The Shard, 32 London Bridge Street
SE1 9SG, London, England
Peers and clients say:
"Ms Newman is very good for asset recovery matters"
"Zoë is an experienced and hard-working expert"
Zoë Newman is a regional managing director and global co-head of the Financial Investigations practice. She leverages over 20 years of experience leading cross-border investigations requiring the tracing of complex fund flows, dissection of corporate structures and assessment of the integrity of transactions to support criminal and civil asset recovery proceedings and disclosures to regulators. She has significant expertise in working with government and corporate clients and their counsel in critical matters concerning the prevention, detection and investigation of fraud and corruption and associated money laundering mechanisms and related asset recovery strategies.
What is the most challenging aspect of leading corporate investigations?
Data; both in terms of volume and accessibility. It’s critical for the forensic investigations team on any large-scale investigation to be able to quickly determine the location of relevant data sources, both structured and unstructured, work with counsel to establish how data can be appropriately accessed and utilised by the investigation team and, crucially, to be able to advise and facilitate how large volumes can be quickly and efficiently interrogated and analysed to obtain the information the client and their counsel need.
Which are the key skills required for conducting large and complex internal investigations?
Multiple: responsiveness, the ability to absorb large volumes of information quickly in order to determine what’s relevant, being able to report clearly and concisely to counsel the key facts identified as opposed to everything that’s been conducted, experience of where to access relevant information both inside and outside an organisation. The list could go on. However most critical, is the ability to take a suspicion, allegation or known wrongful event and piece together the actions of the wrongdoer(s) in order to produce an evidence-based factual narrative as to what has happened - it sounds relatively simple but requires a combination of the appropriately skilled and experienced team, applying the most appropriate technology, and applying a flexible, iterative approach throughout the investigation.
What do you enjoy most about financial investigations and asset recovery work?
Our normal, in the majority of situations, is our clients abnormal. This places us in a unique position, with counsel, to offer real practical advice based on experience, as to what they should do and have to do in what, for them, are often some of their most unique and challenging experiences. The fact we do this every day means we hold a real-time view of how fraud, corruption, money laundering and asset obfuscation is facilitated; that’s a fairly unique position to be in.
How does Kroll distinguish itself from the competition?
We are an investigations firm at core. That is what our professionals do all day and every day. As a result, we have a wealth of ‘toolsets’ to deploy to an investigation, whether technical skills, access to data sources globally, or the experience of how to interrogate internal and external data sources to maximum effect in order to translate those multiple sources into an evidence-based report for our clients. We also have a ‘one firm’ approach internationally, both in substance and practice, which is critical to effectively and efficiently navigate any cross-border investigation nowadays.
Are you seeing any changes in the approach of organised crime in asset recovery cases?
Sophistication to the highest degree. These groups operate as some of the most efficient and dynamic organisations out there. This enables them to set up thousands of corporate shell entities and associates bank accounts internationally, legitimise them with fake profiles, and move billions in currency globally in minutes, often leveraging trade-based money laundering networks around the world. They are technical, have millions of ‘associates’ everywhere, and are able to operate in the virtual world with anonymity to the inexperienced.
What are the greatest challenges currently facing asset recovery experts?
The speed and sophistication of laundering operations at a certain point, due to the layering process, raises the cost-benefit challenge to clients of recovery. Equally, where assets are dissipated to jurisdictions not conducive to a civil recovery process, it can be enormously frustrating for us and the legal team when you have identified where assets are located, but don’t have the legal remedies available to recover the assets efficiently, both in terms of the time and costs involved.
As global co-head of the financial investigations practice, what are your main priorities for the group’s development over the next five years?
People: as we continue to grow and invest in core markets, it is critical that we retain and develop existing talent and maintain the quality of our professionals across those markets as experienced, investigative professionals.
Technology: we continue to invest heavily in technology to ensure that we lead in our position as the most technologically capable and efficient investigations firm in our market. Similarly, we are constantly testing and acquiring new tools to complement and enhance our investigations offering to our clients, in terms of our ability to identify and access relevant information globally and legitimately.
Prevention: our clients are increasingly proactive in their approach to preventing fraud and corruption as much as possible. As a result, we are developing a number of tools to aid them in identifying and monitoring potential risk in those areas, to mitigate the risk of a breach and the need to investigate further down the line.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Stick with it. I feel privileged to have had some of the experiences which my career choice has afforded me and can honestly say I love my job. Sometimes, at a more junior level, when you have spent weeks trawling through transactions or email data or corporate records you can start to lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing. But nothing beats that ‘yes’ moment when you solve a client’s question or figure out what has happened; that can happen at any level and only those who are tenacious and keep at it experience them.