Alvarez & Marsal
Rooms 405-7, 4/F, St. George’s Building, 2 Ice House Street
Central, Hong Kong
Peers and clients say:
"He is regarded as a strong operator among law firms and others in the accounting profession"
"A leading practitioner in the field"
Trevor is a managing director in Alvarez & Marsal’s disputes and investigations team in Hong Kong, specialising in the provision of expert accounting testimony in contentious matters. He has delivered oral and written expert accounting testimony before the High Courts in Hong Kong and Singapore and in various international arbitrations under the HKIAC, ICC, UNCITRAL, SIAC, AAA and CIETAC rules.
What attracted you to a career in disputes and investigations?
I like surprises! One never knows where the next engagement will come from, each new instruction is unique, and each running matter has its twists and turns. I have always enjoyed the challenge of identifying solutions to novel problems, and it is invigorating to know that it is genuinely impossible to predict what I will be doing at this time tomorrow.
You do a mix of investigations and disputes work. To what extent do these two sides of your practice complement one another?
To an increasingly large extent. It is becoming relatively common for contentious engagements to involve both a forensic work stream (for example, a forensic investigation to establish the facts associated with alleged breaches of contract and provide a basis for expressing their impact on quantum) and funds or asset-tracing procedures, alongside a more traditional quantum analysis and opinion.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
It’s more competitive. When I first arrived in Asia, there was a limited number of serious forensic experts in the market. That is certainly not the case now. Clients have many good options, and participants in the market need to invest significant effort in demonstrating the value of their experience, expertise and offerings.
What qualities make for an effective forensic accountant?
A curious, rigorous and sceptical mindset. A willingness to expend the intellectual effort required to uncover and understand complex fact patterns. The ability to turn intricate analyses of financial and economic data into clear and compelling written reports that effectively communicate findings to clients, instructing solicitors, judges and arbitral tribunals. An inclination to admit to and deal with the impact of errors or misunderstandings as soon as they arise. And the confidence to be a robust advocate for one’s legitimately held professional opinions.
What has been your most interesting case to date, and why?
I acted for an international accounting firm that its former client had sued for alleged professional negligence in connection with the preparation of expert reports for use in litigation. This was the most thoroughly fascinating exercise, given that it involved considering the appropriateness of another expert’s evidence and the various standards to which that expert’s evidence ought to be held. I think about it every time I draft one of my reports.
How has covid-19 affected your work and to what extent do you see these effects being long term?
On the one hand, hardly at all, as so much of an expert’s work can be office or even home-based because we tend to get most heavily involved once formal disclosure is substantially complete. On the other hand, I miss the opportunity to travel to the locus in quo and meet individuals face to face. Building a rapport, even with adversaries, is so much more straightforward in the room rather than on a screen. Virtual hearings are a significant development and will undoubtedly stay with us to some degree even as travel restrictions begin to ease. The application of technology to the process has been ingenious, but cross-examination is better conducted in person. Presenting evidence as an expert witness during a virtual hearing can be limiting without the ability to assess the tribunal’s reaction in person and “read the room”.
What are the key challenges younger forensic accountants may face in their practice and how can they overcome these?
The principal challenge for a younger accountant is to become a successful older accountant! That has always required skills of adaptation and flexibility. The increasing pace of change might make that more challenging than in the past. For those of us that have children on the cusp of joining the workforce, it’s been observed that many of them will be working with technology that hasn’t been invented yet, solving problems that haven’t been identified yet. On the other hand, opportunities for acquiring knowledge and upgrading skills for those willing to invest time and effort in staying relevant have never been more available. Careers are long, and success is much more about the journey than the destination.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Don’t screw up our case.”