FinTech Fiends: Kimberley Cole – Founder, Risky Women

FinTech Fiends: Kimberley Cole – Founder, Risky Women

FinTech Fiends: Kimberley Cole – Founder, Risky Women 1200 676 Risky Women

Great to join the FinTech Fiends, a new initiative by Selma Piper. Selma says “A fiend is an expert / enthusiast” and a “A fintech fiend is someone who is fascinated by / knowledgeable about financial technology”. Check out her site and read about all the fiends – all with interesting stories to tell.

Never get a tattoo!

Like many parents, Kimberley Cole had made it clear that this form of body art was off limits. So when the financial services executive returned home one day with the letter “T” etched permanently onto her skin, her daughters were surprised to say the least.

It turned out that Hong Kong-based Cole had attended an event featuring Human Rights Tattoo: a project to tattoo the 6,773 letters that make up the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 6,773 people around the world – one letter per person. Her letter represents the “T” in “rights”, and she is one of the 3,462 people who have participated in this project so far to promote awareness of the rights of the individual.

It all starts to make sense in view of Cole’s leadership of numerous anti-modern slavery and pro-women initiatives during her career in finance and technology.

Most modern day slaves are women

While the association between finance, technology, anti-slavery and women’s rights may not be immediately obvious, Cole points out that women and girls make up 71% of the 40 million people in modern day slavery1, and data and technology are key to stamping it out.

Blockchain combats forced labour

Today’s increasingly complex corporate supply chains present a challenge for businesses seeking to ensure that no forced labour is involved in bringing products to market. While companies may be able to vet direct suppliers, it is much harder to monitor labour practices when these suppliers sub-contract out to other businesses.

However, Cole highlights emerging technology firm Everledger as an example of what is being achieved. The company’s blockchain solution makes it possible to track diamonds along the whole supply chain, from mine to retail store. Consumers are therefore able to ensure that the gems they buy are not “blood diamonds” mined by children and adults forced to work in dangerous conditions in war zones.

She points out that blockchain is also being used to provide girls prone to trafficking with digital identities based on fingerprints or other biometric data. This makes it more difficult for them to be smuggled to other countries using fake papers as fodder for the sex trade.

Financial institutions are key

She also mentions the work of non-profit Liberty Shared (formerly Liberty Asia), which uses legal advocacy and technology to stop human trafficking. The charity partners with a range of organisations including Cole’s (and FinTech Fiends’) previous company Thomson Reuters2, 3 / Refinitiv to provide information that can help financial institutions limit traffickers’ access to the financial system.

With forced labour generating illegal profits estimated at US$150 billion a year4, many experts believe that banks play a crucial role in curbing exploitation. While money laundering takes many forms, financial institutions are uniquely placed to make it harder for criminals to benefit from illegal gains, thereby removing the financial incentive to exploit others in the first place.

Red flags indicating that some form of coercion may be involved include scenarios outlined in the FATF – APG (2018) report on Financial Flows from Human Trafficking5. Examples include the salaries of several people being paid into the same bank account, or wages being deposited into one account and then rapidly moved to another.

People, profits and purpose

In addition to the obvious imperatives to clamp down on illegal practices, Cole stresses that adding purpose to a standard business agenda can also make the work of employees engaged in regular occupations more meaningful. She points to people’s genuine desire to see that what they do to earn a living has a positive impact on society. Rather than a contradiction between furthering business aims and pushing human and women rights agendas, she sees a positive correlation that benefits everyone, regardless of gender.


Today, as Founder and CEO of the global Risky Women network, Cole is championing women in risk, regulation and compliance. Over the last few months, she has run events in Geneva, Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney and Washington, released Risky Women Radio podcast interviews with experts in everything from regulation to reputational risk, and rebranded and relaunched with a new website.

She’s particularly pleased with the new logo, which is an abstract representation of the “R” in “Risky”. It’s inspired by a 1929 Vogue image of a woman in a diving stance that conveys focus, determination and energy.

Perhaps it merits a tattoo?!

1 International Labour Organization (2017) Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage (Geneva). Available at:—dgreports/—dcomm/documents/publication/wcms_575479.pdf (Accessed: 4 July 2019).

2 Thomson Reuters (2017) Thomson Reuters World-Check and Liberty Asia exceed 5,000 names in anti-human trafficking initiative [Press release] 18 June 2017. Available at: (Accessed: 4 July 2019).

3 FinTech Fiends also worked at Thomson Reuters, but now writes in a personal capacity

4 International Labour Organization (2014) Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour (Geneva). Available at:—ed_norm/—declaration/documents/publication/wcms_243391.pdf (Accessed: 4 July 2019).

5 FATF – APG (2018), Financial Flows from Human Trafficking, FATF (Paris). Available at: (Accessed: 4 July 2019).


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