When I started working in the public sector a decade ago, I became more familiar with law enforcement mechanisms – I worked for the police. Today, I work for the Danske Bank International Money Laundering Prevention Unit, where my colleagues and I work on curbing financial engineering to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing around the world.
My path to this profession wasn’t short, but today I have successfully applied all the competencies I gained in both the public and private sectors. The interesting thing in this relatively new but rapidly growing field is that it allows us to "employ" different competencies and experiences for activities with a worldwide impact.
From studying English philology to crime hunting
University education provides a wide range of knowledge, shows you how to learn systematically, and trains logical thinking. During my studies, I became an English philologist and developed the language skills I use daily. However, after graduating I wanted to develop my professional experience. This is how I came to work for the translation unit in the Police Headquarters, where I did both written and oral translations during pre-trial investigations.
After four years, I wanted more space to grow and develop my competencies. I then pursued a career in the migration department, where my most interesting task was checking aliens' residence permits in Lithuania. Although the public sector has its advantages, I finally felt that I had given enough to the police and decided to further broaden my experience.
When I started working at the Danske Bank International Money Laundering Prevention Unit, I investigated companies to ensure that their business activities were legitimate. I also gained experience in Transaction Screening. Both fields are attractive as they offer the chance to make a meaningful societal impact by preventing criminal activity. Sure, the dynamics are different. When checking transactions, it can take from a few seconds to a few minutes to assess whether they violate any internal requirements. We suspend the transaction immediately if we find anything suspicious. Company inspections take much longer – extensive investigations are carried out, and data is carefully collected and evaluated.
Although it is not very difficult to move up the career ladder within an institution, the opportunities for personal growth are much vaster in my current workplace. The soft aspects also differ. For example, colleagues with no experience in the public sector may even find it difficult to assess things like the qualities of an open work space. And I really enjoy working in such a space because of the stronger team spirit, the ability to consult with colleagues at any time in case any difficulties arise or to share experiences with them myself. Of course, there are minuses too – the spread of viruses during the cold season, for example. 😊
Lessons from the public sector
For example, the transaction screening process occurs in real time, so the work needs to be done quickly – it requires timeliness, quick reactions, and the ability to make immediate decisions. Though these activities may seem simple, and even repetitive from the outside, they actually conceal a bunch of unexpected nuances. However, in order to spot them, you must have a trained eye and be able to discern the smallest of details. It is important to be diligent and to develop an analytical approach.
I gained these skills as well as teamwork skills while working in the police. Today I am strengthening them in my current job. Being able to listen to your colleagues and know each other's strengths and weaknesses – it’s really important to achieve results which actually tackle the problems you need to solve.
It is common practice in our team to ask colleagues and resolve issues when anyone has questions or difficulties. Since we have colleagues from abroad in some teams, communicating with them helps keep you on the pulse, and better understand the international environment and cultural differences. As life progresses at the speed of light, it's important to know what tools you can use to work more efficiently and recognize the latest scams. This requires knowledge of how technology works and a keen interest in innovation.
However, mistakes can’t entirely be avoided, either in the public sector or in business, especially when the work is so fast-paced and dynamic. For this reason, having a good attitude and the ability to take responsibility is paramount. It should be emphasised that we learn from mistakes if we accept them as the engine that drives improvement, and pushes us to do better. By the way, any mistake you make often can cause a lot of unpleasant emotions, but this ultimately comes in handy: you start to notice things you haven't seen before, and avoid potentially bigger mistakes in more important tasks.
Soft skills aren’t enough – you also need technical skills and knowhow
In addition to the above, in order to "crack" the most sophisticated criminal cases you also need to focus on certain technical aspects of the job such as reading the relevant legislation and familiarising yourself with Anti-Money Laundering Directives.
Working at Danske Bank has given me the opportunity to develop as a professional, to climb to new professional heights, to strengthen my existing skills and to develop new personal qualities. Although I have been working here for a little over a year and a half, the job is very dynamic - sometimes it's hard to believe how much you can find learn and experience in such a short time.
Because we operate in an international environment and communicate with clients and colleagues located overseas, knowledge of their mother tongue is always useful. Naturally, everyone looks favourably on someone who speaks their language. It is treated as respect for the country and culture, and adds an invisible but significant value to the customer relationship.
In my life, I follow the principle of "treat others as you want to be treated." My basic rule is to respect others – clients, colleagues, and the society you are responsible for.
How to get started
Today, in the age of the internet, anything is possible, so starting a career in money laundering and terrorism financing prevention is not difficult as long as you have the energy and desire to make the world a better place to live.Start by making contact with professionals in the field, but before you do, as with every field, you should set a goal, ask yourself why, and define how long it should take. These are cornerstones must be accompanied by courage: don’t be afraid of mistakes, of competition, nor of the fact that the international environment in which you work will require continuous improvement and adapting to dynamic conditions. If that doesn’t scare you, I can assure you that there will be no shortage of sense of purpose in fighting crime and preventing financial abuse.