Sherene Teo, CFE, began her career in anti-fraud as an auditor in China and after encouragement she applied to become an in-house investigator which helped her gain experience to join her new team at Microsoft.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I have worked in China and have witnessed first-hand highly creative fraud practices as an auditor. I was intrigued with the way things were done and it helped build my skepticism and experience as a professional. Born in Malaysia and seeing how Malaysians were affected by the 1MDB saga, it made me realize the importance of the work I do and the impact it has on the community. Fraud benefits no one, especially in the public sector, and those who suffer are innocent victims. Whether directly or indirectly, I feel that what I do every day contributes to the community in a meaningful way.
How did you get to your current role?
In-house investigators were not very popular ten years ago in Asia. The situation is vastly different today, and in-house investigators are in greater demand. There is even a lack of investigators in the Asia region and MNCs are struggling to fill these roles. When I first started my role as an investigator, I was fortunate to be working for Cisco Systems, a technology organization that encourages job rotation. Human Resources approached me and encouraged me to apply for an internal investigations’ role. I went ahead with the application and was successful, and consequently I have not looked back. Being in that role for almost eight years and in that organization for eleven years, I decided to challenge myself and ventured out of my comfort zone to try something different. Currently, I work for Microsoft, another great technology organization doing what I enjoy. As a company that encourages growth mindset and innovation, I recently even had an opportunity to join a Hackathon!
What are challenges you face in your role?
Working in a technology organization with various business units and sales processes translates to a steep learning curve. Each case I have taken on has been unique in its own way and this has helped to broaden and expand my experience – plus it helps a lot when the work is exciting and fun!
What is an important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Fraud professionals come from various backgrounds, i.e., consulting, finance, public services, armed forces, law enforcement etc. Hence, we can learn from anyone with varying degrees of experience and knowledge. One of the most important skills to have as an investigator is also observation and listening skills, and to respect your interviewees by providing them with the opportunity to explain themselves. Possessing an open mind and sticking to the facts is also another important thing to bear in mind. Investigators should also be aware of unconscious bias and take steps to prevent that. On top of being fraud fighters on your work desk, it is important to build on people skills and have empathy when dealing with senior management and employees. I try to understand the motive behind any actions and put myself in that employee’s shoes. This has led me to uncover some of the biggest frauds in the company I’ve worked for. Lastly, Asia is a diverse mix of cultures and understanding the different cultures when conducting investigations is important for an effective investigation.
What is important to you about being a CFE?
Before deciding whether to take up the CFE certification, I looked up the qualifications required for fraud-related job openings on LinkedIn. All the job openings for fraud-related vacancies require the CFE certification. This convinced me to start the CFE certification process and since then, it has added immense value and credibility to my personal career. At an Asia event, I even had the chance to meet Tom Wright, author of the Billion Dollar Whale. Since attaining the CFE certification, it has given me an edge in the anti-fraud profession and allows me to network with fellow ACFE members when attending conferences and training. The ACFE is a prestigious and important organization and being a part of it makes me very proud.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners