Illakkiya Jai Praakaash, CFE, may just be starting out in her anti-fraud career, but she already has an advantage over potential job competitors. She is the first individual, and female, in India to get certified as a CFE while at the article assistant level (akin to an auditing intern). She is motivated by her desire to do the right thing and understands the important role that anti-fraud professionals and accountants play in preventing, detecting and investigating fraud.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
As I was pursuing chartered accountancy, I kept being met with questions related to tax evasion and that’s when I realised that too many people had the impression that accountants help defraud banks or cheat on taxes. I’m from a place where people like the now-bankrupt businessman Vijay Mallya, who is currently being sought for extradition for fraud charges, exists alongside the richest person in Asia, Mukesh Ambani, who earned his billions in legitimate companies.
Like the latter, I want to stand for the right thing to do and be fearless about such decisions. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India once told chartered accountants that they are the backbone of our economy and that “your signature carries immense faith; please do not break that trust that is placed on you.”
You currently are an article assistant for BDO India. What steps led you to that position?
I’ve enrolled for the chartered accountancy course with the institute of chartered accountancy of India (ICAI), the second largest professional body of chartered accountants in the world. Upon successful completion of a foundation level, an intermediate level and an integrated course on information technology and soft skills, students are required to undergo three years mandatory training as a part of practical training to become eligible to sit for final level exams to become a chartered accountant.
BDO India is the only multinational firm where article assistants get an opportunity to work in forensic advisory services in India and I was interested in that type of specialization. At BDO India, I have the opportunity to work in forensic and transaction audits, which are conducted to identify alleged fraud — including diversion/siphoning of funds, financial statement fraud and misappropriation of assets. I use various fraud detection and reporting my findings.
I would like to specially acknowledge my reporting manager at BDO India LLP, Ratna Shankar Akella, CFE, an associate partner for the forensic advisory services division. He is a chartered accountant with 17 years of experience and more than 13 years of experience in forensic services. He has trusted me with solo tasks and provided me with a number of opportunities to work without any restrictions to my designation as an intern.
Why was it important for you to earn your CFE credential early in your career?
I work alongside colleagues with various educational qualifications and career paths — like CFEs, CAs, MBAs, AML specialists, GRC specialists and internal auditors — who have encouraged me to do more. Some projects I’ve worked on required knowledge of, and exposure to, fraud examination. That made me determined to earn the CFE credential to build a strong foundation for my career path in forensic advisory services and get an edge over other individuals.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in the anti-fraud field?
I strongly recommend they pursue their interest in the anti-fraud field and earn the CFE credential. The level of knowledge and recognition you gain outweighs the costs incurred and time spent studying. Whatever your area of interest or desired profession is, becoming a CFE is an added advantage as it helps improve professional skepticism, integrity, due diligence and professional judgement.
What do you like best about being an ACFE member?
Being an ACFE member, I am able to do more than an audit assistant can do at work, which enables me to connect to the case at hand and understand the situation better. It helps me find alternate solutions and support the team better.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Apart from spending quality time with my family, I like to read self-development books, sketch, create Mandala art, do yoga and meditate.
ACFE membership is open to individuals of all job functions, industries and levels of experience who are interested in the prevention, detection and deterrence of fraud. If you want to level up your anti-fraud career, we can help.