An interview with Ismael Haber, ACCA Member and Auditor at KPMG
Forensic accounting and auditing services are emerging as critical components in today’s business environment. In the United States, this field is poised for significant growth over the next five years, driven by increasing regulatory demands and a heightened exigency for financial transparency and accountability. To gain deeper insights into this field, we sat down with Ismael Haber, founder of Fortify Assurance Services, LLC, a firm at the forefront of offering specialized forensic accounting and auditing services, as well as other financial services.
Ismael, you began your career in Malta working for KPMG, one of the largest auditing and advising firms in the world. Can you tell me about the experience you gained there?
I have had the privilege of auditing a diverse range of companies across several industries, even outside of Malta. This allowed me to polish my knowledge in accounting and auditing gained from my qualification, specializing in International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Standards on Auditing (ISA), among other things. I’ve also audited financials using the U.S. equivalent of these standards, namely the U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and Auditing Standards (US GAAP and US GAAS). Additionally, I was able to acquire skills that are necessary for carrying out services in the field, such as analytical skills and professional skepticism.
In the same timeframe, I obtained the globally recognized and respected ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification and membership. I believe this esteemed qualification and my experience at KPMG complement each other very well.
With increasing regulatory demands and a heightened need for financial transparency and trust in the U.S. financial markets, there’s a pressing demand for accountants and their services, which is also expected to continue growing. Given this, what are your views on how professionals in your field should tackle these emerging challenges?
Trust is hard-earned and easily lost in the financial markets. That’s why I believe that such challenges should be addressed with the five fundamental ethical principles in mind. These are Integrity, Objectivity, Professional competence and due care, Confidentiality, and Professional behavior. If one sincerely follows these principles, any challenge in the field can be overcome.
Your Company, Fortify Assurance Services, LLC aims to provide specialized services that prevent and detect fraud. Can you tell us more about the mission, goals and impact of your company? What sets you apart from others in your field?
Simply put, the Company’s main goal is to provide clients with comfort and peace of mind, through our services, regarding fraud that has occurred or how to prevent it from occurring. This is provided through our service lines; external financial audits, internal controls consulting, forensic accounting, and also client accounting services. Given the significant damage that fraud can cause, both to private entities and government entities alike, the benefit of such services is self-evident.
Having specialized service offerings provided to a specific market niche, being small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), nonprofit organizations, and individuals, already sets us apart. In addition to that, holding the highest levels of ethics and professionalism to gain clients’ trust will continue to differentiate the Company from others. This clientele is considered core to the middle class, demonstrating the Company’s significant potential impact, even on a national scale.
Moreover, I believe that being an accountant or auditor requires much more than technical knowledge and I trust that the unique blend of knowledge and skills I have, make me holistically effective in my role, further differentiating the Company from the competition.
Demand for your services is driven by regulatory factors, as we previously mentioned, and also the overall business cycle. How do these determinants affect your Company?
The service lines of the Company have been strategically chosen to benefit from several demand determinants. For example, mergers and acquisitions are more common in the expansion period of the business cycle while company valuations for bankruptcy purposes are increasingly demanded in contractionary periods. Services driven by regulatory factors will provide a steady flow of demand. Through such a service portfolio, the Company will be well-positioned in any market circumstance. Also, keeping updated with the latest industry and macroeconomic developments, although fairly challenging, is paramount to understanding where demand is headed.
Recent publications state that small and medium enterprises represent a large part of the economy and they are significant consumers of accounting services. How you are planning to reach the clients?
Through a clear value proposition. The Company’s services are specifically dedicated to a small niche of clients, SMEs being one of them. This narrow focus, in my opinion, puts the Company in a better position to fully comprehend their needs and be able to meet them. Also, from my industry understanding, smaller clients tend to value and prefer accessibility and less bureaucracy when it comes to their service providers. This is not the case with larger companies, which tend to prefer brand and global reach. Accessibility and less bureaucracy are benefits that Fortify Assurance Services may offer, with its dedication to serving clients and lean organizational structure.
How far along has Fortify Assurance Services come and what impact is it expected to bring?
We are still in the early stages of setting up operations, with the hopes of launching very soon. Every client presents unique challenges and the Company aims to address any challenge. I consider each engagement that is signed off to be of impact, as it is a very important building block of trust in the financial market.
Where do you see Fortify Assurance Services in the next few years?
Through this Company, I wish to provide the utmost benefit that I am able to, not just from a financial perspective. I aim to grow the Company’s employee headcount and, most importantly, keep them highly satisfied in their role, which is lacking nowadays. Another contribution I wish to make is to share and further develop my knowledge to keep providing top-quality services. Client satisfaction, and ultimately, business success will naturally follow. I believe being an accountant or auditor takes much more than technical knowledge. It is also crucial to know how to manage relationships and serve well.
All the photos in the article are provided by the company(s) mentioned in the article and are used with permission.
Murray McCormick is a finance writer with a special interest in small business success and growth. Murray writes about fraud and business transparency.