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The medal-winning sabre fencer who works at Danske Bank

In the office, he fights criminal money launderers – in his spare time, he fights with a sabre.  

“There are way more similarities between sabre fencing and anti-money laundering (AML) than you might think!” says  Johan de Jong Skierus.

As a child, he wanted to be a fighter plane pilot or an actor. Instead, the 32-year-old Swede is now both an elite sabre fencer for the Swedish national team and also a specialist in anti-money laundering at Danske Bank. 

The fencing began in high school, inspired by a teacher, and after a few years, he turned to the sabre instead of the traditional epee.

“More action, more decisions, and it is faster – much faster!” he says.

What is AML or anti-money laundering?

Anti-money laundering is the work carried out to ensure that criminals do not abuse the bank’s systems to launder money from criminal activities or to channel money to terrorists.

Approximately 2,000 people at Danske Bank currently work with anti-money laundering as their main field of expertise.
“Fencing with a sabre is like playing chess and running a 100-metre race at the same time. A 50-year-old can compete against a 15-year-old and you can’t tell beforehand who will win – because tactical thinking is just as important as speed and stamina.”

Not raring to get started with his career 
Johan’s interest in anti-money laundering began during his final years of law school. “There was a lot of media attention and the whole AML area just seemed fascinating,” he says.

However, Johan was not exactly raring to get started on a career when he had obtained his degree. He pushed some tempting offers aside and instead travelled the world with his girlfriend for almost a year while doing a little law freelancing on the side.

Luckily, job postings within AML were still abundant when they came back and settled. And that’s how he ended up at  Danske Bank in 2019.

“I felt they had faith in me, and I was given more and more responsibilities and room to develop. A year ago, I got a position job as daily production lead, which means I plan and oversee the daily flow of anti-money-laundering cases.

After-work activity on the fencing ‘piste’
A lot of career-minded professionals with a law degree would probably find it difficult to combine a career with doing elite sports. For Johan, however, juggling his work at Danske Bank’s AML unit with doing elite sabre fencing seems to have posed no problems.

“The bank appreciates that you have a life outside the office, and working conditions are flexible, so it hasn’t been a problem at all – and recently we even had an after-work activity on the fencing piste!” he says.


The bank appreciates that you have a life outside the office, and working conditions are flexible.



The similarities
So, what are the similarities between anti-money laundering and sabre fencing? 

“Both require that you think tactically and have a plan B, and that you are constantly able to predict your opponent’s next move!” he says.

“When we work with a case at the bank and begin to suspect something is not right, or somebody is behaving in a suspicious manner, we need to be able to predict what they are going to do next – to find out what their reasoning is, and decide what our next move should be. If they are concealing transactions, we want to find out what those transactions involve and ensure they can’t be repeated,” Johan explains.

Surprisingly, his AML work has also improved his fencing: “I am more aware of probability and risk, which means I am more conscious of the risks I take when fencing!” Johan says.

Johan is a keen problem-solver and enjoys working in the AML environment. “We are a very mixed bunch here with different educational backgrounds: everything from economists to statisticians to sales people. We address problems collaboratively and all work together towards a common goal. The most rewarding part is when we uncover people who are trying to do something illegal, or we discover a completely new way of cheating.”

This underlines that we are benefitting society, and naturally that feels really good for everyone involved – with the exception of the money launderers of course…

Inspired? See open jobs within AML.

Blue Book

Danske Bank: 
Daily Production Lead KYC Business SE 2021
AML Advisor KYC Business SE 2019

Education: 
Stockholm University and Université de Jean Moulin III:  Law degree 2008-2016

Outside Danske Bank
Self-employed Legal Advisor 2017-2019
Account Manager, Sub Custody Clearing & Settlement 2009-2011

Sabre fencing: 
Team wins: 
Reigning Swedish team champions
Bronze in Swedish Championships 2016 and 2017

Individual wins: 
Silver, Swedish Masters 2019.
Bronze,  Swedish Masters 2015, 2017, 2018
Bronze, Nordic Championships 2019.

Föreningen för Fäktkonstens Främjande (Association for promotion of fencing)
President, 2020-2021
Voluntary work, 2011-