Posted: 30 / 03 / 2022

Oliver Hannam discusses how data and digital assets are shaping the future of forensic accountancy

“Big Data, Digital Assets, Internet of Things”

We hear about these terms on a daily basis and how they are impacting the majority of industries and people lives. Now, this is not going to be another article which will try and explain what these terms mean, but it will inform you of why it matters at Sedulo Forensic Accountants and why technology is at the heart of everything that we do, and how we use that technology to our advantage.

Throughout the last two years we have seen a large disparity in our work and the volume of information we have to analyse. Whether we are working on personal injury claims, large scale company investigations, POCA cases or criminal pre-trials, each of our jobs start at the same point.

What data do we have available to us?

We have to understand what information we have been provided. This leads us into the first area of conversation, BIG DATA! From our experience, it is impossible to predict the order of data we receive, sometimes it is structured and other times it is not. This is where we get help from ‘Clive: The Easy Indexer’

Clive is a helpful tool we have developed internally that lists all the documents from a bundle in a spreadsheet. We have programmed him to provide details of each document that wouldn’t be available from the offset – how many pages in the PDFs? How many rows in the spreadsheets? How much space is each document using? He lists everything nicely in a simple, digestible format. He helps us with our quotes, with our appendices, and with general navigation of our work. No more paper files and no more human error! This enables us to start every job at day one from the analysis stage. Thank you, Clive!

How has our analysis changed with technological developments?

We often receive jobs with exceptional amounts of data, and on occasion have had Excel spreadsheets with data spanning over 1 million rows. Though excel has the capability to show us the data, it is unable to cope with it effectively. Even something as simple as filtering the data crashed its system.

So, we need something better. Our team got to thinking, “how can we interact with the data more effectively?” Introducing ‘Gloria: The Powerful Analyser’. Gloria uses the power of Python to do simple excel tricks… better!

Python is a general-purpose programming language and can be used to work on small- and large-scale projects. Gloria uses this to her advantage, and our advantage, to understand a table of data (no matter the size!) and transform this into something usable. In what would have taken us hours – or even days – to do ourselves, with the correct instructions she can do it in minutes.

She doesn’t do the actual analysis for us, and she relies on our input, but when her job is done, we have something we can actually work with.

So why does technology matter?

Recent trends have seen a large proportion of companies and individuals, developing and investing into digital assets such as Cryptocurrencies and NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

At Sedulo Forensic Accountants, we already have the expertise of using technology to interact with digital information more effectively, but with these recent trends to utilise and rely on digital data for both personal and commercial reasons, we are investing into the development of our team to have a greater understanding of these digital assets and how they are used.

Thanks to our partners over at Gentium UK, we are continually furthering our knowledge as they provide us with significant training, support, and advice surrounding this field. We will have a plethora of experts that are able to give their opinion on any matrimonial cases or criminal proceedings that include digital assets as part of the quantum.

We also have plans to develop new members of our technological team:

  1. Waldo: The Efficient Searcher
  2. Flora: The Smart Categoriser
  3. Phillip: The Intuitive API (Application Programming Interface) Manager

We are looking forward to developing these apps further and making them available to the UK’s legal teams.