Zafar Anjum, an inspiration for many aspiring CEOs

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Zafar Anjum – CEO of CRI Group – Leading the way in Risk, Compliance and Anti-Corruption services domain. A leader par excellence and an inspiration for many aspiring CEOs.

Having dedicated his career of 28 years to the areas of fraud prevention, protective integrity, security and compliance, Zafar Anjum is distinguished and highly respected professional in his field. Anjum is founder and group Chief Executive of CRI (Corporate Research and Investigations) Group, a global due diligence firm focused on fraud prevention and security among corporate clients, government agencies and industry Groups. He uses his extensive Knowledge and expertise in creating stable and secure networks across challenging global markets. For organizations needing large project management, security safeguard testing and real-time compliance applications Zafar Anjum is the assurance expert of Choice for industry professionals. During an interview to Daily Parliament Times Anjum spoke about a number of issues related to his organization and the challenges he had to face during his 28-year career in getting such a business off the ground.

1) Where are you from originally? Do you feel that you came from a base of strong ethics and family values that have served you well in your career path?

Shortly after leaving the Pakistan Rangers in 1994 (five years after my graduation) I took over the running of my father’s private investigation organization – called, at the time, the Metropolitan Detective Agency founded in 1979. During this period, I was involved in investigating a case of suspected insurance fraud. The case involved a grandfather attempting to lay claim to his daughter’s life insurance settlement following her death, under the pretext that he was responsible for the guardianship of her four orphaned children. After investigation, it was revealed that this was not the case, and that in fact the grandfather was attempting to defraud his late daughter’s insurance company.

The event precipitated two sets of feelings – positive and negative.

On the positive side, I remember the feeling of pride that comes with success at the conclusion of any project. However, this was somewhat overshadowed by a feeling of what is perhaps best articulated as injustice – although fraud was having (and continues to have) a detrimental effect on the people of Pakistan, the lack of an effective solution to the problem meant that, frustratingly, such crimes were able to continue.

2) What is your professional background, and what inspired you to establish an investigation and due diligence/corporate security firm?

Much like my feeling towards the case mentioned above, the outcome of the situation could be characterized in two ways – one positive, and one negative. Whilst I had managed to deal with one case of fraud, and thus prevented the successful committing of a crime, this was just a single instance of fraud – I had done nothing to move towards an overall reduction of the problem. In other words, I concluded that I had managed to treat a mere symptom, rather than the underlying illness.

Although the case itself was not particularly unusual, at least as far as cases of fraud go, one aspect of the affair struck me – that whereas most types of crime are dealt with by the justice system, fraud is peculiar in that it often mandates investigation by an external agency or organization which specializes in fraud detection. I noticed that such organizations were sorely lacking in Pakistan at the time – and that there was a distinct lack of counter fraud education in the general population, which aided those committing fraud greatly. Furthermore, even where individuals were aware that they were being defrauded, they lacked the knowledge of how to effectively resolve disputes between themselves and the defrauder. Therefore, we started a very first corporate investigation company in Pakistan specializing in Fraud Risk Investigations, Risk Consulting and Compliance solutions.

3) When and where was CRI Groups founded, and how did that come to be? Was it just you, at first? How soon did you add employees and associates?

CRI Group was originally founded in May 1979 by Muhammad Anwar Naveed with a different name and style as “Metropolitan Detective Agency” while Corporate Research and Investigations (Private) Limited name and style was incorporated in 17th May 2001 in Pakistan by registering with Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan. Corporate Research and Investigations Limited was incorporated in October 30, 2006 in UK, Corporate Research and Investigations LLC DIFC was incorporated in 2008 in UAE.

4) This type of specialization was very rare 20 and even 10 years ago. What were some of the challenges you faced in getting such a business off the ground?

It was with this analysis in mind that I came to the conclusion that there needed to be a significant growth in the counter-fraud industry within Pakistan. This is where the privatized nature of fraud investigation became a positive – although the police might not have had the resources to deal with fraud in its entirety, there was certainly an incentive for private companies to increase their spending in this area. In other words, there was a clear market opportunity for the expansion of the antifraud industry, and one that I fill with my business.

5) How did you overcome these challenges?

It was with this conclusion in mind that I continued with the operation and expansion of my business. As well as expanding my business privately, I began to take more and more of an interest in the professional aspects of fraud investigation. It was for this reason that in 1995 I became a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, and in 1998 I was appointed the Area Governor for Pakistan and the Middle-East by the World Association of Detectives.

If I were to summarize the one lesson that I learned as a result of my early experiences in Pakistan, it would be the importance of expanding fraud investigation to where it is needed. The ramifications of this lesson did not end when I left Pakistan either. My awareness of areas into which fraud prevention might be further expanded has continued to this day. It is for this reason that I have taken a particular interest into the emerging area of healthcare fraud.

6) Your persistence paid off in building one of the world’s leading investigative research firms, with clients all around the globe. Where do you see CRI Group in 5 or 10 years from now?

Being a business owner, it is only natural that my own personal development has been attached to the development of my organization. As noted above, I have sought to have my organization grow in line with my field – where there has been a need to combat fraud, bribery as another emerging critical risk factor to operate in the region, I have sought to conquer the resulting market. The next goal is to establish worlds largest specialized Certification Body for the scope of Anti-Corruption, Compliance and Risk Management System certification and Training. In a similar manner to the way I have sought to expand my business, I have also found it necessary to seek out personal development opportunities whenever they become available. To this end, I have consistently been seeking out academic development since 2009, and have since completed an ICA International Diploma in Financial Crime Prevention, and an MSc in Counter Fraud and Counter Corruption Studies. It is only natural, then, that I am currently seeking to not only learn academically, but to contribute something to the field of academia in the form of my PhD thesis.

In terms of personal development, I can therefore consider myself lucky in not only being able to bring to doctorate-level study my career experience, but I will be able to take what I have learned at doctorate-level and apply it in a professional setting. Although I am market-minded as a matter of business necessity, it has become apparent to me over recent years that I am at my most motivated not when I am seeking organizational growth, but when I am seeking professional growth.

7) What are some of the most critical issues facing international companies today? How does CRI Group help them?

Corruption and Third-Party Risk Management is getting more challenging and companies need to have more adequate internal controls and procedures. That’s where we offer accredited certification for the scope of ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management System. Since inception in 2016, the ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Management System standard specifies a series of measures to help organizations prevent, detect and address bribery. These measures include adopting an anti-bribery policy, appointing individuals to oversee anti-bribery compliance, training, risk assessments and due diligence on projects and business associates, implementing financial and commercial controls, and instituting reporting and investigation procedures.

8) Let’s talk about your expert staff. How do you find the right personnel with leading experience and training to work for CRI Group? How stringent is your hiring process?

This is a very hard subject. CRI Group offers very unique and intellectual specialties. We invest a significant time and effort to get our staff not only update with latest trends in fraud and risk management techniques but at the same time we provide specialized training and certifications enabling our staff to have specializations in their respective roles. During the course of hiring we focus on talent, willingness to learn and research while we chose to go with excellent attitude over all other qualities because we believe if you have positive attitude you can learn and deliver.

9) What drives you and CRI Group to succeed? Is it the relationship with your clients and a desire to help them achieve success? How do you measure that success?

We are striving to ensure compliance and ethics being best practices for companies and their third-party relationships, and we believe this is a very best defense against all corporate malpractices. CRI Group’s recently launched Anti-Bribery Anti-Corruption Centre of Excellence, which was created to educate, equip and support the world’s leading business organizations with the latest in best-practice due diligence processes and procedures, providing world-class anti-bribery and anti-corruption solutions to organizations seeking to validate or expand their existing compliance frameworks to maintain a competitive edge in the world marketplace.

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