The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association is proud to conclude the 2017 Spring semester by hosting the 3rd Semi-Annual casual networking event, Alumni Night, last Friday evening, May 5th.
Doors opened at 6:30 p.m. to welcome Baruch students, alumni, and friends of alumni. The event room was filled with festive Mexican music, streams of twinkling lights, and crisp, colorful flowers. The hot, freshly made Mexican food that was present in honor of Cinco de Mayo proved especially popular with attendees, as many had second and third servings of quesadilla, miniature tacos, and chips and guacamole.
As Mardi Gras beads were distributed and gift bags were brought out, ZFAA president Yulia Rozenfeld went on stage and gave the opening speech. She spoke of how Alumni Night started with her predecessor’s–Michelle Qin’s, vision of meaningful and stress-free networking, in parallel to her own desire to continue that tradition and lasting influence. Following Yulia’s speech, the vast array of professionals was called on stage to introduce themselves. They mentioned their names, backgrounds, and careers to allow attending students get an idea of who was relevant to speak about specific professional aspirations.
What followed was a simple yet fun ice breaking game that brought students and professionals together and began conversations. Individuals were given single letters to work with others to piece together a 10-letter word (Spoiler: the word was Graduation!). Conversation prompts were also divided amongst attendees, and they included fun open-ended sentences like “I love…”; “I want to wake up to…”; and “I would want to go to school/work wearing a ___ costume”.
The ice breakers set the stage for the rest of the night, which was centered around casual conversations and networking. It was not long before the room was buzzing with numerous introductions and discussions. The professionals were extremely helpful in providing insight to students. They offered both general and career relevant advice, along with excerpts of their own experiences in school and in the workplace. Even as the event continued past its official end time, there was an energy and liveliness that enveloped the room.
ZFAA is happy to have hosted yet another successful Alumni Night that helped students and introduced professionals to a number of Baruch students who were eager to advance their social networks. We would like to take one last opportunity to thank the professionals who took the time to join our club and fellow students last Friday evening. It means a lot to us that there were individuals who would forgo celebrating Cinco de Mayo and avoiding the pouring weather to come to Baruch and make lasting connections with everyone involved. We look forward to seeing everyone again next semester!
ZFAA would also like to thank and acknowledge the support of the following student organizations in producing this fulfilling event: Graduate Student Assembly (GSA), Graduate Beta Alpha Psi (GBAP), Zicklin Graduate Tax Society (ZGTS), and Zicklin Women in Business (ZWB).
By Serena Law, Anthony Policastro, edited by Serena Law
This past Thursday, April 6th, Ajay Bhatt of Credit Suisse presented an introductory lecture on Securities Pricing to a room packed with students. While we at ZFAA are particularly inclined to inform our fellow students about forensic accounting topics and careers, we also understand that having a strong foundation in the fundamentals of other areas, such as finance, can make one that much stronger of an accountant. For that reason, we invited Ajay, Credit Suisse's Director of Strategy and Governance, come in to teach students about some of the fundamentals of pricing in different financial scenarios.
Ajay started his introduction to Securities Pricing by mentioning that the foundation to most securities pricing lies in the equation for Future Value.
• Future Value = Present Value * (1+r)^t
• r = interest rate
• t = time
He mentioned how this formula could be manipulated to help one understand discounting, which allows one to ascertain what a dollar in the future is worth today. He revealed one can manipulate the equation above to find discount values such as:
• Present Value = Future Value/(1+r)^t
Building on this major concept, Ajay continued to explain the Dollar Discount Factor Formula which is used to determine the future value of a dollar
• $ Discount Factor = $1 / (1+ri/n)^ti
• n = # of periods per year
• i = a period of time
Soon enough, he moved the students from fundamentals to more complex strategies to successfully price the following:
• Vanilla Par Bonds on Issuance as well as in the Secondary Market
• Forward Rate Agreements (an agreement by two parties to enter into an interest rate contract at some point in the future with a set interest rate)
• Foreign Exchange Forwards
• Interest Rate Swaps
• Equity, Interest Rate, and Foreign Exchange Projecting
Ajay's zeal for his work in Securities Pricing for risk management purposes really kept the room alive. His comprehensive explanations and simplified examples allowed students to grasp the concepts and the implications of their importance. ZFAA considers Thursday a success. We look forward to working with him again in the future.
By Anthony Policastro, Edited by Serena Law
In today’s world, where the need for forensic accountants is on the rise, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association is proud to hold an event that would inform students about a field in which this profession is increasing in usage and popularity. On March 9th, 2017, ZFAA hosted guest speaker Dennis Neier, a professional with decades of experience in accounting and the United States legal system, to speak about the forensic accountant’s role in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
ADR refers to methods of resolving disputes outside the courtroom and traditional litigation. During the seminar, Mr. Neier reviewed the two major forms of ADR: mediation and arbitration. He discussed the pros and cons of those methods in comparison to courtroom litigation. According to him, forensic accountants are increasingly becoming an integral part of the ADR process and can serve in a variety of roles. In addition to the more common role as consultant or witness expert, an accountant who is qualified can also serve as neutral arbitrator, a member of an arbitration panel, a negotiator or special mediator. The guest, himself, became an arbitrator after testifying as an expert witness in arbitration and being invited to another case to join a panel of arbitrators. He shared examples of arbitrations he took part in and answered questions that arose during the presentation.
Now that the role of forensic accounting is increasing rapidly and more arbitration accountants are specializing in forensics, perhaps it would be wise for students to consider pursuing this career path. Not only would it be highly satisfying to provide aid to other, this career path also has an incentive of high pay, as mentioned by Mr. Neier.
ZFAA is honored to have the opportunity to have Dennis Neier come to Baruch College and enlighten students on the forensic accountant’s increasing role in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
By Justyna Maj, edited by Serena Law
This past Thursday, February 23rd, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association hosted a successful event with guest speaker Michael Schulstad, a recurring guest of ZFAA and Baruch College. Michael shared his diverse professional story–one that started in public accounting, led to 25 years as a special agent with the FBI and allowed him to work for the US Embassy in Kabul as the Special Inspector General for Afghani Reconstruction (SIGAR). In recent years, Michael has continued his work in Forensic Accounting at WeiserMazars & MFR Consultants. For 90 minutes, Michael shed light on his experiences to help those in attendance see if similar careers would speak to their passions too.
Thursday’s meeting proved popular with all of the seats occupied by students eager to hear Michael’s experiences in forensic accounting. The event’s strong attendance speaks to the rising interest in the field among students. A few minutes listening to Michael and it is evident that he has a deep reverence and passion for the field of forensics. Michael discussed how he left the public accounting field to fulfill his lifelong dream of working as an FBI Agent. Michael shared some valuable knowledge such as how certain specializations in fields like Law, Language, Computer Sciences, and Accounting can help candidates stand out in a very difficult and competitive application process.
Michael shared his stories of working for the FBI in locations such as Las Vegas, New York, Texas, Washington D.C., Indianapolis, and Newark. His many years in the FBI led him to face an array of challenging cases. However, Michael expressed it was the challenging and investigative nature of forensic accounting that led him to further pursue it in his career. He also discussed how his admiration, skepticism, and investigative nature led him to investigative auditing. Some of the cases he had a hand in solving included:
- Uncovering scams that took advantage of bankruptcy law
- Cracking down on organized crime in Las Vegas casinos
- Exposing a bank officer who kept two separate books in order to use client funds for his
- Cracking down on a fictitious loan scam initiated by a drug deal and a cooperating bank
officer that used photos of nonexistent airplanes as collateral
After working for the FBI, he worked in private consulting firms directing fraud investigations, data analysis, internal employee fraud, and insurance claims. Michael concluded his discussion by urging the students to look within themselves and evaluate whether they had a similar drive for reinforcing business regulations and crime prevention through forensic accounting careers. He also left contact information for students who sought guidance on how to pursue similar careers.
ZFAA is honored to have Michael come down to Baruch College once again to help inform students and help them create a mental picture if a career in forensic accounting is one for them.
By Anthony Policastro, Edited by Serena Law
In the midst of a snowy winter’s day–January 31st 2017, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association held its semi-annual General Interest Meeting for the Spring 2017 semester. The intimate gathering brought hopeful students who were eager to learn more about ZFAA and the forensic accounting field.
The meeting commenced with a game that allowed all the attendees–newcomers and seasoned members of the association, better familiarize themselves and learn fun and interesting facts about one another. The room was filled with a diverse set of people, each with their own unique skillsets and backgrounds. Some individuals had the experience and privilege of riding elephants and visiting different continents. Others had the ability to speak multiple languages, play instruments, and trapeze! The blue yarn that passed through every individual’s hands demonstrates the influence of communication and the connection and meaningful experiences ZFAA hoped to provide every member.
The ice breaker was followed by a presentation that revealed to new students the typical day of a forensic accountant; the opportunities in investigative auditing, as well as the open positions in ZFAA–which to be filled in the upcoming election. Those who attended were then able to mingle with the board members and have their additional questions answered.
The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association looks forward to the upcoming semester and the events and opportunities it can provide the Baruch community!
Justyna Maj, edited by Serena Law
It was a night filled with fun, food, and networking–a night to be remembered. On December 2nd, the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association (ZFAA) and several graduate organizations hosted the 2nd Annual Alumni Night. It was a success thanks to the collaboration and team efforts put in by the Zicklin Graduate Tax Society, Zicklin Women in Business, Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society, Graduate Student Assembly, and Graduate Beta Alpha Psi. The event was a bustling affair where new connections formed and old companions were brought together in one venue.
The event started with introductions by Michelle Peng, the president of ZFAA; Sarah Goldman, from Zicklin Women in Business and Ron Jones and Hannah Yoo from Zicklin Graduate Accounting Society. Each of them showed their appreciation toward the students and professionals who chose to spend their Friday evening attending the intricately-planned event. They were impressed with the attendee turnout and hoped that this tradition of older and younger Bearcats meeting in a fun environment would continue and flourish. Michelle noted that one of the factors that drove her to make this semi-annual alumni event a bigger success than last semester’s was her desire to make networking easier, more fun, and even more meaningful between students and professionals. She believes that networking shouldn’t be stressful, but instead, should come easily. She fondly recalled the lasting connections she made from last year’s event, where some alumni continued to spend time with students even after the affair’s conclusion.
The welcome speeches made by the club executives were then followed by brief self-introductions made by the professionals. Each individual presented unique facts about themselves, and it was easy to see how their diverse experiences and backgrounds add to Baruch’s rich culture and reputation. Some individuals went to universities in their home countries, as others noted the sharp difference between their undergraduate and graduate degrees. The ice breaker–which was black-out bingo based on individual backgrounds, hobbies, and likes and dislikes, allowed individuals to easily introduce themselves and find common conversation topics. Some people never watched Game of Thrones; others traveled to more than ten countries. One individual graduated with a focus on dance and moved to business for their post-graduate degree.
The companies Baruch graduates came from varied, from organizations like the Big Four (Deloitte, KPMG, EY, and PwC) to companies that specialized in research, analytics, and marketing. Some of the professionals who attended invited other former Baruch students, and their addition made the night an even more festive occasion. Around the room, students asked alumni questions–ranging from inquiries about company expectations and requirements to advice about school, life, and career.
The 2nd Alumni Night was a memorable and enjoyable occasion. The food was great; steamed chicken, lasagna, and baked potatoes were part of the dinner offerings. Professionals acted as upperclassmen to current students, and a sense of camaraderie could be felt around the room. The event provided a familiar setting where individuals networking can truly enjoy themselves; it was a place where students and past students could share the experiences they’ve accrued as Bearcats. The event would not have been as successful if it were not for the alumni who took time from their busy schedules to give back to the Baruch community. The Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association thanks the individuals who had the time to attend the event and looks forward to future meetings with those were unable to make it.
By Serena Law
“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” On November 29th, 2016 the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association hosted an event with a very special guest speaker, Cono Fusco, a professional with nearly fifty years of experience in the accounting field. He spoke about the importance of networking and career management and shared his personal philosophy with the large group of students that attended.
Cono launched his career as an auditor in Grant Thornton (GT), a company that appeared to be his best fit and had shown a promising rise of future opportunities. He became a partner after only six years and spent another few decades developing his expertise and sharing his wisdom by mentoring. Those who had a privilege of being Cono’s mentee include his former GT colleagues: Baruch’s own Professor Thomas Ray and Stefanie Smith–the latter who attended the event. By preparing himself before retirement, Cono was able to meet his long-time goal of becoming a director and now sits on the board of an insurance company.
Throughout his long and successful career, Cono acquired not only professional knowledge, but also interpersonal skills, which are crucial in effective networking. During the presentation, he was happy to share advice and anecdotes with students and provided useful tips on presenting oneself to the right audience in a professional manner. He also urged attendees to start networking early and to build meaningful and lasting relationships. Our special guest speaker couldn’t stress enough the importance of being prepared and knowledgeable about the company and its issues. He emphasized how critical it was to develop communication skills, practice conversations and plan meetings in order to gain confidence. At the same time, he also warned listeners to stay modest and be willing to take on the position of “a fast listener and a slow talker”. He compared networking to a marathon, which takes time and commitment, as opposed to a sprint. This is especially important in relationships with mentors, which might be difficult to maintain but could turn into lifelong friendships.
Networking requires the continuous improvement of oneself. Building knowledge by reading articles is one way to do so. Cono shared a few articles with students (attached below)–some of which more humorous than others. All the articles provide helpful and applicable networking basics that come from his archive. Cono also relayed memorable quotes he recorded in his personal journal. At the conclusion of this informative event, students asked their questions and were reminded to always “network, not net-sit” with the guests and individuals around them.
By Justyna Maj, edited by Maisie Gao and Serena Law
On November 15th, 2016 Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association held an event that deviated from the accounting field, therefore attracting students also from other business fields, such as finance. Ajay Bhatt, the guest speaker from Credit Suisse gave a very informative presentation on Stress Testing and on his experience of implementing Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR).
CCAR is Federal Reserve regulation which targets large banks and requires performance of periodical Stress Testing in order to measure how much money a financial institution could lose in extreme or stressed market environments. To meet all the requirements of CCAR regulations, however, financial institutions lean heavily on their internal audit departments.
Ajay, who is an expert of CCAR, walked the attendees through the steps of Stress Testing process, including coming up with the scenarios, narrative and variables to test; and building a model and submitting it for review and approval to Federal Reserve. The process which could take from weeks to months is hard to execute and requires a lot of professional judgment and knowledge of fields such as economics, math, and finance. Ajay, who holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, stumbled into the field of risk by working on a project that intrigued him enough to change his career path to one in which he could utilize his love for solving problems.
By having an aptitude and willingness to learn in addition to working hard, Ajay found the job that he loves and he claims that containing these valuable qualities will help students in reaching their goals as well.
By Justyna Maj, edited by Maisie Gao
When it comes to Forensic Accounting 101, there aren’t many people more qualified to speak about the subject than Marc Benson. On November 10th, 2016 the Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association invited Marc as guest speaker to present the differences between audit and forensic work; share anecdotes from his career, and give valuable advice to students who attended the popular event.
Marc, who is a Baruch alumnus, started his career practicing audit at KPMG but changed his line of work after having the opportunity to work on one of the firm’s forensic projects. With the analytical and investigative skills he honed from his positions as Director of Investigation for American Express and Deputy Inspector General for the NYC Department of Investigation (just to name a few), he now stands in his current consulting position as Director of Navigant Consulting’s Global Investigations & Compliance Practice.
During his presentation, Marc described the pros and cons of working in forensic accounting as opposed to auditing. Forensic Accounting is best described by its creative, thought-provoking, and autonomic work conditions. Some even consider the work fun! This field prompts individuals into “thinking as a thief”. As a result, having a long detailed plan is not always feasible. Every case is unique: obtaining clients are difficult and large amounts of travel are involved. To those who find this style of work appealing, Benson encourages them to build their skills set by solidifying their accounting foundation, developing analytical and IT skills, understanding internal controls, and above all, strengthening their communication skills to clearly and concisely explain any findings verbally and in writing. Because forensic teams comprise of individuals with various skills, people from different backgrounds are sought after. To set oneself apart and offer a variety of unique skills to future employers, Marc urges students to build their own pool of knowledge and be creative about their career paths. Marc also emphasized the importance of professional and personal networks in finding a job.
As a professional who’s had a long career in forensic accounting, Marc Benson has seen a large growth in the practice. Nowadays, many audit firms have a forensic accounting practice because the need to involve forensic procedures in auditing has increased; this is so that the firm can be protected from possible litigations. At the event’s conclusion, Marc gives one last advice for Baruch students: to find a job they enjoy as much as he enjoys his.
By Justyna Maj, edited by Maisie Gao
On October 25th, 2016, Zicklin Forensic Accounting Association was pleased to bring back a guest speaker, Michael Schulstad, whose presence always attracts a great number of students interested to hear about his fascinating career path. What makes Michael so intriguing is, among other things, his past employment with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an experience he is always happy to talk about.
Attendees learned about the guest’s early career in public accounting from which Michael shifted to a more exciting, but also more dangerous, job as an FBI investigator. 25 years with the agency exposed him to numerous criminal cases, including Las Vegas casino fraud, investment portfolio fraud conducted by a trusted bank officer, conviction of attorneys involved in insurance fraud and undercover operation that led to an arrest of over 100 individuals. Before leaving law enforcement entirely, he worked for a few years as an Inspector General in Afghanistan and Washington DC, which exposed him to extreme cases of corruption, money laundering, theft and bank fraud. Upon becoming a civilian again, he joined WeiserMazars LLP, a prominent international accounting, audit, tax, and advisory service firm. Since the start of this year, Mr. Schulstad began working for MFR Consultants Inc, At the new organization, he’s involved in forensics as well as other engagements which are challenging, but give him opportunities to learn and build new skills.
Throughout the presentation, Michael involved students in solving the cases and was eager to answer any questions. For those who were interested in pursuing a similar career path, he pointed out the differences between law enforcement and civilian careers and emphasized how getting along with people, being willing to talk to them and listening carefully to what they say are crucial in investigations. As an educated and experienced professional, he advised students to get their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licenses and encouraged them to become the Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) and Accredited Health Care Fraud Investigator (AHFI) certified in order to show their expertise in the field.
By Justyna Maj, edited by Maisie Gao