Patrycja Wisniewska, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Blacksmith KYC

With over 15 years’ experience in digital innovation and transformation in the financial sector, Patrycja has made significant contributions to the fintech industry. As a leader in strategy, digital banking, and product management, she has driven the development and adoption of innovative solutions such as the mobile banking apps and mobile payments. In 2019, she joined Blacksmith KYC, which quickly became a rising star in the RegTech space. Patrycja is also a mentor and keynote speaker on topics such as digital transformation, personal growth, and tech talent development.

Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Magazine, Patrycja shared her insights on how AI is transforming the financial services industry, her career trajectory, current roles and responsibilities at Blacksmith KYC, her modern-day hero, future plans, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

How is AI transforming the Financial Services industry?

Artificial Intelligence, especially generative AI trained on Large Language Models (LLA) is a ground-breaking innovation for all businesses. AI is as revolutionary as the email, the internet, and smartphones.

Within the Financial Services industry I see 3 immediate applications for AI solutions: customer support, back office operations, and analytics.

At customer support departments, AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants provide 24/7 assistance, improving response times and resolving queries more efficiently. Customer centre support staff will soon have their own AI assistant who will help them find the right answer to customer’s questions and will also write the call summary for them.

In the back office, AI streamlines routine tasks like documents processing and data entry, reducing errors and operational costs. Moreover, AI-driven analytics enables banks to collect valuable insights from vast datasets, enhancing risk assessment, fraud prevention, and personalized financial services.

In the next 1-4 years I expect the AI to become indispensable in the modern banking industry.

Patrycja, please tell us about your past work experiences, career growth journey, and areas of interest.

I was always an entrepreneurial person. Already during my undergraduate studies in Poland, I’ve started an event company, which I run for 3 years before selling it off. After graduating, I joined ING, the largest bank in The Netherlands. As a management trainee, I worked on multiple projects which allowed me to learn about the different aspects of banking. It also helped me discover that I am a generalist with a strong interest in new technologies and organisational change. 12 years ago, I joined the Digital Channels department of ING Belgium. The world was a different place compared to today. My business phone was a BlackBerry. We worked mostly offline with occasional connection to the internet via a modem. But I just felt in my guts that the digital banking services will be the next big thing. This turned up to be true. Our Digital Channels team grew from 20 to 120 people in just 4 years. We released the mobile banking app, which was a true game changer. What followed next were digital payments and digital services.

4 years ago, I relocated to Singapore with the mission to establish a new fintech startup. Blacksmith KYC, the solution we developed, is now used globally by Financial Institutions to perform Customer Due Diligence of their Institutional and Corporate clients.

Brief us about your role as Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Blacksmith KYC.

When I joined Blacksmith in 2019, our whole team consisted of just 2 FTE’s and a team of external developers. In the following 4 years our team grew to 30 people. My role as the COO and Head of Product was to develop Blacksmith’s service design, supervise the development of our software and define all business processes. Over time my role evolved towards the development of the Product and the Risk Teams. Today, I spend most of the time interacting with Clients and Partners to further grow our business.

Can you tell us about Belgium Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (BLCC Singapore) and your role as its board member?

I am Polish from origin. But I’ve spent most of my business and professional life in Belgium. In Singapore, joining the Belgian community allowed me to quickly connect with other ambitious professionals from that part of Europe. After a year as a member, I applied for the position in the Board. I am currently active in the Climate Change, Tech and Women Committees. This volunteering work is very important to me.

In your opinion, what is more important, being technologically fluent or excellent at working with people?

You need it all. You must understand customer needs and the market to build great products that people want to buy. And you also must understand the technology so that you can build performant and scalable solutions. On top of that people skills are necessary to explain your vision, set the direction and help empower your team.

What has been the driving force to get you where you are today?

It is what is called the growth mindset. The growth mindset is about looking for new challenges, learning new skills and staying curious.

I read about new technologies, participate in conferences, follow courses, and talk to people outside my core group. I take energy from interacting with other people. This expands my network, helps me understand the world and creates business opportunities.

What is anything you wish you knew when you first went into this career?

Early in my career I was often intimidated by senior executives. I would avoid events with very senior people and choose young professionals networks instead. After 20 years in business, I see that this was a bit silly. Senior managers often seek junior’s opinion. They like to mentor young professionals. I wish I knew that earlier.

Who is your modern-day hero and why?

Sharon Sandberg, the former COO of Facebook, had a lot of influence on my career. She is a role model for a successful woman in technology. She also wrote a book called LeanIn with great tips for ambitious women who sometimes are limited by their own behaviour. Let me elaborate on why “Career is not a ladder.”

Ladders are limiting. We can move only up or down. We don’t know where they lead to. And ladders do not accommodate for changes of interest, changing technologies and changing life situations.

Instead of ladders, Sharon talks about what she calls: “jungle gyms” just like those climbing structures on children’s playgrounds. For her, it is about the creative exploration of what gives you energy and what doesn’t. Jungle gyms are much more suited to the many skills required to understand and manage complex technologies. I very much relate to that.

What is your biggest goal? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

My ambition is to scale Blacksmith KYC internationally as a go-to service provider for Financial Institutions. Further, I would like to give back to the society, especially by helping young women to develop and grow their careers in technology. In 5 years from now I see myself as a successful entrepreneur and mentor in technology who brings a positive change to businesses and society.

What advice would you give to aspiring fintech professionals?

Invest time in developing your transversal skills, the skills that can be used in a wide variety of situations in life and in work. Those skills are clear verbal and written communication, defining your vision and building a roadmap around that, project and time management skills. Those competences were as important 20 years ago as they are today.

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