From commodities to compliance! Meet Karolina Obalkowska, Head of Onboarding at CFH

FinanceFeeds speaks to Karolina Obalkowska about her international commercial background, extensive experience within the commodities sector and her implementation of a semi-automated process of Client Onboarding ensuring compliance with applicable rules and regulations when onboarding FX brokerages

Companies in today’s trading environment have vastly expanded on the ability of providing second to none technology in an ever evolving electronic trading market. This is encompassed and supported by building strong client relationships, which is always at the forefront of any successful business.

Generally, great emphasis is being placed on the need of clients, such as retail FX brokerages, to ensure that their trading requirements are seamlessly met. However, over the past decade, legislation has vastly changed and regulators across the globe have implemented regulatory requirements, which seek to ensure the efficient and safe running of global financial markets.

Regulations such as MiFID II and EMIR have required firms to heavily invest in their compliance functions, so as to ensure that legal and regulatory thresholds and requirements are met. Meanwhile, firms are tasked with successfully juggling clients’ expectations and ensuring that all regulations are adhered to, which requires expertise and knowledge.

Karolina Obalkowska, Head of Onboarding at CFH

To that end CFH Clearing is no exception. The firm has heavily invested in its regulatory functions and ensuring that high-level Executives are placed in those leading positions.

Today, here in London, FinanceFeeds met with Karolina Obalkowska, who serves as CFH’s Head of Onboarding. It is critically important role at CFH, which holds responsibility over ensuring that clients receive quality service when entering into a client relationship with the firm whilst also ensuring that all regulations are adhered to.

The role of Head of Onboarding is however also a very technical one, which requires skill, vast knowledge of the legal and regulatory landscape as well interpersonal skills when dealing with clients.

Understanding the market and FX trading systems is thus a requisite. Karolina, who holds a Master’s degree in Political Science, has over 12 years’ experience of working in Financial Services. Having grown up in Western Poland, she moved to France before settling in the UK in 2005.

“I started working in Financial Services in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, and indirectly as a result of it” explained Karolina.” After finding out from morning TV news that my employer entered into administration, as a consequence of highly volatile fuel prices and economic downturn, I found myself on the job market. Within weeks I was lucky enough to secure a job in a commodities trading firm, which was looking for a Compliance Administrator with language skills to support its international trading business. I always had a flair for learning foreign languages – I am currently learning my fifth – and that helped me embark on my current career path in the finance industry” Karolina Obalkowska, Head of Onboarding, CFH Clearing.

“Over the years I have continued working in the KYC and Compliance area for various commodities market players, the most recent one being a trading arm of the oil majors, where I specialised in KYC/due diligence ” Karolina noted. “This is where I gained interest and experience in robotic process automation and use of artificial intelligence in KYC processes.”

It is Karolina’s vast experience of proposing and developing internal policies and procedures as well as building a team of knowledgeable KYC analysts that has led her to her role at CFH Clearing. Since joining CFH, one of Karolina’s main targets has been to improve the client experience when onboarding with the firm. A number of complex and technical regulatory requirements have to be adhered to when doing so and automation of some of these processes was therefore key.

Karolina has since successfully built a team of Onboarding Associates around her and internal processes have been improved and automated, which in turn have led to an enhanced client experience and greater regulatory overview for the firm.

“What set CFH apart from other employers in the market was its strong reputation in the crossroads between institutional finance and high-performance technology and the opportunity for me to use my previously acquired skills and knowledge to design new processes for the firm. From the onset I was vested with a task of implementing a new, semi-automated process of Client Onboarding, which would ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations and lead to smooth Onboarding experience, using the latest available technology and taking the onboarding processes to the next level” – Karolina Obalkowska, Head of Onboarding, CFH Clearing.

Interestingly, along with the modernity of this industry is the complete lack of a metaphorical ‘glass ceiling’ – therefore without boundaries, it is very much an environment which encourages free thought, innovation and ultimately career mobility in the upward direction for those with a driving ambition.

Among today’s young executives such as Karolina, gender equality is also a sign of the modernity of the business, which has its roots, especially in the retail sector, in the early 2000s, and although very highly developed and global, is a fledgling compared to the hierarchical and rigid world of traditional finance.

On this point, Karolina elaborated on the dynamics of being a leading lady in the financial markets sector. “Being a woman in finance has never held me back and I found that I’ve always been judged on my technical knowledge and work ethics. Personally, I would like to see more women joining the industry still perceived as dominated by men. What I like about CFH, is that there are several women in prominent senior roles – to which this series is a testimony” she said.

Most certainly that is the case, and long may it continue.



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