Only through failing did I ultimately succeed
John Bain is the managing director of John S. Bain Chartered Forensic Accountants, a boutique firm specializing in investigative reporting, fraud, asset recovery and bankruptcy proceedings. According to the International Association of Asset Recovery, Bain is among the first 40 candidates worldwide to be certified as a specialist in this area.
Guardian Business: What is the biggest challenge facing your business or sector? What measures need to be taken in The Bahamas to solve it?
John: I practice as a forensic accountant. The major challenge I face is that most people – even professionals – don’t know what a forensic accountant is. In a nutshell, we assist attorneys, individuals and companies involved in civil litigation matters that involve money. We may have to trace accounts to settle partnership disputes, land issues, insolvency or determine legitimacy of a creditor’s claim. The official definition of forensic accounting given by the Forensic Accounting Academy is: “The art and science of investigating people and money.”
The second challenge is the delays in the court system and judges being unaware of the value of our services. The recent appointment of former civil litigators to the Supreme Court has helped tremendously because we now have persons who not only understand what we do, but appreciate the value we add to ruling on civil matters. A further strengthening of the civil division of the bench would assist us.
GB: How has your business or sector changed since the financial crisis?
John: I am almost always involved in contentious issues. My services are only called upon in disputes, whether it is a divorce matter and I am appointed to verify the assets and income of one of the parties, or whether a company is in trouble and requires restructuring or the appointment of a receiver. In tough economic times, minimizing fraud becomes even more important. Disputing parties want to know the truth about previous financial transactions. Recently, we had inquiries on elder abuse (financially) where trustees and others appointed to fiduciary relationships with elderly persons have been systematically ripping them off by using their assets in ways that they were not contracted to do.
GB: Can you describe a life experience that changed how you approach your work today?
John: I am a qualified accountant and I have been fortunate enough to have multiple certifications. It was not always this way. I was always a good student, but the first time I took an accounting class at the College of The Bahamas, my Alma Matter, I got an “F” grade. This was shocking because this was the first time I ever failed a class. So I was determined to do it again and get an A. I repeated the class, studied hard, attended all lectures and when the term ended, I got a “D” grade. I had met my match. This changed how I approach my work today. That was the beginning of my track to master the subject of accounting.
This was a humbling experience. I had to start from scratch and get to know a topic inside and out in order to pursue one of the most difficult paths to becoming a Chartered Accountant. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations based in the UK is known to be one of the most difficult accounting examinations in the world and they consistently have the lowest pass rate, as low as 2 percent for first attempts and about 30 percent overall, including repeats. Passing the ACCA examinations gave me the confidence to take and pass other international certifications.
I use the same approach in passing those exams in my approach to my work. I put in long hours and I am thorough and detailed when constructing and writing my Forensic Reports.
GB: What are you currently reading?
John: I am reading “How Math Explains the World” by Professor James D. Stein. I am simultaneously reading “Forensic Analytics” by Professor Mark J. Nigrini. The second book goes deeply into Bedford’s Law, a mathematical system of interpreting numbers, especially when looking for fraud. It’s hardly bedtime reading for most but I love the absoluteness of math.
GB: Has the high cost of energy hurt your business? What solutions have you initiated or considered to combat it?
John: The high cost of energy has not only increased the cost of my business, but also the businesses of my clients who continually try to negotiate fee reductions. The solutions to this problem are not rocket science. We currently depend on fossil fuel for energy. We need an energy solution that is dependent on several alternatives, including solar, ocean, wind or any other alternative forms of energy available. We have been too slow to react and too comfortable doing things the way they have always been done.
GB: If you could change one thing concerning business in The Bahamas, what would it be?
John: We are not preparing our children for tomorrow’s world. I believe the study of computer science is just as important as mathematics and English and should be a mandatory part of every school curriculum, starting at the earliest grades. Although there are computers in classrooms or in most school labs now, they are not used effectively. Computer science is not a luxury; it is essential knowledge for the 21st century.
GB: What keeps you grounded? Do you have any major interests other than work?
John: My family keeps me grounded. Having young children means that I must do what I can to remain healthy for their sakes.
In addition to working full time and teaching part time, I am also a member of the board of directors of The Ranfurly Homes For Children. We have some real challenges there, so my extra time is dedicated to improving the home and the lives of our children there.
GB: What should young businesses keep in mind in this current economic climate to survive?
John: A lot of businesses are operated as petty shops where the owners do not separate their personal lives from that of their business. We should realize that the business is a separate entity. We should capture our costs and record them, as well as our income. There are low cost accounting systems that can be easily implemented. The devil is in the details when it comes to business.