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Readying the hybrid model

32nd Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference

The ACFE team pulled off yet another success story in June when it held the 32nd Annual Global Fraud Conference, the second in a virtual format and the first to see the attendee count top 5,000.

“Removing the barriers of travel and holding the event virtually the last two years has allowed a new audience to attend the conference for the first time,” says John Loftis, the ACFE’s events manager.

Attendees, as they did last year, could access different online platforms to listen to and watch subject matter experts and high-profile keynote speakers, provide feedback, ask questions and chat among themselves about anti-fraud topics.

Forever seeking ways to improve the event, the conference team added new features this year, including closed captioning, a sponsor showcase and “Brain Breaks” to provide some light entertainment between sessions.

“Chef Brad’s Demonstration Table,” “Mindful Meditation with Trish Tutton,” “Happy Hours with Elevate Bartending [of Austin]” and “Yoga with Carrie Fulton” were some of the most popular Brain Breaks, averaging 400 to 500 attendees each. But the one that drew the highest number — close to 1,000 — was country and blues artist Lee Roy Parnell who remastered the conference’s first theme song, “White-Collar Crime,” which the ACFE’s founder and Chairman Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, originally performed in the 1970s. (For more details see “Behind the Music: ‘White-Collar Crime’ Song Lyrics,” by Mandy Moody, CFE, Fraud Conference News.)

“Coming out of last year’s virtual conference, it was important to us as an organization that holds service and quality to a high standard that we find ways to improve our virtual conference and set ourselves apart from other organizations holding virtual conferences,” said ACFE Director of Events Leslie Simpson, CFE.

That sort of interactivity proved to be a hit among the 5,084 attendees this year — a record number for the event — and the ACFE is expected to adapt a hybrid model for next year’s conference, which is scheduled to be in Nashville, Tennessee, June 19-24.

“We can’t wait to bring the conference back next year when we will be in person in Nashville, one of our favorite locations to host this conference,” said Simpson. “But have no fear, we will also host the conference virtually too.”

This year’s conference, emceed by NBC News anchor Kate Snow, was held after what has been an exhausting year or so for fraud examiners who’ve had to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new work-at-home trend and the record amounts of government-aid money has opened up new ways for scammers and cybercriminals to steal and defraud taxpayers and people struggling to survive the health crisis.

“I remember the uncertainty we all felt when we gathered for last year’s virtual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. We had questions then about how the pandemic would affect us — our professional responsibilities, our personal ones, our companies and our fraud programs,” said ACFE President and CEO Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA, to attendees.

“But we came together and we learned together. Over the last year, you have shared your observations and learnings, enabling us to compile this information into benchmarking reports, training programs and educational materials for our profession."

Participants from over 60 countries were able to attend 93 online sessions on topics that addressed many of those changes and lessons, ranging from how to protect your organization from cyberattacks to developing a culture of compliance and much more.

“The ACFE always puts on a world-class and first-rate conference full of appropriate speakers and relevant breakout sessions,” said one attendee.

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