GRANT D. ASHLEY, CPA
I’ve wanted to be an FBI agent since I was six years old. My best friend’s father was an agent. When I was in high school I called the FBI and asked how to get in and they told me to get an accounting degree. Even today our goal is to have 15% of new hires with accounting backgrounds. I worked for the FBI as a clerk and financial analyst while in college and left for a career in public accounting. One day I received a phone call recruiting me as a special agent. I was very, very fortunate. The FBI receives more than 50 applications for every position; we have 60,000 applicants in the pool at any given time.
I’d passed most of the CPA exam before I became an agent. There’s something about the accounting profession—its value system, the integrity aspects of it—that appealed to me and still does. I’m very proud of the profession and honored to serve my country. Where else could a CPA be part of a team of over 30,000 extraordinary men and women committed to defending America from terrorists, spies and criminals?
Every day is an adventure for me. My team includes the assistant directors of the Criminal, Cyber Crimes, Training, Laboratory, Operational Technology, International Affairs and Law Enforcement Coordination divisions; the Critical Incidence Response Group, which includes SWAT, the Hostage Rescue Team, behavioral scientists and profilers; and Criminal Justice Information Services, the nationwide fingerprint and criminal history repository through which a police officer in a patrol car can run a name and get a response in 0.7 seconds. I have about two-thirds of the FBI’s functions. What I really do—and where my accounting experience is helpful—is manage our business practices and identify and manage risk. I make sure we’re focused on the appropriate priority missions not just for the present, but into the future.
In my earlier days, I served on an FBI SWAT team in Los Angeles with another special agent CPA. We rappelled out of helicopters and faced armed and dangerous criminals together. Today he’s a partner at KPMG.
I’ve been with the FBI for 28 years. Every day is very exciting and rewarding, but we have mandatory retirement so one day I’m going to have to grow up. Our retirees are in very high demand—the combination of an accounting degree plus investigative experience and top-secret clearance is very powerful. Some agents go into senior management, risk management or security in corporate America, or back into public accounting.
My wife has been an airline employee for 27 years. I actually met her on an airplane. I was flying home from Quantico and got stuck between her and her brother. It was the best middle seat I’ve ever had.
If you’re looking for the opportunity to capitalize on your education, experience, judgment and integrity—and if you’re in good physical shape and want to serve your country—working for the FBI is a great job. If I were 20 years old, I’d do it all over again.
—As told to Cheryl Rosen