Will Davies leads Grant Thornton UK’s forensic practice. He also co-leads Grant Thornton International’s global forensic practice. He specialises in complex international financial services investigations and disputes (especially arising out of the credit crunch) and corporate investigations for stakeholders and regulators. He has given evidence in court or at arbitration on over 30 occasions. WWL: Investigations (2019) says “Will Davies possesses a stellar reputation in the field, garnering widespread support from his peers for his deep understanding of investigations in the financial services sector.”
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN FORENSIC ACCOUNTING?
I originally trained in audit, which was quite typical at the time. Luckily, I managed to uncover a number of frauds and my firm at that time, for which I remain deeply grateful, suggested that I move into a newly developing department called “litigation support”. The term “forensic accounting” had not entered the common vernacular at that time. I love the nature of the work and I have not looked back since.
HOW HAS THE MARKET CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED PRACTISING?
Forensic accounting has needed to keep pace with, among other things, the effects of globalisation, technological advancement, increased regulation (especially following the credit crunch) and the recent explosion in data volumes. The market has therefore, over the past 25 years, deepened and broadened beyond recognition.
The two key tenets – the ability to see the big picture, while at the same time possessing close attention to detail – remain as crucial as ever.
Due to its variety, complexity and problem-solving nature, it continues to attract some of the finest talent joining the job market today. However, these days, it doesn’t only attract accountants. It now also comprises data scientists, cyberscientists, intelligence gatherers, computer programmers and economists.
WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT ENTERING THE FORENSIC ACCOUNTING MARKET?
The whole market was new and vibrant. There was no blueprint to follow, and it required much on-the-job learning, and learning to get comfortable with ambiguity. To a degree, not much has really changed between then and now!
WHAT POSSIBILITIES DOES AI HOLD FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF FORENSIC ACCOUNTING IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Forensic accounting has always been at the vanguard of technological advancement. The explosion of data over the past 10 years has seen the need for technology to collect, hold and analyse data.
AI is having a profound impact on the way the courts assess disclosure. I was involved in Pyrrho and Others v MWB Property Investments Limited and Others (2016), which introduced predictive coding. Software quality is growing exponentially, and it therefore requires increasingly skilled operators to harness its power.
We are also now seeing a huge demand for data analysts to support forensic investigations in order to clean data, to structure data, and to then identify trends for the purpose of fraud identification or forecasting.
DEMAND FOR FORENSIC ACCOUNTANTS IS ON THE RISE IN MANY JURISDICTIONS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DRIVING THIS INCREASE IN DEMAND?
There are many factors at play here.
First, courts, corporates and regulators are increasingly recognising the value of forensic accountants and the techniques and tools they possess. Second, global trade is growing and becoming increasingly complex. Third, new economic trade centres and trade routes are becoming increasingly available. Fourth, fraudsters and cybercriminals are becoming increasingly borderless, and forensic accounting needs to follow suit. And finally, it is important not to ignore the explosion of smart contracts – which, again, are increasingly jurisdiction-agnostic.
HOW DO DISCUSSIONS AROUND CYBERSECURITY AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE AND THE ADVICE YOU GIVE TO CLIENTS?
This is a hotspot, and we are investing heavily in cybersecurity and incident response teams. We are seeing an increasing (almost insatiable) demand for this type of work. The threat to businesses in this area is greater than ever and will not go away. While the cost of remediation is high, the damage to reputation of a large cyber-breach can be catastrophic.
AS MANAGING PARTNER OF THE FORENSIC AND INVESTIGATIONS PRACTICE, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES FOR THE TEAM’S DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?
We need to continue to grow and remain relevant for what the market needs. Cyberthreats are prevalent and will not go away, technology and AI can be used for nefarious as well as good purposes.
We need to keep investing in leading technology and great people. Collaboration and communication between teams and between countries will continue to grow ever more important.
YOU HAVE ENJOYED A VERY DISTINGUISHED CAREER SO FAR, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACHIEVE NEXT?
I have enjoyed my career, but it is worth remembering that you are only as good as your last case, so it is very important to maintain the highest of quality standards.
I would like to continue working on the largest and most challenging cases. Legacy is also very important to me, and I want to see the next level of leaders (who I think are truly sensational) flourish and take the business forward.
I have recently also been appointed as co-head of Grant Thornton International’s global forensic practice and I would like to see this continue to grow and specialise. As I have previously mentioned, collaboration and communication between teams, skillsets, countries and continents will become ever more important in the years to come.
Will Davies has “a huge amount of experience of giving evidence”; as sources note, “This is very valuable as he does not get fazed by intensive questioning.”
Will has led Grant Thornton's UK forensic and investigations practice since 2015. In 2018, he was appointed co-leader of the network’s global forensic and investigations practice. Will is an experienced forensic accountant with a proven track record in complex disputes, including international arbitration. Having undertaken forensic accounting assignments since 1993, he has vast experience in contentious matters, often in high-profile cases. Will has given written evidence on over 400 occasions and oral evidence in over 30 cases.
Will’s experience in dispute matters is extensive, covering valuations, commercial transactions, breach of contract, professional negligence, loss of profits, matrimonial and insurance claims. These claims typically follow insolvency, libel, financial product close-outs and other derivatives-related matters.
Will has been appointed as expert in proceedings in the United Kingdom and overseas jurisdictions, including the United States, Guernsey, the BVI, Malta, Gibraltar, Germany, Dubai and Bulgaria. While most of these matters have been settled, Will has also given evidence in the UK High Court and in various arbitration arenas (ICC and BCC (Bulgaria)).
He has advised clients and acted as expert in a wide range of industries, including in financial services (particularly insurance, banking and asset management), manufacturing, energy, construction, retail, media, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and professional services.
Will qualified as an accountant in the audit practice of a legacy PwC firm, before specialising in forensic accountancy in 1993. Will co-founded a boutique investigations and forensic practice in 1997, and joined Grant Thornton as a partner in 2002.
Will Davies possesses a stellar reputation in the field, garnering widespread support from peers for his deep understanding of investigations in the financial services sector.
Will is an experienced forensic accountant specialising in complex multi-jurisdictional financial investigations and commercial disputes. His work covers many of the world's offshore financial locations, the Middle East, Europe and North America. His sector experience covers financial services (especially banking and insurance), private equity, pharma, manufacturing and energy.
Will has acted in a number of large reported financial services investigations and civil disputes including: Calyon v IKB Deutsche Industriebank Aktiengesellschaft (2011); Financial Guaranty Insurance Company and FGIC UK Limited v IKB Deutsche Industriebank Aktiengesellschaft (2011); Investec Trust (Guernsey) Ltd and Other v Glenalla Properties Limited and Others (the Oscatello litigation) (2012); and Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc (2013). He is currently engaged in the substantial multibillion-dollar multiparty multi-jurisdiction asset-tracing case of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi and Brothers Company v Saad Investments Company Limited (in official liquidation) (2017) (Grand Court of the Cayman Islands).
Will is regularly retained by regulators (in Europe and the Caribbean), liquidators/receivers, corporates, lawyers and private equity funds in sensitive and typically very complex matters. He specialises in bringing together teams from different disciplines and locations to deliver timely, clear and objective evidence for his clients.
Will has also carried out numerous UK-based fraud and irregularity investigations (both civil and criminal) including POCA 2002 matters, search and seize operations, SFO investigations, black hole investigations and insider trading allegations.
Will also has extensive experience acting as an expert witness in courts and at arbitrations and has given evidence on over 30 separate occasions. He regularly speaks at international conferences on financial investigations and disputes.
Will is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, having qualified as a chartered accountant in 1992.