Steve Holt is a senior managing director and leads the financial and forensic investigations team at K2 Intelligence in London, where he assists clients facing disputes, fraud, bribery and corruption, misconduct and mismanagement issues. He specialises in aiding clients facing urgent, complex, cross-border issues. Steve has been involved in a series of high-profile international assignments representing governments, public companies and private individuals, and assists in both the recovery and seizure of substantial funds.
DESCRIBE YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
I’m currently a senior managing director at K2 Intelligence, which I joined in 2014 and where I have developed the financial and forensic investigations practice, which focuses on assisting clients facing high-impact problems such as fraud; bribery and corruption; breach of contract; director misconduct; and asset tracing.
Before K2 Intelligence, I spent five years at AlixPartners, where I worked alongside some fantastically smart and dedicated accountants on high-profile international matters and had the opportunity to lead substantial elements of larger investigations and disputes projects.
I initially trained as an accountant in the forensic team at BDO, where I gained exposure to a wide range of interesting projects as part of a larger team.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WORKING AS A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?
I love the challenge of understanding new industries. Much of our work requires the ability to quickly get up to speed on how a business works so that we can identify how fraud might have occurred, for example, and then explain that industry and conduct in simple, straightforward language so that interested parties can make informed decisions based on our work.
It also means that I have met and worked with some fascinating people, from rogue billionaires to heads of governments via CEOs of large organisations and small business owners. You learn something new from each interaction and become a better consultant as a result.
WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT STARTING OUT IN THE FIELD?
I was very fortunate to start my career in an organisation that placed great emphasis on the support, training and development of junior staff, but there is no getting over the fact that studying for accounting exams while balancing a heavy workload can be difficult at times!
WHAT DO CLIENTS LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING A FORENSIC ACCOUNTANT?
Every client has different needs, concerns and pressures, and therefore looks for different qualities when selecting a forensic accountant.
Trust is a key determinant in the selection of a forensic accountant, and clients generally look for their forensic accountant to be personable and to have a strong track record in navigating similar issues while understanding that no two issues are the same.
I find it important to understand the boundaries of your expertise and be prepared to say no to new opportunities where you would not be able to deliver the quality of service required.
WHAT MAKES K2 INTELLIGENCE STAND OUT FROM ITS COMPETITORS IN THE MARKET?
We approach things differently from the norm. We have small, expert, multi-disciplinary teams that are focused on delivering results for our clients, rather than being driven by processes.
As a result, we draw upon both the diverse experience of senior professionals from within the forensic accounting field (such as ex-regulators and law enforcement professionals, former Big Four specialists and those from smaller boutique firms) and the broader investigative experience of investigative journalists, industry experts and investigators.
Our approach allows us to be creative in solving difficult problems, and means that we add context to technical findings that provide value and actionable information to inform strategic decision making.
PRACTITIONERS HAVE NOTED FURTHER DIVERSIFICATION IN THE MARKET. HOW IS THIS IMPACTING YOUR PRACTICE?
The forensic accounting marketplace is fairly well developed, at least in the UK, and clients are increasingly well-educated and sophisticated when making investment choices.
Recent changes have seen smaller, more agile, firms like K2 Intelligence develop inroads into the market by demonstrating value through a combination of market-leading expertise, standing behind their results without pages of caveats and limitations and truly being independent (ie, away from perceived or actual conflicts) when it matters.
There are really very few barriers to entry to the forensic accounting market, aside from the requirement to have a demonstrable track record, so it has resulted in a spread of expertise over a wide range of firms and increased competition. It is now more important than ever to know why you exist and how you help clients.
WHERE, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES THE FUTURE OF THE PRACTICE AREA LIE?
I think we, as an industry, are yet to find the right balance between technology and human intervention to solve complex forensic accounting problems.
In my view, technology won’t replace the need for human intervention, but where it is used in tandem and when appropriate for the need of the client, it is a game changer.
WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
I, like a number of former colleagues, will never forget seeing the words “... and my grandmother has a red handbag ...” written in red ink on the side of draft reports submitted for review by the late Martin Hall, who at the time was the lead of the forensic practice at AlixPartners.
Martin’s infamous note, and the accompanying Steve Martin quote, “Here’s a good idea: have a point”, always advised me to write with simple, cohesive statements that naturally flowed and had purpose.
Steve Holt ranks highly among peers thanks to his deep expertise in forensic investigations as well as his “high-quality work and really impressive client base”. One source notes: “He is an absolute pleasure to work with.”
Steve Holt is a partner in Grant Thornton’s forensic and investigations services practice, with a particular focus on aiding companies facing urgent, complex, cross-border issues including fraud, bribery and corruption, misconduct and asset recovery.
Steve has more than a decade of forensic accounting and investigations experience in high-profile and high-stakes cases. His work often involves the analysis and presentation of complex information from multiple sources in a clear format that may be used to support disclosure to regulators or as an expert report as part of legal proceedings.
He is involved in a number of high-profile international assignments representing governments, public companies, and private individuals, and assists in both the recovery and seizure of substantial funds.
Recently, Steve was appointed as expert investigator on behalf of a UK regulator to identify the effect of the actions of management following the collapse of a high-profile company, which resulted in the recovery of over £300 million.
He has also been appointed in several investigations connected with allegations of bribery involving Operation Car Wash in Brazil, uncovered a €620 million cross-border money laundering scheme involving the manipulation of several international banks by a cartel of rogue businessmen and led an investigation into concerns of misconduct at an international sports federation.
Steve is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, is a certified fraud examiner, and holds a first-class honours degree in statistics from the University of Bath.