A career in investigation – Jekaterina Novikova

Jekaterina Novikova, investigator, European Anti-Fraud Office, European Commission, Brussels

‘I started my career early, while studying for a BSc in international economic relations at the University of Latvia, in my home country. As is the case for many students these days, I had to work as well as study and this led me to my first finance-related role, working as a part-time financial analyst, analysing the creditworthiness of various companies.

‘Already in the third year of my studies for the degree, I joined Arthur Andersen as an audit assistant and was encouraged to start my ACCA studies in order to boost my accounting skills. I had been auditing companies from different sectors – banks, production, and sales companies – and that gave me a good insight in the business world. The combination of full-time work with almost full-time study was too challenging, however, and so I took a career break. I returned to full-time study, first completing a Masters in European business law and administration at Lund University in Sweden, where I was awarded a scholarship from the Swedish Institute, and then started a PhD in innovation and technology in Lund Technical University.

‘As I had always enjoyed living and working in an international environment, I entered an open competition for a position of an official at the European Commission (EC), specialising in audit. The selection procedure took two years to complete, and I was the only person from Latvia to be successful.

‘On joining the EC, I was invited to apply for posts in a number of departments, and the fact that I was part-ACCA qualified was very helpful at this stage. I finally decided to work for the Directorate General Regional Policy, a department which administers roughly a third of the EU budget. I was a senior internal auditor, and was also temporarily a head of unit, in charge of implementing and supervising a work plan for a team of seven. At the same time I completed my ACCA exams, and became a member in January 2008.

‘Having been an internal auditor for over two years, I decided to try something new and so moved to OLAF – the European Anti-Fraud Office, where I am now an investigator, looking into fraud and corruption cases related to direct expenditure and external aid, both inside and outside the European Union. My audit and accounting knowledge has proved extremely useful in this new role, but I am also learning a lot about legal and judicial procedures.

‘My ACCA studies definitely helped me gain both jobs; the fact that I am an ACCA member also helps build trust when I meet other accountancy and audit professionals. The EC has supported me in my studies, financially, and by giving me time off to sit exams. Support such as this is very important as it shows that your employer understands the real value of your studies.

‘Although I have achieved ACCA membership, it does not mean that I will no longer develop new skills. As an investigator, I will be adding further to my experience by learning more about fraud and the ways in which irregularities can arise, information which is also important for an auditor. I am also able to compare the different approaches auditors and investigators take to the same issues, which is valuable.

‘Currently, I am taking a well-deserved break from my studies, other than taking language and job-specific courses which are important for my career; my native tongue is Russian, but I can also speak Latvian, Swedish, English, and French, and I have started learning Spanish. Earlier this year I was awarded ACCA membership. This provides even more evidence of my capabilities and skills, adding extra weight to my influence and to the analysis and the decisions I make.’


"As I had always enjoyed living and working in an international environment, I entered an open competition for a position of an official at the European Commission (EC), specialising in audit"