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Series Three, Episode Four: Diversity in Risk & Compliance, and the Quest to Eliminate Modern-day Slavery

Kimberley Cole, Head of Solution Sales at Refinitiv (Formerly Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk), discusses the rising number of women in Governance, Risk and Compliance, the importance of mentorship, collaboration and role models, how regulators themselves are starting to create more diverse teams, the need to attract younger talent, the enormity of the challenge of addressing modern-day slavery and human trafficking, and the steps financial institutions and their clients can take to help combat the problem.

Kimberley Cole

After graduating from Monash University, Kimberley Cole joined Thomson Reuters, the world’s largest supplier of news and information to professionals. She now leads the Asian sales team of over 150 specialists focused on delivering solutions across the financial markets.

Based in Hong Kong her career has taken her across the globe allowing her to live and work in five cities, giving Kimberley a vast array of experiences. She has held roles from product management to marketing and sales, managing business transformation and turnaround.

She co-founded Women in Finance Asia, connecting networks across financial institutions and Risky Women a global network championing and celebrating women in governance, risk and compliance. She co-chairs the W@TR network and is a member of the company’s Regional Inclusion council.

Kimberley launched Trust Forum Asia in 2015, an annual event designed to take action to stop modern day slavery, bringing together governments, corporations, banks and NGOs.

She is a director of Thomson Reuters HK, Lipper Asia and non-executive director of the Fair Employment Foundation.

You can follow Kimberley on Twitter @kimberleycole.

Series Three, Episode Four Transcript

Julia: Hello, my name is Julia Streets, and welcome to DiverCity Podcast, talking about diversity and inclusion in financial services. On the podcast we seek to shine a light on positive progress, call out areas requiring further focus, and offer lots of ideas to help drive change. As regular listeners will know, on each episode we invite two guests with the intention of hearing a diversity of opinion. Largely we hit this objective, but sadly one of our guests has today called off sick. Of course, we wish her a speedy recovery, hoping that it wasn’t the prospect of being on the show that brought on the nausea, and we hope that they’ll come back for another episode.

Where we can, we always aim to accommodate, but in truth time waits for no international businesswoman. And we’re really delighted today to be joined by Kimberley Cole, a truly international risky woman. I say that because she is the founder of Risky Women, and has her own podcast of the same name. Kimberley, welcome to the show.

Kimberley: Thank you very much Julia. Great to be here.

Julia: Let me tell you a bit about Kimberley. Kimberley Cole is the head of Solution Sales, Financial and Risk at Thomson Reuters in Asia, and we are fortunate to catch Kimberley on her European visit, for she is based in Hong Kong, leading her 150 strong Asian sales team. Her career has taken her across the globe, allowing her to live and work in five cities, giving Kimberley a vast array of experiences, where she has held roles from product management, to marketing and sales, managing business transformation and turnaround projects.

Kimberley co-founded Women in Finance Asia, connecting networks across financial institutions, and Risky Women, a global network championing and celebrating women in governance, risk and compliance. If that’s not enough, in 2015 Kimberley launched Trust Forum Asia, an annual event designed to take action to stop modern day slavery, where she brings together governments, corporations, banks and NGOs.

She is also a director of Thomson Reuters Hong Kong, Lipper Asia and a non-executive director of the Fair Employment Foundation. Kimberley, it’s wonderful to have you here. Let’s start unpicking that – there’s an enormous amount in your career history. Let’s start with Risky Women. It feels more than just a podcast, it feels a bit like a movement. Tell us how it all began.

Kimberley: Yeah. My role, as you said, my day to day role, is head of sales for financial and risk. The role expanded from just being our financial-based customers to our risk and compliance-based customers. And as I went out to see more and more of chief compliance officers and risk officers, there seemed to be a lot more women in those roles than perhaps I was encountering on the financial side. I jokingly used to say, “I’m off to see another risky woman.” Then we ran large regulatory summits, and I thought why don’t we bring together the women who are in that audience and have an event, I guess it just started as. We started off with breakfast, and we had particular female experts addressing that audience, and it grew from there.

We started in Hong Kong. We then went to Singapore next, or Sydney, but we did Asia, so everywhere we had a regulatory summit, we ran an event. It started actually being live events, and then London, Zurich, then we’ve gone to the States. We’ve done New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Canada … and I’m probably missing one.

Julia: Amazing. And what was the time span?

Kimberley: So we’ve been going for four and a bit years, almost five years now.

Julia: And how do you do that? Do you have champion Risky Women around the world and a high level network who organise all these things?

Kimberley: Correct, it’s kind of a franchise model. I have what I call risky women in a box, not literally though! And we basically have the invites and particular topics we cover. So we do a great survey every year that’s called ‘The cost of compliance’. And we will then have one of our team come and speak to the audience about what have been the trends this year for The cost of compliance.

We have another one around conduct risk, particularly focused around the governance, risk and compliance space. Although, to be fair, because we will sometimes do a two day summit and that is covering all of your hot topics around governance, risk and compliance. So if we do a dinner, we’ve often done topics like ‘taking the risk out of choosing your wine’ and bring together a wine tasting event, because you can’t just talk governance risk and compliance the whole time.

Julia: And at the very beginning, you mentioned you were quite surprised by the number of women in senior governance, compliance and risk roles. Are you seeing that more and more women are coming in? Are you see any shifting dynamics? And why is it a role that is particular suited to women?

Kimberley: I’ve been trying to get some stats around that, because I still don’t think there really are a significant number of women. There was a couple of surveys that were done by some of the recruitment and other agencies, PWC etc, and Marsh McLennan did one and said that only 15% of chief risk officer are women. That was in 2016.

PWC also had a study showing that there was growth in the number of women in the risk top managers space. And from 2015 to 2017 it had gone from 37% to 42%. So I don’t know whether it’s anecdotal … or it’s just disproportionate compared to the financial markets where it’s so male dominated, that therefore there did appear to be more women in the risk space.

And to your second point about, is it a profession that’s particularly suited to women? I think when I ask a lot of the compliance officers, they do think that there are some attributes where I think certainly in the compliance space now you need to be more integrated in the business, and you need to be, potentially, more approachable and collaborative. So some of those skills are coming through, that it’s not an adversarial thing to stop people doing things, but it’s much more about helping and collaborating to make sure that yes, the businesses isn’t at risk, but the people know also what they need to do to be compliant.

Julia: It’s interesting to think about the shift in the responsibilities on the compliance officers over the years, obviously, with increasing regulations since the economic crisis. One of the arguments there has been, if there was greater diversity on boards and in senior leadership positions, would we necessarily be in the position that we found ourselves in. Now I’m not asking you to comment on the global economic crisis, but it’s an interesting topic that still continues to come back. Is that something that you and your peers think about in terms of driving diversity to ensure things like that don’t happen again? What are the big driving topics?

Kimberley: Yeah, so that the tone at the top and all of the cultural aspects I think are huge, and they’re absolutely hot topics. As well as the diversity mandates that a lot of the institutions, as well as the regulators themselves. So we actually have had a couple of really interesting sessions, certainly ASIC in Australia, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

Cathie Armour, who’s one of the most senior women, spoke a lot about even how the regulator was driving for more diversity within their leadership teams, for exactly the purposes that you’re talking about – to give that broader view to make sure that they are thinking differently, maybe about how they’re thinking about regulations.

So we’re actually going to do a session now, because ASIC has been really supportive of the Risky Women Radio podcast. They want to bring in even more of their women to talk on that, around different topics that they cover. Because the risk and compliance space is big from consumer to the institutional areas that we need to talk about.

Julia: And one of the big questions that seems to be bubbling up is, I think boards are certainly feeding the accountability and responsibility of compliance and risk. Also the role and the responsibility they have in driving change around diversity. When you get a few layers down, that’s when it becomes a little stickier, arguably, in terms of entrenched behaviour that has been, as you mentioned, financial institutions are largely male. But I’ve quite a lot of empathy for that actually, which is if you’re hired in a certain way and you’re recruited in a certain way, you’re trained in a certain way, you’re paid in a certain way, you behave in a certain way. I’m just quite interested in what are the shifting and potentially accelerating dynamics that will drive greater diversity and there’s middle management layers and whether you’ve got any views on that.

Kimberley: I think it’s a really challenging area, because you look at the amount of money that’s being spent on training, whether it’s … I think a recent statistic that I saw was in Australia, they’d spent something like $8 million on unconscious bias training. Actually then some of the studies that they looked at, people who had taking their unconscious bias training, and it just really confirmed that what they thought was true. It kind of confirmed they are bias, rather than broadened them. And you look at even a lot of the courses that people are put through, don’t seem to be moving the needle, which I think is unfortunate and I don’t know how we necessarily move things forward. I think some of the good things that are being done are things like even the big four, the EY, the PWC etc. They’re now saying, “I’m not going to recruit even my graduates from the same places that I always have with the same degrees etc. I’m going to look more broadly to bring in a mix of different people.” I think the innovation agenda is really helping that, because people understand that they need to have people approaching things in different ways.

So maybe that’s going to be the big hope, is that because people need to be more agile, more innovative, and everything is being disrupted, that they’re going to have to start to change the way they do things.

Julia: And that must be a really fascinating role. Because if I think about on my business side where we work with technology firms that are thinking about compliance and thinking about surveillance and the RegTech world, if you want to call it that.

Kimberley: Correct.

Julia: And looking at how the mastery, let’s call it, of data, and how you can extract insights and value and flags. And of course, there are now jobs and roles which didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago. So, presumably, the compliance world is saying, “Well, first of all, we need to kind of get tooled up,” but also think about understanding certain roles that are coming through in our organisation, which you probably didn’t understand five years ago. Which to me, sounds very exciting – full of opportunity.

Kimberley: Yeah, and obviously, from a Thomson Reuters perspective, we consider ourselves the oldest FinTech in the world. We’re looking at all of the the intersection, especially of FinTech and RegTech. We’re obviously a big data company. We’re looking at how you can use Artificial Intelligence and all of the tools that are now out there. We’re also looking at, even from that data perspective, what’s the other data sets that companies need to protect themselves? So that’s an interesting one in terms of modern day slavery, is we have partnered with several NGOs, which I think is a very unique perspective in the business world, to actually gather data that other people don’t have.

So we work with Liberty Asia, who have something called the Freedom Collaborative. It’s growing all the time, but they have about 35 different NGOs connected to the Freedom Collaborative. They source their data from them and they obviously all can be based everywhere, Thailand, Cambodia. They’re looking at local newspapers and other reports that maybe we don’t get on the more global perspective. They check and vet the data initially. Then using Salesforce, and Salesforce is another great organisation who give NGOs access to the Salesforce platform. So from the Salesforce platform to our Salesforce platform, we pass names and data, and then obviously we have our own teams of people who are checking that data as well. Then that goes into our World-Check system, which all of the banks use for-

Julia: And that presumably flows through in Sanction Monitoring-

Kimberley: Correct. Screening. So then all of the large banks and corporates around the world are using that data and that’s this whole idea of following the money and stopping that flow of money to those people. So I think that’s a unique way we’re doing things.

Julia: And that’s really wonderful to hear, because particularly around diversity we hear more and more people saying, when the opinion around where the money sits, whether that’s in terms of investment performance or whether that’s in corporate construction and ethics, etc. That is ultimately where certain organisations setting up indices, thinking about where they going to invest, and that now is a contributing factor. To hear that the data is going as far out into thinking about modern day slavery is phenomenal.

So I think one thing has been really fascinating is looking at the role of senior, actually middle management and junior compliance talent, who now arguably have one of the most important jobs, and I’m not just saying that because you’re here, but arguably one of most important jobs in financial services. We’ve talked about some of the shifting dynamics around innovation and RegTech. I know one things you think about is reaching out to that young, emerging talent coming through. Tell us a bit about how you’re encouraging the next generation?

Kimberley: Yeah, we started off definitely connecting to the most senior women in risk regulation and compliance. Now, some of that was just the demographics of the people that attend the conferences, or the regulatory summits, that we run. Some of that was just our ability to cope with the number of people. We wanted a relatively small community where we could bring peers together for them to connect and collaborate and learn from each other.

There’s a real fight for talent in compliance, which plays in with the RegTech angle as well, because we need to improve the way things are done, because we can’t find the number of people. But then what I call the emerging talent that was coming through all then wanted to get involved in the network also. I guess some of that is mentorship, sponsorship and just having the role models, which is fantastic. But then how I could scale that, how I could get to more places and to more people. And not just be for women, but also extend to make these role models available to the men in the industry, whether they were emerging or experienced, so we started Risky Women Radio really to do that. To number one, continue this connecting, continue the celebrating and championing these real experts in the industry if you like.

Julia: And how do people listen to Risky Women Radio? Give us a plug! Tell us where I can find it?

Kimberley: So Risky Women Radio is on every channel – iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, all of them. I think Podbean, yeah we’re on everything!

Julia: Wonderful. And how long has it been going and how many guests have you had on?

Kimberley: I’ve only done six episodes, I’m just a real beginner compared to you Julia! It’s been great fun. I like the conversation and getting to meet people and it is still that connecting and collaborating that I think is absolutely key.

Julia: One thing that I really love about it is the fact that actually you’ve got such senior women stepping forward, and the whole thing about mentoring and sponsorship that you were talking about. So long may that continue!

Kimberley: Absolutely and now I’m getting, even only after six episodes, I’m getting lots more people writing to me saying, “can we speak?” So I will have a regulatory Risky Women regulators special session. And then Power Women, and you’re a Power Woman yourself.

Julia: This is the Power Woman Network that we’re both members of.

Kimberley: So I’ve already spoken with Diane Mullenex, and I’ll speak with Tanuja, who has obviously been on the show as well.

Julia: Absolutely. Just for the listeners, that’s Tanuja Randery, who was on episode two of series two, talking about VC’s and PE. She’s at Apex Partners.

Kimberley: Correct. So I want to talk to her about what’s that diversity angle around where people would invest, and is there an appetite for people to be thinking about that at the VC level – are they taking those kinds of things into account?

Julia: And one thing that constantly impresses me, particularly in the modern world as we go through this momentum of change, is how those sections and those networks are beginning to connect to each other-

Kimberley: Correct. Yeah.

Julia: Which is an incredibly powerful thing. So I think that’s a really good moment to pause there, and we’re going to turn to Robert and Cynthia who have been doing some research to support the discussion today.

Robert: In 2017 a survey carried out by Gartner with 364 security and risk management executives, found that male executives outnumbered female executives by three to one. As the gender balance in the workforce begins to even out, it is likely that there will be more female leaders entering the risk management industry.

Cynthia: Roberta Witty, Gartner’s Research Vice President said, “By 2020, with business acumen as a key competency, Gartner predicts that 40% of executives in security and risk management will be female. Not only are women well suited for security and risk management professions, women in the study see the professions to be an excellent career path.”

Robert: Human trafficking is the second largest illegal business in the world, after drug trafficking. Yielding an estimated 150 billion dollars in illicit profits each year from the criminal enslavement and exploitation of approximately 21 million people worldwide. It is also one of the world’s most under reported crimes.

Cynthia: ‘How the financial services sector can help tackle human trafficking’ is a report by Grant Thornton. It shows how financial services can seek to tackle the issue through their supply chains, and show how the industry can increasingly help to combat the threat in compliance with the UK 2015 Modern Slavery Act.

Julia: Thanks Cynthia and Robert. Links to the research can be found on our websites, You can find all our episodes and sign up for early notifications of future recordings. Please do follow us on Twitter @divercitypod. And DiverCity Podcast is available on BrightTalk and all good podcast channels. We’d love a rating, it helps promote the show.

So Kimberley, I wanted to come back to one thing we’ve touched on very briefly, this question of modern day slavery. So talk us through the enormity of the challenges you see it.

Kimberley: Yeah, it’s a huge problem. Estimates are, according to the Walk Free foundation and IOM, that there is over 40 million modern day slaves. It’s an industry now that’s considered to be worth 150 billion, which is three times the profit of Apple. It’s an incredibly global problem. It exists everywhere. So I always say it exists in my home country, in my host country, and all the places that I’m travelling. I think that’s one of the things that when I first got involved was … even I had this view that this was happening somewhere else. I might live in Hong Kong, but maybe it was happening in China, and it was happening in India, but it wasn’t certainly happening in my home country, but it was. Then I heard that New Zealand was a transit country and that there was problems in Australia. And suddenly I went, “Wow this is all around us, it’s in everywhere that I travel. And people need to take more notice and think about what they can do.”

Julia: How do you possibly engage with the enormity of that challenge? I know this is something you really think about. You could step away and just say, “It’s too big, it’s far too big for me to deal with.” But you’ve stepped up to it.

Kimberley: There were a couple of different NGOs that I got involved with in Hong Kong. One was the Mekong Club, and Matt Friedman from the Mekong Club is incredible, and then Liberty Asia. Both of them were looking at how to engage business, and they were also looking at what things they could do around preventing rather than the cure. So obviously if you’re a lawyer, you can help prosecute and help people who are victims at the end. But if you look at the statistics on that, it is 50,000 people that actually are saved, and the prosecutions that are brought forward. So that’s a rounding error on a 40 million person problem.

So I thought using data, and using the tools and the capabilities that Thomson Reuters has as a company, were brilliant ways to help. So that’s why some of the partnerships came about with the NGOs. The Thomson Reuters Foundation has done an amazing amount of work in this space. They actually were at the forefront, using their own journalists to report on slavery. So when it was a very underreported story, they were reporting on it and really raising awareness. I think now you see the stories in far more mainstream press, so that is, although it’s still important, the raising awareness I think, is higher.

They also match lawyers with pro bono work that the NGOs need, and then they continue to run a conference here that was called Trust Women, now called Trust Conference, which is probably the leader. They have over 500 people attend the conference here. So we have the baby sister conference in Hong Kong, which is now called the Stop Slavery Summit. So we rebranded from Trust Forum Asia to Stop Slavery just to make it a bit more obvious and a bit more action-oriented. That’s been running for four years. With that we try to do very business-related themes. So last year we did banking solutions, we did legal and regulatory solutions, supply chain solutions and data and technology spotlights. This year we’re looking at it from the investors’ angle, and we’re also looking at C-level and director responsibility. So we’ve got one big theme around putting the ‘S’ back in ESG, because our view is that the environment-

Julia: That’s the Environment Social Governance.

Kimberley: … Correct, yeah. The environment pace is getting a lot, and I think needs a lot, of focus. But the ‘S’, the society piece, does not get nearly the same focus and that’s where the slavery-

Julia: And can you just bring it slightly a little bit more in terms of how does the modern day slavery reveal itself? For example, you mentioned the supply chain.

Kimberley: There are certain industries that are very high risk. So obviously I live in Hong Kong, so we all have domestic workers, well a lot of us do. So there’s risks for the domestic workers, often not necessarily what’s happening in their immediate home, although that often is a problem, but they come in in severe debt. So that bonded labour is one of the issues as well, although things can happen to them, like people hold their Passports and therefore they are not free to leave. If they are in severe debt, and some of them are in that debt for more than six or eight months and they’re having to pay back all that, so they’re not actually earning any money, so of course, they can’t leave.

Then you’ve got industries like the fishing industry. So fisheries is particularly bad for men and boys who are often trapped on fishing boats for four years. If they get sick, they’re thrown overboard and this is the shrimp and the fish that we eat. So you will see now that there’s a lot more focus around some of the big companies that know that they have problems in their supply chain. There are corporates who are looking at their supply chain, especially if they’re in fisheries. So if you look at Thai Union, they will be able to tell you what actions that they are taking around where they know that there’s risks and the things that they are doing to change that.

Construction is another big one where there’s a lot of problems. So all of the buildings for the World Cup, etc. in Qatar there’s lots of issues there. But things like the Modern Slavery Act certainly in the UK, the US, and most recently in Australia, are forcing companies to at least make statements and show that they are being proactive around what’s going on. Now each of the Modern Slavery Act … so things get better in terms of the requirements that it’s putting on companies. Because some of the statements on the UK Modern Slavery Act are weak. Some of them are fantastic, if you look at Mark’s and Spencer’s they’ve got fantastic statements as well as you know Unilever, Procter and Gamble, people like that have done quite well, but others are quite ‘tick the box’.

Julia: Bringing it back closer to home in the financial services industry. It’s crystal clear in the world of banking and obviously the flow of payments … are payments flowing down to the people who should be paid, on a fundamental basis? What should listeners, whether they are a senior corporate leader or an individual in an organisation, what should they be thinking about? What do you want them to do? What’s your call to action?

Kimberley: Yeah, I think everyone has the opportunity of doing something. Certainly of course if you’re a lawyer you could look to implement and change laws or you could prosecute traffickers or things like that. But business leaders can certainly take a much closer look at what’s happening in their supply chains. The problem is that supply chains are incredibly complex and you’ve got to get below your first level suppliers and your outsourcing and all of those kinds of things. Then of course consumers can just ask questions about what is going on with the goods that they buy, and think a bit more about, if something really is that cheap, is that possible?

Julia: Kimberley I have to say it’s been the most fascinating discussion. How you have the time I don’t know and to have caught you amid your European tour, when you have such an enormous day job, plus also thinking about The Risky Women movement, as I call it. I’m not going to call it an event or a podcast, it’s actually a movement, which is amazing. And then also care so critically and deeply about the enormous challenge around modern day slavery. We will support you in any way we possibly can. It’s been such a joy having you on the show. Thank you for joining us.

Kimberley: Thank you.

Kieron: This episode of DiverCity Podcast was produced by me, Kieron Yates, on behalf of Julia Streets Productions. Thanks to Cynthia Akinsanya and Robert Pinto-Fernandes for their insights. You kind find out more about the guests on this week show on our website Whilst you’re there you can also signup to our newsletter for all our latest updates. To be sure of catching all our future podcasts, subscribe to our feed on iTunes or your favourite podcast app. And if you’ve enjoyed this episode of DiverCity podcast, remember to give a rating or review. It all helps promote the show to a wider audience. Finally, our twitter handle is @divercitypod. Thanks for listening.