I'm a CFE

M. Brian Reid, CFE

CEO, Brison LLC

M. Brian Reid, CFE, says that in a parallel universe he might’ve been a nuclear physicist. But the CEO of Brison LLC applies the same passion he has for exploring the mysteries of the universe to examining the complexities of fraudsters and their schemes against his business clients.

I was born and raised in the West Indies on the island of Trinidad and Tobago. Currently, I live just outside of Richmond, Virginia.

Growing up, I was fascinated by science, especially physics. I spent hours designing experiments with things people discarded. My father, a self-taught engineer who worked for the major telephone company in Trinidad, always had old batteries, circuits and electronic components that he replaced at the telephone exchange. As soon as he came home from work, I’d go to his company van and find all the parts I needed for my experiments. I even turned a small storage room into a lab where I could pursue my passion without restriction. I also destroyed countless tester kits, but it was all in the spirit of intellectual curiosity.

I always wanted to be a nuclear physicist. In a parallel universe, I might be heading up the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), studying colliding particles and searching for dark matter and its possible uses.

While at West Point (the U.S. military academy), I studied engineering but altered my focus to understanding the most complex circuitry ever created —  the human mind, and I switched my major to engineering management. This interest in management, team dynamics and problem-solving led me to pursue three master’s degrees and numerous certifications in the field.

In my current position, I’m the CEO of Brison LLC, a risk, crisis management and security consulting firm in Virginia. I’ve worked with many different firms in many different industries. I’ve worked on forensic investigations and have helped detect fraud within different enterprises. I usually incorporate my cybersecurity and physical security expertise to identify the blind spots in an investigation.

I work for medium to large organizations with fraud-related issues, so my investigative procedures depend on laws and regulations in the companies’ jurisdictions, the geographies where the companies are located, and the companies’ policies and procedures. Depending on the nature of the discovery, I might meet with the client’s crisis management team to discuss the legal and reputational impact of the case.

In one of my first corporate roles, I was thrust into a network fraud manager role while working in my main position. Network fraud managers minimize fraudulent access to telecommunications networks. The role involved investigating and resolving claims and managing the fraud detection system software tool. In the position, I was blown away by how complex a fraud ring could be. I wanted to learn more about what motivated people to commit fraud and figure out how to stay one step ahead of them.

The most important lessons I’ve learned in this field also translate to life, such as always pay attention to the details (sometimes the answer is staring you in the face), be patient with an investigation and get it right the first time. And to be very successful, you must live inside your adversary’s mind.

I first heard about the ACFE while researching personal development courses that could help me in the network fraud position. This role intersected both the human and technological elements of fraud. I found the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential and realized it was well respected and comprehensive in the study of fraud. I then pursued the intense studies required to pass the CFE Exam.

I was blown away by how complex a fraud ring could be. I wanted to learn more about what motivated people to commit fraud and figure out how to stay one step ahead of them.

The CFE credential has been extremely beneficial to my career. Not only is it the gold standard for fraud detection and prevention, but the journey to obtain the credential is immensely valuable. The sheer volume of useful information in the Fraud Examiners Manual and other sources helped me connect my work with the theories and frameworks that fraud examiners use. As a leader for a boutique consulting firm, I find the CFE credential invaluable for conversations with potential clients. Having the CFE says, “I’m tested and proven in the field, and I have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities.” These are all things clients are looking for.

To someone starting out in the field, here’s my advice: Seek and connect with someone willing to be your mentor, pursue continuous improvement and always look at each case with an open mind devoid of emotion.

My personal motto is “Always pursue excellence.” As an aspiring Stoic, I’m aware that life throws whatever it wants at you, but it’s how you respond that counts. A response that incorporates excellence fulfills your life purpose.

At this junction in life, I believe that my greatest achievement is raising two wonderful kids with my wife. When I hear others speak of how impressed they are with my kids’ commitment to humankind and willingness to stand up for the right thing, I’m a proud dad. When my son told me that he wanted to take a year off from his studies at Harvard to help Afghan refugees, I thought that I helped mold a human being much better than myself. I’m not sure if I had that level of focus at that age.

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and different climates. I’m a mountain bike enthusiast, and while not all my experiences have been enjoyable, they were all worth the effort. Falling off my bike on a steep trail was one of those times, but as in life, I had to get back up, assess the damage and move forward. And, I still have a passion for fixing and improving electronics. That young scientist has never grown up.

Jennifer Liebman is assistant editor of Fraud Magazine. Contact her at JLiebman@ACFE.com.