The WFE's Women Leaders 2023 - Izabela Olszewska, Management Board Member for Business Development and Sales, Warsaw Stock Exchange

By: Izabela Olszewska, Management Board Member for Business Development and Sales, Warsaw Stock Exchange Mar 2023

Name: Izabela Olszewska

Organization: Warsaw Stock Exchange

Job Title: Management Board Member for Business Development and Sales 

1. Brief description of nominee’s role/job

As a member of the management board of the Warsaw Stock Exchange (GPW), I am responsible for sales and business Development. My role is to expand GPW’s business network to include new Exchange members, traders, investors, and to search for and attract new issuers of various financial instruments.

For years, I have been responsible for and particularly committed to responsible development, not only of GPW as a public company (including the adoption of the GPW Group ESG Strategy 2025) but also of GPW as an organiser of a market in financial instruments that encourages other market participants to take action for the sake of ESG and to adapt the market to this new trend. My work also focuses on building investor relations with existing and prospective shareholders and liaising with analysts who cover our company.

2. Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):

My entire professional career has been closely related to the capital market. I first worked at one of the largest brokerage houses in Poland before joining GPW, where I have been for 25 years now. During this time, I have held various managerial positions in the area of business development and sales. I have worked with investors and entrepreneurs, both domestic and foreign, from various sectors of the economy, and was responsible for expanding the product offering of the regulated and alternative markets. I also held the position of managing director for development.

I am chairwoman of the supervisory board of the Polish Power Exchange (TGE), which is a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions in commodity trading and the only licensed commodity exchange in Poland. I also have experience in the international market: I was a member of the board of directors of the London-based Aquis Exchange as its non-executive director. I have worked for many years with the Central Securities Depository of Poland (KDPW) as a member of its advisory panel. I am also a member of the academic board at my alma mater, the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH).

In 2022, I was elected for a second term to the GPW management board as a member of the board for business development and sales.

I am a graduate of the Faculty of Finance and Statistics at the Warsaw School of Economics and a PhD programme at the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the University of Warsaw. I have completed a postgraduate MBA programme at the University of Economics and Human Sciences in Warsaw. I have taken part in the International Institute for Securities Market Development programme offered by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC.

I have a long-standing interest in leadership psychology and in supporting women, mentoring, and corporate diversity. I consider this to be both my privilege and my duty. Diversity as one of the ESG factors is increasingly important and will gain momentum in the coming years. That is why it is crucial to promote women in the financial market. I try to share my knowledge with other women. I am a co-founder of the Women in the Financial Market Club co-organised by GPW with the Chamber of Fund and Asset Management and the CFA Society Poland. The club is a platform to exchange knowledge and build relational and industry capital, and it demonstrates that the financial sector is open to women and is waiting for them. In addition, I have recently contributed to the publication of the book Kobieta spełniona. Jak osiągnąć sukces nie tylko w biznesie (Woman Fulfilled. How to Achieve Success Not Only in Business) by Anna Smolinska.

3. What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2022?

The year 2022 was a challenging time and can certainly be called one of the most difficult periods in the modern history of capital markets. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved to be another black swan after the pandemic and it destabilised the economic situation in Poland and worldwide.

It was a particularly difficult year for Poland and GPW, precisely because of our neighbourhood and proximity to the war in Ukraine. Despite all this, we increased our turnover and volumes in some market segments thanks to our business initiatives. We are particularly pleased that our work to develop and promote passive investing among investors in Poland has sparked increased interest in the derivatives and ETF market in 2022.

Immediately after the start of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we decided to provide humanitarian support to Ukrainians. The GPW management board decided to provide significant financial support for initiatives helping refugees. We knew that it was not only our duty but also a human impulse coming from the heart and the desire to help those in need. The allocated money was used to purchase food, staples, and humanitarian aid for people crossing the Polish-Ukrainian border. The money also supported municipalities and organisations that provide assistance to refugees.

In an effort to help the professional and business community, we organised coworking spaces for Ukrainian startups at the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Their employees are already using our office space.

Today, more than ever before, we understand the need to develop business in a sustainable way, taking into account its environmental, social, and ethical impact. An important ESG achievement was the adoption of the GPW Group ESG Strategy 2025, approved at the end of 2021. The strategy has an important business dimension for us because we have a very large pool of global investors who are particularly interested in ESG. The strategy defines our objectives, which include support for the transition to a low-carbon economy, creating an inclusive working environment, developing educational projects, educating future generations of investors, and managing ESG factors in line with the highest standards.

Our Exchange is taking a range of initiatives to make the Polish capital market more attractive and expand our product offering. In 2022, we launched a pilot of the GlobalConnect market that enables investors to buy international blue chip stocks in the Polish currency. Our goal for 2023 is to steadily expand our offering in order to offer stocks of other interesting companies in the shortest time possible. We aim to offer a wide selection of attractive stocks listed on European and U.S. exchanges on GlobalConnect.

4. What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success?

Over the years of my professional life, I have come to understand that a career is based on two equally important pillars: expertise (knowledge and experience) and soft skills (interpersonal relations and communication). A leader is required to control his or her emotions and make good decisions quickly. In order to be an effective manager, it is important to master stress, to be able to calm down, which helps to keep a healthy distance and maintain physical and mental health.

I am inspired to be better, both at work and in my private life, by coaching classes at the Academy of Leadership Psychology. I have for many years been interested in Far Eastern culture, where yoga, meditation and breathing techniques play an important role in human life. We need to be happy and internally calm, especially in critical situations. If we take care of our inner peace, we can do our job more effectively. In my opinion, the power of female consciousness is of great importance. I think a woman who is fulfilled and internally happy can bring a lot of value to an organisation.

5. What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions?

Successful leaders are not distinguished by their gender but by their ability to manage flexibly and find good solutions in any situation.

I always tell myself and other women that a career path is important, but work does not have to dominate and define our lives. It is not a successful career that is supposed to be the meaning of life, but a sense of fulfilment -- being fulfilled over the years in the many roles we have (both in our professional and private lives) that will lead us to success and satisfaction. Only by being happy and fulfilled can we change the world for the better for future generations.

It is a common misconception that finance is a discipline for men only. In my opinion, however, the finance industry is open to women, and women have shown on more than one occasion that we have a lot to say in the world of finance. We are used to having to be able to pull everything together. However, we should not be afraid to set boundaries for others and ask for help. We should not dwell on the past. We should try to live in the present, and remember that everything in life happens “for a reason.” There are lessons to be learnt from every situation because you never know when the experience will pay off.

There is an important phrase that has been with me for years and that I would like women in particular to take to heart: “If you want to have something you haven’t had before, you need to start doing something you haven’t done before.” If you have a dream and want to make it come true but you haven't succeeded so far, it means that you need to change what you do because the current course of action won’t lead you to the goal you have set for yourself.

I wish and advise every woman to be more courageous, to not be afraid to do something new, to step out of their comfort zone and to start pursuing their plans and dreams more boldly. This is a motto I regularly repeat to myself and I encourage everyone to put this strategy into practice.


The views, thoughts and opinions contained in this Focus article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the WFE’s policy position on the issue, or the WFE’s views or opinions.