I'm a CFE

Arpinder Singh, CFE

Arpinder Singh, CFE, got his start investigating fraud when he discovered the field of forensic accountancy just as India’s economy took off following sweeping reforms in the early 1990s. Forensics proved to be an excellent career choice as corporate India increasingly focused on governance issues, including fraud detection and prevention. The diversity of cases intrigued Singh. His passion for helping companies build durable anti-fraud programs grew from there. Singh now heads EY’s India and emerging markets, forensic & integrity services practice, where each day brings different challenges that allow him to grow as a professional.

I was born in New Delhi, India, and lived there during my formative years. After that, I studied at the prestigious Lawrence School, Sanawer, and eventually moved back to New Delhi to pursue a bachelor’s in economics from Shri Ram College of Commerce. Like any kid growing up in India, my love for the game of cricket transcended into a hobby as well. Apart from cricket, I also enjoyed playing football, squash and tennis.

As a partner with EY Forensic & Integrity Services, I spearhead many client engagements and projects on preventing, detecting and mitigating fraud; bribery and corruption risks; misconduct and non-compliance; and maintaining regulatory compliance. Cyber and digital risks have risen exponentially in recent times, so I also oversee several mandates relating to cybercrime or ransomware. In addition, I counsel companies on commercial disputes and arbitration matters, often acting as an expert witness in court proceedings.

As part of my job, I lead several teams engaged in investigating fraud. While many of these are reactive cases, there is a growing trend of companies proactively conducting fraud risk assessment and management.

Investigations vary depending on the sector. For example, investigations in the financial services sector may relate to non-performing assets and possible diversion of funds, which lead to insolvency. Loans may be granted to customers who may not have a credible track record of repayment, or loans are disbursed without any collateral and the funds may get misused. In the manufacturing sector, investigations can involve instances of bid rigging, fake quotations, collusion or price fixing, and warranty claim frauds etc.

When we find evidence of fraud, we start by understanding the “how, why, what and when” of a case — as the true essence of any case lies in the right kind of questions. We also focus on decoding the human element in the fraud to unmask the “truth” based on the case facts. We usually start by analyzing enormous amounts of data, document reviews and email analysis, and uncovering dubious patterns and trends in data, and most importantly, collecting and storing all information in a fact-based and evidence-backed report to maintain evidential integrity.

Academically, I have equipped myself with knowledge about subjects such as accounting, finance, law and business that provided helpful insights into financial accounting and investigations. My chartered accountancy certification and CFE credential have honed my investigative skills and strengthened my foundation in forensic accountancy. I wanted to get the CFE credential from the ACFE — a premier organization. It’s provided me with robust training and education, helped me obtain a thorough knowledge of this field and upgraded my skill sets.

My personal motto is “each day you will learn something new.” And I live by the motto — “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn.”

Additionally, earning an MBA from Syracuse University in New York gave me a holistic understanding of international business environments, and completing my LLB — bachelor’s of law degree — from Mumbai University helped fine-tune the intricate nuances on the legal front. I am also an ISO 37001 certified lead auditor, and I assist clients to institute and manage compliance programs with a focus on anti-bribery management systems.

One lesson I have learned is to never give up. There are times when we hit a roadblock — the money trail goes missing, or there are no leads on the perpetrator. But this is often momentary. It’s at these times that anti-fraud professionals must go back to the drawing board, adopt fresh thinking and get into the heart of the case. Perseverance is key to results.

Learning is a continuous journey. When I started my career, forensic investigation was at a nascent stage in India. The use of technology in cases was minimal, but this has changed dramatically with time. Today, we have seen how technology can help solve even the most complex investigations. New and smarter technologies, rapid innovation, global reforms and deeper collaboration with various stakeholders are transforming the rules of the game.

My advice for those starting out is to be passionate about work and keep learning. In this field, you will come across new and interesting cases every day. Seek mentorship and engage with the wider community. It’s important to stay updated and learn emerging trends. Think creatively, cultivate an analytical mindset, and develop a healthy curiosity to question and reassess things. This will help differentiate you and your work.

My personal motto is “each day you will learn something new.” And I live by the motto — “Learn, Unlearn and Relearn.” This has always helped me stay focused and navigate any challenges that I come across — personally or professionally.

One of my greatest achievements is building EY’s forensics practice to the powerhouse it is today. We started off as a small 30-member team in 2010, and now we have grown to over 1,000 professionals in India.

I enjoy squash and tennis and try to spend time over the weekend to play these with my family and friends. At EY, we have annual sporting tournaments, which give everyone an opportunity to have fun and interact beyond work. It’s always a delight to lead a team of young go-getters who play with passion and demonstrate a sportsman spirit.

Paul Kilby is editor-in-chief of Fraud Magazine. Contact him at pkilby@ACFE.com.