Maria Witchell is a veteran of eight polar expeditions, the first completed when she was 17,
including two crossings of Finnmarkvida, Arctic Norway, scaling Mount Newton on skis in Svalbard
and reaching the North and South Poles. She was recently part of a team to successfully establish
a new polar route traversing the narrow plateaux of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2019. Maria has also
been a trustee of the military charity Style for Soldiers for the last 5 years.

Following university, Maria began her career as a British Army Officer after graduating from The
Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in 1989. She quickly went on to complete Special Forces
selection and became one of the few women to serve as an operative in the United Kingdom
Special Forces (UKSF) conducting covert military operations.

As an Officer in UKSF, she gained substantial experience operating in challenging, pressurised,
intense and dangerous environments which included covert and counter terrorism operations of the
most serious and sensitive nature. During that time she was also operating to combat threats
including organised crime and nuclear proliferation.

Maria progressed to working for the British government and became one of the first women in the
world to become a professional kidnap ransom negotiator operating worldwide.

The early 2000s saw a change of direction. Maria attended The College of Law in London,
qualifying with a specialism in banking with a leading London city law firm. After five years, she
then joined a major international investment bank becoming head of equity financing, legal in
London. Today Maria is head of corporate loans and derivatives, legal for the Asia Pacific region
located in Hong Kong.

Maria has held leadership roles in both her military and corporate careers and has considerable
experience in the transferability of military leadership skills into the corporate world.



Maria’s disarming style and dry sense of humour make her a captivating speaker. Challenging
ideas of what a Special Forces Operative looks like, Maria relates lessons from some of the
toughest working environments on the planet. Speaking topics include:

  • Leadership under pressure
  • Conduct in the corporate work place
  • Negotiation skills
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • Climate change