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Boomerang-ing back to Deloitte

Nicolas Marinier

Just like a boomerang, Deloitte professionals sometimes follow a career path that takes them to another firm—but some of them find their way back to rejoin our team with their wealth of outside experience.

Such is the case with Nicolas Marinier, Partner in our Forensic and Financial Crime practice. Nicolas shares his unique Deloitte journey and pressing topics at the intersection of AML and AI.

Tell us a little bit about your career path?


I started my career in 2004, when I arrived in Luxembourg in another Big4. I was in Audit of private banks and a Swiss private bank was my first client. I quickly found this very interesting, in particular the anti-money laundering. 2004 was the beginning of the anti-money laundering framework in Luxembourg with the new AML Law being issued. So right place, right moment, I guess.

Then, in 2007 I went to an exchange program in Singapore for two years to see the Southeast Asian model in private banking and a larger angle on anti-money laundering. I saw how the banks were doing the controls in Singapore and Southeast Asia, which is another very important financial hub. It was also interesting for me to see the regulatory framework they were using.

Then I came back to Luxembourg to get married. After a few more years, I was approached to join Deloitte. Deloitte had a department that was dedicated to anti-money laundering, and I thought it was exciting to do that 100%. In 2010, I joined Deloitte and an AML department that was just eight people. When I left in 2014, it was 20 people. So we grew quite significantly, and it was also a lot of fun.

I then took the opportunity to work as CCO for one of our clients for seven years. This client was a Luxembourg bank with Russian shareholders and Russian clients, in short a so-called “Russian bank.” 2014 was the beginning of the sanctions against Russia as we know them today. It was interesting for me to be there at the start of these era with many challenges. The bank was a blank page, and we rebuilt the entire compliance department from scratch as the bank’s business strategy changed completely. I created a new compliance department and grew it up to 7 people. This was 7% of the bank's workforce, which is significant compared to peers.

During this time, I was kept quite busy – I’ve been a compliance officer, I've been a general board secretary, I’ve assisted the legal officer, I've been a CISO/DPO – a lot of different functions that are very large or not directly related to compliance. I loved it because it was accelerated knowledge, a bit like you have in a Big 4. It's experience that now I can give back to the community or sell back to our clients, and I thought this was also a nice way to be legit, to tell the clients: “I know what you're talking about. I’ve been there, I also experienced this, and I feel the pain. I faced the same questions from your auditors.” I really try to give back honest answers to say, “Well, this is how I've done it. This worked and this is a good option I can help you implement” or “This was a complete failure; you should try differently.”

I’ve been back at Deloitte since 2021, when I was called back to team up with my friend Maxime Heckel, who I knew from my first days at Deloitte when we worked together on a number of jobs. He had recently reorganized and put everyone that was in compliance in a team of about 30 plus people, which was a lot for a single partner. I thought this would be a great opportunity as I know Maxime, I trust him and I know how he works. We are very similar, yet complementary. That was a good opportunity – now or never – because then after I might have been too old to join as partner. So that's the reason why I rejoined. A good opportunity, a great fellow-partner, a clear plan —how could I say no?

So really, it’s the people that bring you back.


It’s always the people that make you come back. It’s only three companies in my career, so I believe I am loyal, but it’s always the challenge, the blank page that is intriguing.

If somebody on your team comes to you and is thinking about going to a client or pursuing a career path away from Deloitte, how do you advise them?


It’s happened already a few times. I always say, “I’ve done that, this was a great fit for me.” It's not for everyone, but I took reasonable risks. I have them consider whether they have enough time and experience to really take on the position and the related risks. I made the move as a senior manager on my way to become a director, so it took me a few years to accumulate experiences and some mistakes to really know to be ready for something outside Deloitte. I’m not saying it was an easy ride for seven years, but I was somewhat prepared to do the job because of Deloitte.

Did Deloitte prepare you for that experience at the bank?


Very much, absolutely. The blank page is a ligne rouge throughout my career. At Deloitte before I left, I was quite a specialist on the blank-page jobs that have not been done before and the commando teams. So yes, very much. You have to learn how to adapt, analyze, go for the business, understand the business, then you can choose the right defense.

Can you share advice that’s made a difference in your career development or the biggest lesson?


When you have a job with a really tight time constraint or where some team elements or something doesn’t go as planned, of course you need to act quickly. You need to remain calm and analytical and to think, “How am I going to solve this or reasonably get out of it?” Never ever by lying or sweeping dust under the rug, you’ll get caught eventually.

So, in a tough situation, think to yourself: “Alright, calm down. What is the risk? What can I do and what can I not do?” If you cannot do anything, be honest about it. Report it to your hierarchy, to your client, or even to the authorities if relevant and propose a solution. Try not to come only with the issue but at least one idea, even if it’s sounds far from perfect. Just give it a try – everyone wants that.

Let’s talk about some of the industry issues you’re seeing. How is AI helping you with anti-financial crime strategies?


We are still facing and discussing technical questions about data protection, right to use, IP, etc. but we are discussing this intensely. We recently participated in a global financial crime symposium in New York about financial crime worldwide and this was one of the hot topics. We discussed this matter also with several law firms in Luxembourg who tried to prototype the for their services. There's a lot of potential applications in Gen AI, but first, we have to solve how we store the data or feed Gen AI with some of our data or client data. One key challenge is how to use and store confidential elements. Ultimately we expect Gen AI to be an accelerator in research preparation, reducing to just a few minutes something that might usually take a couple of days. Maybe Gen AI could give a rough draft that’s 75-80% complete and you then ensure this is correct. We’d need to ensure there are no “hallucinations” – that the AI has made up something that did not exist. We are confident it will assist us in going Faster, Higher and Together..

On the other side, how can malicious players in the market using AI complicate your work?


Similar to when people manipulate the press, Gen AI can be used to create “pollution” with massive false sources of data to be pushed in social media. The speed at which misinformation can spread is incredible and some people or organizations could use this to lobby or pollute the sources of information to impact the Gen AI outcome. That is counterintelligence. It’s nothing new.

Are there any other big trends or pressing risks that you see in the market?


Cost reduction. That’s nothing new either.

Jokes apart, the volume of alerts and information is enormous – because of new regulations, because of new sanctions, because of multi-dimensional risks, etc. There is more and more of a need to rationalize controls. And you have to go back to risk, go back to basics to understand what is the key risk you are facing and then address it. If you spend 80% of your time and team’s efforts on a risk that is only 1% of your overall risk, you’re in great danger, as you might miss the elephant in the room. Keeping a cool head and very analytical review of the business is critical.

Cost reduction isa trend that we see that is identified by the board and by compliance. The related trend is to rationalize and optimize tools, instead of having hundreds of alerts generated.

Now for some rapid questions. Are you from Luxembourg?


No, French born and raised, but I also did part of my studies in Ottawa, Canada.

Please share what languages you speak.


French, English, a little bit of German (this was my first foreign language, so I do understand it, I can read it, but my vocabulary dried up over the years). In Luxembourgish, I have a decent understanding. And then I picked up a little bit of Russian when I went to the bank, but it has evaporated quite fast, due to lack of practice unfortunately.

When you think about Deloitte, what first comes to mind?


What got me to join the first time was people who are good and humble enough to get the work done with great dedication. This is not about being the biggest fish in the pond but about understanding the risk and striving to be the best advisor for your clients. We talk about being the trusted advisor, and I really believe in that. I think this is what we give to the client. The biggest contribution is to really tell them, “With everything I've experienced, my team, my brain, I combine this to what you really need.” Then we'll find a way for the staffing, for the contract, for the fees. First we really concentrate on our client’s issues and needs, and I am very proud of that.

If money were no object, what would you be doing right now?


Probably what I'll be doing in 20 years. On a sailing boat, still working as a consultant on jobs that are interesting, probably on money-laundering in the Art world, to help galleries or collectors to get a better control framework to prevent money-laundering schemes.

Where will we find you on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. typically?


Probably preparing breakfast for my children (8 and 10 years old) and loading the dishwasher. Right after, I'll be ready to go for a walk or some exercise or gardening – something to enjoy Luxembourg’s great outdoors.

Of all the places you've lived: France, Canada, Luxembourg or Singapore?


I would say Singapore was amazing, but I’m very happy with Luxembourg for now. Luxembourg is a multicultural city just like Singapore (even if the weather is better in Singapore). Luxembourg is a great place with a family. It’s super safe and efficient as the red tape is minimal, and you can get a direct access to all the decision-makers, you can contact a minister without having to get an appointment two months in advance and approach key economic leaders still in a rather informal way. Luxembourg also makes great efforts in terms of logistics and accommodation. The cultural beat is also improving. As a European hub and overall, Luxembourg is a great place to live.

Is there anything else that you want to share with our alumni community?


We have Deloitte colleagues for life, and I truly believe in this. I still keep good contacts with colleagues from other firms, but I really feel that Deloitte fosters this in particular, and I'm proud of that. If you go to another company, no hard feelings, and we will keep in touch as clients or, even if not, you can always call me for a question. When you work at Deloitte, there's a sense of proximity and immediacy of trust that we share. And of course, if you want to come back, well, I’m the proof that you can do that. Deloitte for life, I think!

Nicolas Marinier, Deloitte Luxembourg