize and celebrate our differences. It also means we must not shy away from having meaningful — and often difficult—conversations around race, diversity and equitability in the anti-fraud field. We must listen to and learn from the experiences of others — particularly those who have felt the impact of discrimination and those who have been doing the work to counter prejudice and intolerance.

We at the ACFE are committed to being part of the solution. As part of our efforts and commitment toward change, we have hosted a series of webinars and provided a library of resources for our members focused on topics related to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. The increased focus on these topics also reflects a greater shift in what organizations — and the individuals who make them up — are being called to do. Recent calls for increased transparency and responsibility for environmental, social and governance issues show how stakeholder expectations are moving from a primary focus on the bottom line to a broader focus on how the bottom line is achieved.

Employees are increasingly looking to work for companies that are committed to good governance practices, environmental sustainability and social responsibility. And we, the anti-fraud profession, have a crucial part to play in this evolving mandate. We must think globally and recognize how we can support our organizations in these areas of focus, including how our roles as fraud fighters and fact-finders have shifted.

We are the guardians of not only our organizations’ finances and resources, but also their reputations, the cultures they cultivate, and the integrity with which they carry out their business. We are the experts on how the menace of fraud threatens organizations’ ability to meet all of these objectives — and we recognize how meeting these objectives can, in turn, strengthen our anti-fraud programs. We know the importance of displaying empathy and unwavering ethics, as we work to influence individuals and organizations to not just do well, but to do what is right. As our roles evolve and expand, we remain steadfast in our mission to protect against those who would use dishonesty and corruption to get ahead.

As we look out at what’s to come, we know we have much to build on. Our collective experiences continue to strengthen our overall profession. And so we thank you, our members and attendees, for the support you provide to your organizations and to each other, and for the trust you place in the ACFE, to provide you with the resources and networking you need to break through and keep growing. We gratefully recognize that none of us is in this fight against fraud alone.

We are, indeed, stronger together.


SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners