The press is full of stories of business fraud, and some of them currently very high profile.
Hugely competent business people can be totally taken by surprise when fraud is unearthed. It’s easy to be critical: business leaders should have their fingers on the pulse, we might point out. However, it would seem that in many cases, people placed in a position of trust have manipulated the setup to their advantage without anyone senior spotting it. Astonishingly this can happen on a long-term basis, sometimes until it’s too late to correct and prevent the business from going under.
We have heard stories about fraud – both directly from our London office-based clients and on the grapevine. In most of these cases, thankfully, good management control has spotted early that something was amiss, identified the cause and brought it quickly to a halt.
Hand in the till?
The most jaw-dropping story I’ve heard recently concerns a UK business running a number of pubs. The business was very successful and overall made good profits. However, the owner was concerned that one pub was making little or no profit whilst the others were doing very well. This was very odd: all of the pubs were in similar demographic areas and had the same offer which was proving attractive to Jo Public.
He did his best to analyse and understand why one errant pub was underperforming, but it made no sense. The pub had similar customer figures and similar number of transactions to the other pubs. Having drawn a blank, he suspected foul play and employed the services of a business security consultant to investigate.
The consultant reported back to the owner and – although he hated to admit it – he was equally baffled. They had even taken on an “undercover barman” to work in the pub and observe any usual staff behaviour – clues that might help them solve the mystery.
The conversation that followed went like this:
Owner: “So what did he find?”
Consultant: “Nothing at all really! Everything seemed normal.”
Owner: “So what else did you do?”
Consultant: “I installed hidden cameras, one above each till.”
Owner: “And did that reveal anything odd?”
Consultant: “Nothing untoward happening at all. All five tills were operating normally.”
Owner: “Hang on a minute, I’ve only installed four tills in that pub!”
Consultant: “That’s it then! One fake till is syphoning off cash – hence the lack of profit!”
Clearly this is sophisticated theft/fraud, yet one has to admire the ingenuity! The moral of this story is: even when everything looks normal, watch out for trouble!