Kevin Shergold is one of the top UK-based names in the market, and a widely recognised expert in financial investigations concerning fraud and asset tracing.
Kevin leads the firm’s UK investigations practice. During 20 years as a specialist in financial investigations, Kevin has led inquiries across a broad range of industries into financial statement frauds, asset misappropriation, regulatory breach and acute value decline. Kevin’s expertise has been recognised through multiple appointments by governments for forensic audits where there is significant public interest. His work provides critical value to clients in relation to civil proceedings, criminal prosecutions, enforcement actions and remedial strategies.
What inspired you to develop your career in forensic accounting?
I investigated a procurement fraud that relied upon collusion between a supplier and employees working in a depot on an industrial park. Those involved benefited from the crime through second homes in Europe, and other luxuries. I drew parallels with the warehouse staff I had worked with during school holidays – except the reward for the honest and hard-working approach to their jobs was considerably more modest. The unfairness inspired me to pursue a career dedicated to uncovering frauds and reducing this inequity.
What did you find most challenging about becoming an investigations expert?
In the early part of your career you frequently find yourself in new environments: a strange industry with its own language; a foreign country with a different culture; or maybe even a novel problem. To investigate successfully, you need to be able to go “toe to toe” with perpetrators who have developed years of specialist skills, corporate history, and well-honed methods for concealing the truth. The first 48 hours on a new investigation seemed incredibly difficult.
It gets easier over time. You learn the benefits of being a “student of the game” to help you identify and mine relevant information. Soon you will be able to draw parallels from previous cases in terms of sector, jurisdiction and fraud typology that allow you to visualise the angles from day one. Rather than being a challenge, the game of understanding and uncovering financial irregularities is what motivates you on each case.
How do you effectively lead a high-profile, multi-jurisdiction investigation?
I believe it is about giving proper advice to the client, and early. Investigations are initiated and sponsored with the best intentions. The client requires information on which to base important decisions, often with significant consequences for those making them. Organisations have many competing agendas, however. The main skill required is to make sense of data points and items of information that have large knowledge gaps in between, and convey this message appropriately. Joining the dots dictates the client’s engagement and response. Getting this right will ensure conflicting stakeholders or competing commercial pressures do not interfere in a way that damages the course of the investigation.
How are you handling all steps of the investigations process in the covid-19 lockdown environment?
Remarkably well. Quite simply, it is possible to conduct investigations remotely: accessing accounting records through firewalls; obtaining copies of user-created data and records direct from client servers; and interviews recorded on videoconference calls, with a seamless ability to share documents on screen. There is always a risk that information provided will be filtered or even filleted, but that approach rarely holds up for long in the face of a well-planned investigation. When it comes to building trust with those involved in the broader investigation effort, there is something personal about videoconferencing from home that makes up for the lack of direct physical engagement and interaction.
Have regulatory authorities significantly adapted their approach to enforcement in the jurisdictions you operate within? If so, what affect will this have on your work as an investigations expert?
Initially the enforcement teams’ response appeared to be more protracted than normal, but their attention returned quickly and possibly with a renewed focus. To an extent, many organisations – regulatory authorities included – will have benefited from a chance to stop their world and work through other tasks and priorities during the time that the early days of lockdown afforded.
In your opinion, where does the future of the practice area lie?
I think we will see at least three trends continue. There will be sustained development in technology to better mine and juxtapose information sources; the new technology, and seasoned investigators, will move into compliance and assurance programmes so that investigations become more proactive rather than reacting once the proverbial wheels have come off; and there will be increased asset recovery of distressed debt or of monies stolen following grand corruption, as our practice continues to demonstrate recoveries in these circumstances.
What advice would you give to younger experts hoping to one day be in your position?
Do not be afraid to specialise in investigations early in your careers. There is a wonderful variety of cases and places to visit during the career of an investigator. To stand a better chance of being involved in the cases that matter, and to see how the world truly works, dedicate yourself to the art and science approach, and the mentality of corporate investigations.
What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Throughout my career I always wanted to be part of the best investigation team. At Grant Thornton, with the combined skill of the forensic investigation services team and the insolvency and asset recovery department, we have created an exceptional practice. I would now like to see just how impactful this group of talented people can be in the global market: supporting our client’s position during challenging times; enhancing trust in markets; and being instrumental in redistributing the wealth accumulated by financial impropriety back to where it belongs.
"Kevin has impressive analytical skills and is a fantastic team worker"
"He shows thoroughness and an ability to build the complete picture"
“He is clearly thrilled rather than daunted by challenging mandates”
Kevin Shergold is head of investigations at Grant Thornton UK LLP. He is a specialist in financial investigations, having worked across industries with a particular focus on complex fraud investigations in the financial services sector, international asset tracing and multi-jurisdiction corruption investigations.
Kevin has undertaken forensic audits and investigations in over 25 countries on the ground, working for corporates, senior government ministries, regulators, and their advisers to unravel and understand matters of conduct, fraud, corruption and bribery, money laundering, regulatory breaches, financial misstatements, asset-tracing and acute investment or business decline.
Kevin regularly oversees the deployment of forensic technology on his appointments, combining analysis of user activity, coordinated data and document capture in an evidentially robust manner with the management of large quantities of user email, instant messaging, and other electronic documents. He is adept at pooling and juxtaposing evidence from these sources with information gained from witness interviews, third-party records, books and records and structured data from accounting and transactional systems to unravel and explain financial irregularities.
Kevin qualified as a chartered accountant with a “Big Four” firm in their audit practice, before specialising in forensic accountancy and investigations from 2000. From 2009 Kevin spent several years with global risk consultancies and joined Grant Thornton as a partner in 2015.
Kevin leads a high performing investigation team which is forensic accountancy led, with forensic data analytics, corporate intelligence, and digital forensic specialists. The team are regularly deployed on sensitive and high-profile matters. Findings from his work have been used consistently to assist successful civil proceedings, criminal prosecutions, regulatory enforcement actions and remedial strategies.