Investing in the Investigator

GUEST BLOGGER

Seth Harlan

Senior Associate, Market & Regulatory Affairs Vcheck Global’s Intelligence Group.  

Securities and Exchange Commissioner Chair Gary Gensler tweeted in August, “Investors want to better understand one of the most critical assets of a company: its people.” As practitioners of investigative due diligence, we observe our client’s prioritization of human capital in their decision making. In the same manner as private-sector firms whose human capital initiatives have been credited with enhancing both profits and public images, due diligence providers stand to benefit considerably by integrating personnel considerations into their current initiatives and future goals. 

In our deadline-centric industry, professional development is frequently relegated to a mere afterthought by even the best-intentioned firms. Such an oversight is detrimental since nurturing investigator growth is advantageous both for due diligence firms and their staff. For investigators, knowing an employer is willing to invest in professional growth factors heavily into long-term career planning while providing a confidence boost, which infuses both their immediate work product and professional outlook. For employers, making impactful contributions toward employee professional development improves industry footing. This in turn attracts new business and enhances recruiting efforts.

Nontraditional professional development

The decision to invest in human capital is a relatively easy first step. The second step, determining how to make an impactful investment, is more challenging. A common pitfall of employee development programs is a complete reliance on industry-specific training and a single delivery method. After long hours at work, the last thing many investigators want to do is endure additional screen time or read through case studies. This is where nontraditional professional development activities shine and conferring knowledge beneficial to both the employee and employer. For example, supporting foreign language courses permits an investigator to refine existing language skills or to pick-up a new language while enhancing a firm’s in-house language offerings. This reduces turn-around-time for reports covering non-English speaking jurisdictions while providing potential clients with a strong incentive for working with your firm over a competitor reliant on third-party translators. Similarly, offering coaching in public speaking prepares talented investigators to confidently take on client-facing responsibilities. At the same time, this training bolsters client retention and new business initiatives.

Targeted professional education

When factored into a firm’s mid- and long-range planning, targeted professional education allows for increased internal flexibility. Consider the case of a talented analyst with several years of experience who is seeking a change of pace. Investments in sales or management training can allow this promising employee to internally pivot while encouraging their career growth within the firm. The ability for an employee to scratch a professional itch benefits both the company and the employee. For example, an experienced investigator with strong interpersonal skills can use their operational knowledge to enhance other aspects of the firm, including infusing sales and marketing efforts with first-hand investigative insights.

Mentor programs

One powerful investment in employee growth that can be organized either internally or externally, with minimal expense, is mentoring. Added benefits of mentoring are the cross-organizational benefits it confers, both with regard to departments and seniority. In addition to the traditional pairing of an early or mid-career professional with a more seasoned colleague, a researcher can be connected with a marketing or business development professional. Similarly, while junior employees benefit immensely from the experience-based insights of senior staff, the exchange can be made less one-sided by encouraging early-career employees to share their areas of expertise. Impactful topics for upward knowledge sharing include best practices for social media engagement as well as regional and cultural insights gained from academic studies, experience abroad or prior professional endeavors.

Set aside a few minutes today to consider avenues of investment in one of your firm’s most critical assets, its investigators. In doing so, you are cultivating impactful individual and organizational change which ultimately enriches your company both culturally and financially.

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