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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Colum Bancroft

Colum Bancroft

AlixPartnersLHT Tower, Office 1802, 18/FNo. 31 Queen's Road CentralHong KongHong Kong

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is “thorough, experienced and calm under pressure” according to clients who hold him in high regard. They note that “his wealth of experience is unparalleled”.

Questions & Answers

Colum applies three decades of financial, commercial, and forensic accounting experience in assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he then managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll’s financial investigations practice in Asia.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN FORENSIC ACCOUNTING?

I spent the first decade of my working life primarily in audit (although given the nature of the Hong Kong pre-handover economy, I also worked on a number of IPOs as well as financial investigations, between 1994 and 2000) followed by six years running two China-focused businesses. I was then looking to continue my career in a field which enabled me to put to good use my accounting and commercial background, and particularly the lessons I had learnt about doing business in China, with all of its fraud-related and other risk management pitfalls, and forensic accounting seemed an ideal fit. I have not regretted it.

HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED PRACTISING?

I worked on my first financial investigations during my audit days, and before forensic accounting even became the recognised description for this type of work. The establishment of forensic accounting as a specialised area within the accounting profession, responding to increasing client demand for support with regulatory compliance matters in particular, has resulted in the development of a pool (still fairly limited, but growing) of experienced and highly skilled practitioners in the Asia region, accompanied by an ever-expanding array of technology tools to support the work. This has been a natural evolution as regulatory requirements and enforcement, as well as the volume and complexity of business transactions, have all increased significantly, as have the methods by which fraud schemes are carried out and the steps often taken by companies and individuals to circumvent regulations.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE FOR A SUCCESSFUL FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?

A solid grounding in accounting, allied with a sound understanding of business, attention to detail and, above all, an inquisitive mindset. A good forensic accountant also needs to be comfortable with uncertainty, remain objective and open-minded, and be willing to change direction appropriately as new information becomes available as a case progresses. He or she must also have a good grasp of risk, and behavioural and other risk drivers, and be able to analyse and interpret vast quantities of data, triangulate information obtained from many sources to identify key issues or trends, and then succinctly and clearly summarise the findings and draw conclusions and make recommendations as appropriate. It is both art and science, and not everybody can do it.

HOW DOES ALIXPARTNERS DISTINGUISH ITSELF FROM THE COMPETITION IN THE MARKET?

Our business model differs from the typical “pyramid” staffing model of many other consulting firms. Our differentiation is that we offer clients small teams of experienced forensic (both accounting and technology) practitioners, typically with average relevant experience of more than 10 years, working alongside experts with deep knowledge of specific industry sectors. Having an experienced team who have all been there before and don’t need to spend extensive time (and client’s money) understanding the client’s business, and who know what they are doing, what they are looking for and where to look – allied with the smart use of technology, including many proprietary tools to accelerate and enhance the effectiveness of investigations - brings significant benefits and value-add. We are also known for our responsiveness and ability to react quickly and effectively to support clients in “when it really matters” situations.

WHAT TRENDS ARE YOU NOTICING IN THE PRACTICE AREA AT THE MOMENT?

In terms of client issues, the build-up of pressures in China – slower growth brought about through a combination of demographic changes, deleveraging, structural changes in the economy, combined with ongoing political tensions and uncertainties associated with the trade war – is leading to a resurgence in channel stuffing, round-tripping and other “traditional” types of revenue inflation schemes, as both managers and senior executives struggle to meet ambitious growth targets; in addition to an evolving risk landscape with exposure to both potential OFAC and FCPA violations bringing a necessity to constantly review and appropriately adjust compliance programs to respond to the changing risks.

Forensic accountants need to keep up-to-date with the evolving risks and threats – at both the macro, industry and company levels – and ensure their tool-kit for assisting clients with their prevention, detection and investigation requirements remains relevant and up-to-date.

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR PRACTICE DEVELOPING OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

Our Greater China team is constantly growing, responding to increased client demand for both preventive/proactive support to strengthen compliance programs and provide early identification of areas of potential concern, as well as respond effectively to identified issues, with sanctions risk adding an extra dimension to the compliance exposure of multinationals operating in China, as well as Chinese companies with international operations. We have a strong global data analytics practice, and have been strengthening our Asia capabilities in this critical area, and I see this continuing to be the case, with the development of advanced technology tools which address data convergence (structured and unstructured data) issues and make increasing use of AI and machine learning, being continuing trends.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE?

I have helped build a number of successful forensic accounting practices, and have worked on many large and complex investigations, some of which have been extremely high profile but most not, and always enjoy assisting clients to better understand their situation so they can make informed decisions on how to respond and move forward. However, I get the greatest satisfaction from being able to support, mentor and assist team members with their career development. We frequently have to work very long hours over sustained periods to quickly get to the crux of client issues, but maintaining teamwork, collaboration and personal respect (three of our firm’s core values) are essential to keeping a positive working environment and making us more effective both individually and as a team. Equally important is to ensure we all maintain balance in our lives, and plan and prioritise to ensure adequate time is spent with family, friends and other activities, and that the work we are doing is aligned with our passions, aptitude and interests. Helping others to get the balance right and take charge of their own career paths, is one of my key goals.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is a "highly regarded" expert recognised as a specialist on corruption, fraud and complex commercial disputes.

Biography

Colum applies three decades of financial, commercial and forensic accounting experience assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications such as fraud, corruption, data breach, money laundering and sanctions, and complex commercial disputes. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll's financial investigations practice in Asia.

Colum has led over 100 fraud investigations in China, as well as FCPA, OFAC and other regulatory investigations and compliance reviews across APAC, in addition to sizeable investigations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. His professional experience includes: audit, risk and compliance; IPO’s; due diligence reviews and business valuations with many engagements involving multi-jurisdictional and complicated organisational and/or operational issues, across a broad spectrum of industries; and he is frequently retained as an accounting expert in relation to Hong Kong and international court, regulatory and arbitration proceedings.

Asset Recovery Experts 2019

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is a key figure in the asset recovery space renowned for his leading expertise in combatting fraud and money laundering, and complex commercial disputes. 

Biography

Colum applies 3 decades of financial, commercial and forensic accounting experience assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications such as fraud, corruption, data breach, money laundering and sanctions, and complex commercial disputes. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll's financial investigations practice in Asia.

Colum has led over 100 fraud investigations in China, as well as FCPA, OFAC and other regulatory investigations and compliance reviews across APAC, in addition to sizeable investigations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. His professional experience includes: audit, risk and compliance; IPO’s; due diligence reviews and business valuations with many engagements involving multi-jurisdictional and complicated organisational and/or operational issues, across a broad spectrum of industries; and he is frequently retained as an accounting expert in relation to Hong Kong and international court, regulatory and arbitration proceedings.

WWL Ranking: Recommended

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is singled out for his outstanding practice which spans complex forensic accounting and cross-border asset tracing matters.

Biography

Colum applies three decades of financial, commercial and forensic accounting experience assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications such as fraud, corruption, data breach, money laundering and sanctions, and complex commercial disputes. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll's financial investigations practice in Asia.
Colum has led over 100 fraud investigations in China, as well as FCPA, OFAC and other regulatory investigations and compliance reviews across APAC, in addition to sizeable investigations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. His professional experience includes: audit, risk and compliance; IPO’s; due diligence reviews and business valuations with many engagements involving multi-jurisdictional and complicated organisational and/or operational issues, across a broad spectrum of industries; and he is frequently retained as an accounting expert in relation to Hong Kong and international court, regulatory and arbitration proceedings.
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is highly regarded for his outstanding forensic accounting practice. According to market sources, “His wealth of experience is unparalleled.”

Biography

Colum applies 3 decades of financial, commercial and forensic accounting experience assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications such as fraud, corruption, data breach, money laundering and sanctions, and complex commercial disputes. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll's financial investigations practice in Asia.
Colum has led over 100 fraud investigations in China, as well as FCPA, OFAC and other regulatory investigations and compliance reviews across APAC, in addition to sizeable investigations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. His professional experience includes: audit, risk and compliance; IPO’s; due diligence reviews and business valuations with many engagements involving multi-jurisdictional and complicated organisational and/or operational issues, across a broad spectrum of industries; and he is frequently retained as an accounting expert in relation to Hong Kong and international court, regulatory and arbitration proceedings.
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Colum Bancroft is “thorough, experienced and calm under pressure” according to clients who hold him in high regard. They note that “his wealth of experience is unparalleled”. We identify Bancroft as a Global Elite Thought Leader this year.

Biography

Colum applies 3 decades of financial, commercial and forensic accounting experience assisting clients to better protect against, respond to, and recover from challenging situations that have regulatory, reputational, or financial implications such as fraud, corruption, data breach, money laundering and sanctions, and complex commercial disputes. Based in Asia for 25 years and a former partner at a global accounting firm, he managed a group of China-focused companies before playing a key role in establishing and developing Kroll's financial investigations practice in Asia.

Colum has led over 100 fraud investigations in China, as well as FCPA, OFAC and other regulatory investigations and compliance reviews across APAC, in addition to sizeable investigations in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. His professional experience includes: audit, risk and compliance; IPO’s; due diligence reviews and business valuations with many engagements involving multi-jurisdictional and complicated organisational and/or operational issues, across a broad spectrum of industries; and he is frequently retained as an accounting expert in relation to Hong Kong and international court, regulatory and arbitration proceedings.

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