Lawyer Monthly - Women in law Awards 2021

- 9 - BANKING & FINANCE UNITED KINGDOM Women in Law Awards 2021 MEET EDYTA Edyta Knizewska is a derivatives documentation expert and founder of FIT Legal Solutions, a boutique legal consultancy business, and Derivatives Lab, the first online educational platform dedicated to sharing unique knowledge about the banking and finance industry. Edyta is a duly qualified (English and Irish) derivatives lawyer, negotiator and describes herself as an ex corporate girl turned entrepreneur. She is a legal and business consultant to high profile asset and investment management firms, FTSE 100 companies and broker dealers. Is the era of having to stay in a corporate job for years, working 70 hours a week to build a successful and impactful career in a banking and finance industry now gone? Perhaps. Edyta has certainly done a fantastic job showing us that it is possible to achieve great success outside of the traditional corporate framework, as a woman and even if your native language is not English. With a mission to positively disrupt the existing status quo in the banking, finance and legal industry, she is committed to sharing an empowering and inspiring message - it’s time to stop holding yourself back by what we have been conditioned to believe that we can or cannot do in our own careers and burst through that society-imposed glass ceiling. THE JOURNEY From being born and raised in Wroclaw, Poland, to heading-up global legal derivatives teams first for Credit Suisse and then for Man Group, the world’s largest listed hedge fund, Edyta has come a long way. She was almost six when communism fell in Poland. She remembers her world becomingmore colourful, uniquely exciting and filled with possibilities in the early 90s. She also remembers how the reality she was born into defined her, no matter how much she fought it, and how she had to learn to embrace it. She recalls the ever-so-apparent lack and how she became obsessed with the limitless potential of the outside world. Leaving Poland to explore the world and pursue international opportunities became her goal at a very young age. Watching her parents working hard 7 days a week to secure a better future for the family has shaped her character immensely and helped develop a work ethic that has served her ever since. As a child, Edyta quickly realised that learning languages was the best time investment she could make, and that working hard and excelling at school were her best bets to make her dreams of studying abroad happen. Edyta was the first generation in her family to go to university, her grandfather was illiterate and both sets of grandparents have lived through the hardship of war and poverty. “I grew up watching women around me - my mum, older sister and my grandmothers taking on the world. Although this was very empowering, I felt that there was a predetermined role women ought to play in the society in Poland at the time - homemakers, wives and mothers rather than businesswomen or lawyers. I was reluctant to conform to these stereotypical, society-imposed gender norms.” When in high school, Edyta got accepted to an Ivy League university in the USA, unfortunately her family was unable to fund her education. She did not give up on her dreams though. Before Poland joined the European Union, Edyta won an international scholarship in the United Kingdom at the University of Plymouth, then being a “sister city” and partner university of the University of Wroclaw where she was studying. She successfully completed her Batchelors degree in International Relations and commenced her legal studies in the same year. Edyta is a rare example of funding herself throughout the university and earning a degree debt free. She has been awarded with scholarships throughout her studies and worked three different jobs to be able to pay for books, additional modules and living expenses. She remembers this time being tough, but extremely important and character building. During her Graduate Diploma in Law studies, Edyta secured a sponsorship with a local law firm called Foot Anstey, who agreed to support her financially throughout her degree and hire her as a Trainee Solicitor following graduation. However, the stakes were high, as not only she had to show consistently high grades across all modules every year, but also should she fail any of her exams she would be liable to repay the course fees. “During that time, I’ve built certain resilience and discipline. I felt the pressure I took on myself, but I knew it was the kind of pressure that creates diamonds and not one that bursts pipes.” Foot Anstey hired Edyta in 2006 and she qualified into Commercial Litigation working predominantly in Exeter and Devon. Having completed corporate, family and intellectual property seats. She remembers feeling slightly embarrassed and uneasy about people struggling to pronounce her surname and having a sense of accomplishment when she was the only women being offered a full-time employment contract in the commercial litigation department. She even simplified her name to “Edie” during that time, so that it was more English sounding and easier to remember. “It is now so clear to me that by creating this “alternative identity” and becoming someone else I was moving away from my true self. It is so important, especially for young people just starting their careers in the industry, to feel accepted. When I left Exeter I returned to my original name and embraced it fully, when you find and accept your inner self, you can no longer compromise on your authenticity.”

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