Investigate the present to see the future: Forensics and Valuation
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Investigate the present to see the future: Forensics and Valuation

Feb 09, 2023 · 4 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

Preparing taxes and performing audits are two of the most common career paths a public accountant takes, but specializations exist within the profession that can unlock different, dynamic career pathways.

A career in forensics accounting and business valuation blends an accountant’s keen analytic skill set and data proficiency into a career that’s equally challenging and rewarding, as discussed in our “Lifecycle of the FVS professional” podcast episode.

"Business valuation is that beautiful marriage between accounting and finance,” said Nene Glenn Gianfala, CPA/ABV, CEIV, ASA-BV-IA, vice president and shareholder at a New Orleans–based investment banking company. “What I love most about it is that we’re industry agnostic and I’m constantly learning.”

Dynamic careers in FVS

Forensic and valuation services (FVS) professionals are uniquely qualified to guide clients through significant business interruptions and challenges, fraud, bankruptcy and other economic or valuation-related concerns.

Accounting and finance competencies intersect for FVS professionals, and there are many career paths available within this specialization.

Forensic accountants are financial detectives, sifting through fiscal data to find acts of fraud and often aiding in criminal and civil investigations. Valuation specialists determine the economic value of a company or business, and their reports are used in a range of ways ― litigations, divorce proceedings, business sales and more.

Some careers intersect both valuation and forensics. “I’ve done anything from private prisons to jewelry stores, to grocery stores to industrial manufacturing,” said Gianfala on her business valuation experiences. “You’re never bored. It’s always changing.”

“I just loved valuation,” said Jason Soman, CPA/ABV, ASA, CFE, CDFA. “It was so cool. … You get to be creative and look in the future instead of determining what happened in the past.”

Distinguish yourself with the ABV® credential

Early in his career and before he even obtained his CPA license, Soman knew the traditional career as an auditor or tax professional wasn’t for him. He credits leaders at the firm for exposing him to the benefits of a career in business valuation and the AICPA® Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV®) credential.

“I saw the ABV as a way to really carve out a niche for myself,” said Soman, founder and managing member of Accounting & Valuation LLC, based in Boca Raton, Florida. “I was 22, 23 years old, working with people who have been doing [business valuation] for 30 years and I wanted to be on their level.”

The ABV credential positions professionals as experts in business valuation. These specialists work closely with CEOs and company founders — in a range of industries. Their functions include valuation reports on mergers and acquisitions, business risks, financial opinions for litigation proceedings, opinions for estate taxation, planning and succession, and valuation reports on the assets of a company.

The ABV is also a “gold standard credential” within the industry that’s recognized on the national level, said Gianfala. “It helps make you more distinguished.”

Soman saw the credential as a way of increasing his value to the firm. “I didn’t want them to have to teach me what a discounted cash flow was. Business valuation is a tough field. The least I could do, as someone who wants to advance in that field, is get all the knowledge that I can so I could focus on the nuances.”

Transition from tax and audit

Rob Kester, CPA/ABV, CFF, started his accountancy career in tax and audit and slowly transitioned into working on business valuations. “It was just the natural progression to go from there and get accredited through the AICPA,” explained Kester.

Starting in tax and audit provided a great knowledge base for what Kester does now — a blend of forensic and valuation work. “I just found that the business valuation work was more specialized and more, quite frankly, exciting to me.”

Now, Kester is a partner in the business valuation and litigation support group at a large, regional accounting firm that serves Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. “I frequently work with attorneys in litigation matters. Within that specialty, I spend a significant amount of my time valuing businesses in marital dissolution matters. I’ll be called upon as an expert, either hired by the parties jointly or appointed as a neutral by the court.”

While CPAs can practice business valuation without being accredited, Gianfala cautions against it. “If you’re going to do business valuation, you have to have […] a credential if you want to be hired by the experts,” suggested Gianfala.

The ABV credential brings credibility and demonstrates expertise. In court proceedings, education and work experience are scrutinized — and the ABV is respected.

For tax and audit professionals seeking a career change, Kester suggested exploring personal passions and finding a mentor willing to assist. “It’s important to figure out what you’re passionate about,” Kester said. “The first step for me was to look internally at the firm I was with for opportunities, [but] a practitioner may have to look outside their current work environment.”

A fulfilling career with ABV

Kester, Soman and Gianfala find their jobs in business valuation incredibly challenging, rewarding and fulfilling. They credit the ABV credential for elevating their careers and proving their expertise.

Kester works with divorce litigations, and he acknowledges that divorce is a hard and difficult time for clients. “I take solace in the fact that I’m helping them reach a resolution,” said Kester.

Soman echoes that sentiment but also loves “the ability to see so many different industries, see so many different interesting people, and really find out what’s keeping these people up at night, what are the successful businesses doing and what are the unsuccessful businesses doing.”

“It’s a wonderful career. I thought I was going the tax-and-audit route,” said Gianfala. “And my proudest career moment is being the youngest shareholder at the firm.”

Ready to propel your career? The AICPA® Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV®) credential elevates careers and solidifies your expertise in business valuation. Hear updates from the ABV Credential Committee and get a better understanding of the unique career opportunities available to ABV credential holders.

Beth Roessner, M.A.

Beth Roessner is a senior content writer at AICPA & CIMA, together as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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