Featured Profiles

The Banker with a Black Belt: The Journey of a Transformational Business Leader

Sonia Wędrychowicz is a transformational digital business leader who specializes in building digital businesses that work. She combines more than 25 years of consumer- and corporate-banking experience with on-the-ground strategic implementation in digital banks. Sonia is passionate about the smart application of technological developments to enable businesses — especially those in financial services. She believes that true business differentiation can only be achieved through superior customer experience driven by simplicity, speed, and convenience. Sonia is an enthusiastic speaker who has delivered keynote presentations at over 100 different conferences around the world. She is a passionate traveller who holds a black belt in American kickboxing.

Sonia Wędrychowicz comes from a long line of lawyers in a small town in Poland. Growing up, her father, in particular, exerted a considerable influence on her, helping to instil in her what it means to be a professional – both to oneself and to one’s community. She describes her father fondly, “He was hard-working, polite, extremely respectful with a great sense of humour. He dealt with all kinds of legal issues, especially criminal cases, given his expertise as a defence lawyer. I was inspired by the way he treated his clients – always with the utmost respect and care, no matter who they were or what they may have done.”

By observing the way her father treated people, young Sonia learned a valuable and lifelong lesson: the respect you give to others not only serves as the foundation for trust-based relationships but also defines who you are as a person. This lesson would come to have a profound influence on her throughout her career – even though she wasn’t destined for a career in law.

“There was an unspoken expectation that I would follow in the footsteps of several generations of lawyers by practising law in my little hometown,” she said. However, since she was only 12 years old, she knew one thing: “I wanted to see what else was out there. I wanted to travel. So I decided to look for a career that would give me the opportunity to indulge my passion for seeing new people, new places, and new ways of doing things.”

Sonia received her B.A. in European Business Studies from Brunel University London before returning to Poland for her M.A. in Foreign Trade from SGH Warsaw School of Economics. Upon graduation, she saw that Citibank was hiring in Warsaw and knew that working there would bring opportunities for travel and exposure to diverse teams. She recalls, “I applied, interviewed, and got the job. In fact, given my two-decade stay at Citibank, you could say I got several jobs.”

During her eighteen-year tenure, Sonia rose through the ranks from an entry-level position to become a deputy CEO through a combination of skill, focus, and determination. Until, one day, she decided to leave it all behind. She had decided it was time to follow her passion to experience new ways of working and, even more fundamentally, thinking.

Since then, she has moved to five different countries and companies, which has brought her some of the most challenging but also some of the most fulfilling moments of her career. This journey has taken her on a tour of several C-Suite roles, including as the Head of Consumer Banking in Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia, the COO of Digital Banking at DBS Bank in Singapore, the Head of Technology Transformation for Consumer and Community Banking at JP Morgan Chase in New York, and eventually McKinsey & Company, first as a Senior Advisor and, since 2021, as a Partner.

At McKinsey, Sonia helps clients build digital businesses all around the globe, most recently in the Middle East, Europe, and Southeast Asia. She prides herself on delivering truly holistic impact – from transforming value propositions, introducing new tech solutions, adjusting operations, rethinking marketing and advertising, and addressing people/organizational aspects of performance.

She has been widely recognized for her work in digital transformations and has received numerous awards for her innovative work in the fintech space. She was named Fintech Personality Of The Year in 2021 by fintek.pl, Finfluencer of the Year in 2020 by Finnovex, one of the Top 100 Women in Fintech in 2019 by Lattice 80, and one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in 2019.

But, wherever her career may have taken her, she traces her inclination toward innovation to her childhood in communist Poland. She recalls, ” I witnessed scarcities daily – living in a world where basic things were unavailable inevitably promoted creativity and innovation in incredible ways. There were few things you could ‘buy’, most things had to be ‘made’ or ‘arranged.’”

And more abstractly, her formative years taught her that no obstacle was too great. She says, “With a strong will, one can always overcome difficulties no matter how insurmountable they may appear – you will succeed as long as you have a great attitude, a relentless willingness to learn, and a desire to win.”

Her recommendations for aspiring leaders? She offers a few pieces of advice: “First, always play to your strengths – listen to feedback but use 90% of your energy to deploy and develop your strengths. And only 10% on improving your weaknesses. Second, be respectful to people – your team and your people are your strength – make sure you give them guidance, appreciation, and support when they need it. You need them, so be there when they need you. And third, don’t be afraid to take risks and be open to change – change is inherently discomforting, but despite that – or perhaps because of that – it allows us to develop and grow. A willingness to embrace change and take (calculated) risks is an indispensable ingredient of success.”