Level 3, Three Pacific Place, 1 Queen's Rd East, Hong Kong
Peers and clients say:
"Cosimo is a leading forensic accountant in Hong Kong who always gets results"
"He is a pleasure to work with and always provides clear and practical advice"
"He has deep experience working on large fraud cases and other highly complex situations"
Cos is the leader of the Asia and Caribbean restructuring practice of Kroll and a leading restructuring and forensic investigations practitioner having worked exclusively in this area since 1990 – being appointed by asset managers, lenders, financiers, shareholders, distressed companies, creditors, courts and other stakeholders. Cos’ strong investigation and forensic background plays a key role in forensic assignments and his commercial experience means he is well suited to establishing and implementing solutions to complex problems.
Describe your career to date.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Economics in 1988 and joined the audit practise of an Australian Big Four firm. While working there, I met a gentleman who ran the restructuring and forensic team and eventually became and remains my mentor – he was a rarity for the time with an international practice in Australia.
I moved to Hong Kong around 1997 which was a major milestone in developing an international and cross-jurisdictional practice. In 2006, Jacqueline Walsh and I established Borrelli Walsh, a leading specialist restructuring, insolvency and forensic accounting firm. Jason Kardachi joined us soon thereafter and many of our directors today were young starters with us back then. In late 2020, Borrelli Walsh was acquired by Kroll, which bolstered our international forensic capabilities and the combination of our businesses meant that clients could benefit from our full suite of services. Today, we are a truly global firm with over 5,000 experts serving clients in over 140 countries and with forensic and investigation work as a key platform.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
Over the last 30 years, the key areas of change are:
- Growing international or cross-jurisdictional focus of assignments – whether it relates to stakeholders, businesses, or assets.
- More stakeholders are now relevant in our industry and areas of practice. Lawyers have always played a dominant role in our industry and will continue to do so and today so do asset managers, private equity firms and corporates – all equally important stakeholders.
- Technology - when I started work, consolidations were prepared manually on large spreadsheets and faxes were relatively new. I had probably been working two to three years before I sent my first email. Today, e-discovery, data analytics software have a role in almost all our assignments. Social media, in various forms does too.
How has evolving technology changed your practice since you first began your career?
Technology has been the primary driver changing our industry and has affected all parts of our profession. It has given this industry an enormous reach and has developed practices and industries that didn’t previously exist such as data analytics, litigation support and crypto – the latter being a strong area of growth for us right now. Technology has also created businesses and industries with which we’ve become familiar as they have been key providers or subjects of our work.
How has COVID-19 affected your work and to what extent do you see these effects being long term?
The impact of covid-19 has been both good and bad. On a positive front, it has created a body of work we will enjoy for years to come and hastened our reliance on information technology and operational creativity. It has enabled businesses like ours to capitalise and better develop its international reach. All these matters, for better or worse, will have long term impact. I am concerned about the effects of working from home and its impact on our ability to impart the necessary skills and experience to our more junior colleagues. There is much to be gained personally and professionally from working shoulder to shoulder with people from all walks of life and I hope for those with their careers ahead of them that we don’t lose that.
What is the key to successfully conducting multi-jurisdictional investigations?
The key to successfully conducting multi-jurisdictional investigations can be summarised in four key steps:
- understand your stakeholders and the role and importance of the relevant jurisdictions;
- understand the data and information available and necessary and the options available to gather that information in relevant jurisdictions; analyse the events and data and understand what it means; and establish how best to apply what you’ve learnt (in accordance with your instructions and goal).
What makes Kroll stand out from its competitors in the Hong Kong market?
Kroll is frequently appointed by asset managers, corporate clients, regulators to assist in large and complex, local and international financial investigations. We are old hands at it, have the benefit of state-of-the-art technology and resources and know what we are doing - we take a senior-led, hands-on approach to our assignments.
Our experts’ extensive business and court experience enables us to analyse financial matters and provide expert opinions, as well as assist our clients in developing strategies to deal with fraud risks and the associated disputes.
We are also a global firm and can quickly leverage our multi-disciplinary expertise and technology to provide clients with efficient and effective results.
How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?
The development of our practice over the next five years is exciting - it includes:
- further expansion across Asia and in offshore jurisdictions internationally;
- development of our forensic investigations, expert and restructuring business in US, Europe, and Africa; and
- harnessing the benefits of the risk, data analytics and digital platforms available across the Kroll universe.
What underrated skills would you encourage up-and-coming practitioners to develop?
I wouldn’t call them underrated skills, but the most important skills for up-and-coming practitioners have not changed much in the last few decades - hard work and doing what’s right (every time).
No one has made any real difference to the world by taking shortcuts and by focusing on what they should or shouldn’t do to avoid criticism rather than doing what’s right. That isn’t going to change.