Trade finance distribution platform to expand AI capabilities after US$6.3mn investment

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

Tradeteq, a trade finance-focused fintech startup, is to expand its distribution platform and release new applications and services after raising US$6.3mn of equity investment.

The seed extension funding round was led by venture capital firm ADV, with the participation of several of Tradeteq’s existing individual and family office investors. It is the company’s most significant investment to date, bringing the total raised thus far to US$7mn.

Tradeteq is the provider of a trade finance distribution platform that connects trade finance originators with institutional investors and enables them to interact and transact. The aim is to open up the trade finance market to a broader set of investors, using advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to provide sophisticated credit analytics, reporting, investment and operational solutions for their trade finance exposures.

So far, assets worth US$150mn have been processed through the platform, which went live earlier in the year after a soft launch in 2017.

The founders, Christoph Gugelmann and Nils Behling, worked together at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and then Galena, the asset management arm of commodity trader Trafigura, before setting up Tradeteq, run out of London.

Speaking to GTR, Behling says the new investment is a “significant step” for the company and its vision of making trade finance investable and establishing trade finance as an alternative asset class.

“It’s building on the foundation that we have laid over the past months, but it will really be bringing our offering to the next level,” he says.

Investment delivery is one of the areas where Tradeteq will now look to enhance its offering: within the next few months the firm will launch a flexible repackaging offering that transforms exposures into notes that can be purchased, held and transferred as traditional fixed income instruments. This will make it more straightforward for institutional buyers to invest in trade finance exposures.

Another focus area will be the implementation of AI for credit scoring: Tradeteq will now be able to “speed up the development, to hire additional resources and to expedite building further on what we have”, explains Gugelmann. He adds that the firm will also seek to “expand aggressively by teaming up with third parties in non-core areas, such as credit insurance and fraud detection systems”.

The company opened a Singapore office in March, from which it is now building its Asia client base. The firm also plans to open an office in the US by the end of the year.

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R3 and 39 firms trial new blockchain-based KYC utility

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

R3 has trialled a global, blockchain-powered know your customer (KYC) utility together with 39 banks, firms and regulators.

The four-day collaborative trial, which took place in May, saw the completion of more than 300 transactions on an application designed and built by Synechron on R3’s Corda blockchain platform.

It enabled participants, which included the likes of BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, ING and Société Générale, to communicate and manage test customer KYC data across the network. The solution works as a “self-sovereign” model, allowing corporate customers to create and control their own identities, including relevant documentation. Banks can request access to the data, whilst customers can approve requests and revoke access.  Any updates that are made become automatically visible to banks with permission to access the data.

R3 says in a statement that the trial reduced duplication and costs by eliminating the need for each institution to individually attest to and update KYC records.

A utility like this could be a game-changer for the trade finance industry, where the cost and complexity of compliance with regulation, including KYC requirements, remain a big barrier to the availability of finance. A shared utility could help ease mundane compliance processes that are often duplicated across financial institutions.

While KYC utilities have already being explored by other firms, to date most have had limited success due to low uptake.

But R3 and Synechron believe that the use of blockchain technology will make their solution more appealing to the industry.

“We’ve had increasing demand from our network for blockchain-based KYC solutions as they recognise that blockchain can address many of the challenges facing existing utilities,” Jane Kenyon, project lead at R3, tells GTR.

Tim Coates, US blockchain lead at Synechron, emphasises the fact that the application is decentralised and gives parties control of their own data as key differentiators from existing utilities.

He adds: “Blockchain’s immutability used as a new verification mechanism, and its peer-to-peer nature enabling greater data privacy are two of the native features that have attracted many in the KYC sector to blockchain.”

While Kenyon could not give details on a specific future timeline, she did say that R3 is working with a number of partners to develop applications on CorDapps to facilitate KYC on Corda, adding: “We are open to working with members who want to take these solutions forward in their institutions.”

The banks and corporates involved in the project include: ABN Amro, ALD Automotive, Alfa Bank, Bank ABC, Bank of Cyprus, BCI, BNP Paribas, China Merchants Bank, Commercial International Bank, CTBC Holding, Deutsche Bank, DNB, Hana Bank, ING, KB Kookmin Bank, Banca Mediolanum, Natixis, National Bank of Egypt, NH Nonghyup Bank, Qiwi, Raiffeisen Bank International, RCI Bank and Services, SBI Bank, Shinhan Bank, Société Générale, US Bank and Woori Bank.

In addition, a number of regulators and central banks took part, including Banco de la República (Colombia’s central bank), Federal Reserve of Boston, Superintendencia Financiera de Colombia and Superintendencia de Banca Seguros y AFP de Peru.

According to Kenyon, a planned feature of the fully developed KYC application would include an observer node that would be assigned to the regulators, giving them visibility on the entire network.

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First four banks go live on blockchain platform

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

The blockchain platform is now live across 11 European countries, with four banks closing seven trade transactions.

The pilot transactions, which took place over the last five days, were carried out by 10 companies across five countries. The four banks involved were HSBC, KBC, Nordea and Rabobank.

Powered by Hyperledger Fabric, is a solution for managing, tracking and protecting open account trade transactions between SMEs in Europe. It connects parties involved in a trade deal in one place, helps SMEs initiate new trading relationships and provides them with easy access to a range of financing solutions. has nine founding members, which also include Deutsche Bank, Natixis, Santander, Société Générale and UniCredit. The project’s IT vendor is IBM. In April, the banks took a crucial step toward the commercialisation of, creating a legal entity to manage and distribute the platform.

In a statement, Roberto Mancone, COO of, calls the live transactions a “massive achievement”, adding that they prove that the platform is a “robust and commercially viable proposition”.

“This really is collaboration at its finest. Not only has built a technical solution, it has also managed to create real collaboration across multiple banks and increased the connectivity of the trade ecosystem,” he says.

HSBC played a major role, taking part in four of the seven pilot transactions. While is primarily aimed at cross-border trade, it can equally be used for domestic transactions. As such, three of HSBC’s pilots was done internally between HSBC branches in the UK and Ireland, while one was executed together with Nordea.

The trade with Nordea involved UK-based company Fluid Pumps, which used the platform to complete an open account sale with GPS Food Group in Finland, supported by a bank payment undertaking.

The other banks in the consortium are currently working to complete their first transactions over the coming few months. The next step will be for the banks to bring a commercial product to the market in the fourth quarter of 2018, which will include onboarding more banks and their customers in Europe. The intention is to expand globally in 2019, with Asia being the next target market.

Other banks can join by purchasing a licence. This is designed to expand the usership as quickly as possible.

At present, is operating across 11 European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

“We have a very extensive list of banks knocking on the door, in various stages,” Raphael Barisaac, global co-head of trade finance at UniCredit, told GTR on the sidelines of the Blockchain Summit in London last week. But, he added, “for now, we have decided to focus on getting the commercial version up and running full steam ahead – thus enabling as many clients possible to use the platform”.

He noted that the customer feedback so far has been “very positive”.

“The customers are very enthusiastic about this solution,” he said. “The clients couldn’t care less whether you use a technology that is 20 years old or 10 years old or blockchain. They care about the value you are adding to their business. At the end of the day, the technology per se doesn’t bring any value as a stand-alone, it is an enabler – the value comes with what you are able to provide to the client as a service. And yes, by using the distributed ledger technology we are providing something extra.”

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TradeIX to “aggressively” grow blockchain ecosystem after ING investment

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

Fintech firm TradeIX will look to accelerate the growth of the Marco Polo blockchain project, after receiving a US$16mn investment from ING and other financial players.

TradeIX is the world’s first trade finance specific open-source blockchain platform, which allows financial institutions to develop their own trade finance applications with open APIs.

The company announced last week that it had closed a series A funding round led by ING Ventures, the venture capital arm of ING, and joined by BNP Paribas, Kistefos and Tech Mahindra.

In a statement, TradeIX CEO and founder Rob Barnes calls the investment “a significant stepping stone” for the company, adding that the cash injection will be used to boost hiring, accelerate customer acquisition and platform development.

One of TradeIX’s flagship projects is Marco Polo, a platform for open account trade developed with R3 and 10 international banks, including ING and BNP Paribas.

Powered by R3’s Corda, it enables real-time connectivity between trade participants, improves visibility into trade flows and simplifies access to credit and risk mitigation services throughout the trade lifecycle.

Daniel Cotti, CFO at TradeIX, tells GTR that pilots are currently being prepared and are scheduled to begin in October. The platform will then move into production and be commercialised next year.

He says the funding round will allow TradeIX to “accelerate resources to the Marco Polo project to ensure that we maximise the potential of the industry initiative with additional trade orchestrations”, also adding that the firm will be “growing the Marco Polo ecosystem aggressively”.

The banks involved in the project at this point are Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, DNB, ING, OP Financial Group, RBS, SMBC and Standard Chartered, with Natixis being the latest to join in late May.

Two other banks are “about to sign”, according to Cotti, who could not publicly reveal the names, but added that “we are talking to many other interested banks”.

A number of other financial institutions, including Barclays, BBVA, Bladex and Wells Fargo, were part of the original consortium developing the proof of concept, but decided to leave the project as it entered its pilot phase.

“We needed the banks to help us pay for this,” Cotti explains. “And some of the banks had too many other projects or didn’t have the budget, or weren’t able to present a business case internally that was approved.”

ING and BNP Paribas, together with Commerzbank, were the core banks driving the proof of concept throughout the second half of 2017.

With ING’s investment, the bank is now “intensifying our co-operation with TradeIX”, says Mark Buitenhek, the bank’s head of transaction services. He emphasises that while ING sees “a lot of opportunity in distributed ledger technology”, it is TradeIX’s open platform that makes it appealing.

“‘Open’ is what ING thinks the future of financial services is going to be,” he adds.

According to Benoit Legrand, chief innovation officer of ING and CEO of ING Ventures, the investment means the bank can offer TradeIX’s solution to “even more clients in the near future”.

The announcement comes just a few weeks after another blockchain consortium announced it is going into production with a similar blockchain solution. The platform is powered by Hyperledger Fabric and is developed by nine European banks together with IBM.

Speaking at the Money2020 fintech conference in Amsterdam in early-June, Joost Volker, lead product manager of trade at Rabobank, said is “now in a production environment” and will host its first transactions later in the same month. He added that the consortium will “use the period after summer for a large roll-out” to the broader market.

While there are technical differences between the Hyperledger Fabric and Corda blockchain frameworks, is, like Marco Polo, a solution for tracking and financing open account trade. However, is mainly focused on SMEs trading within Europe, whereas Marco Polo will be a global platform for all types of clients.

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Kenyan bank and fintech firm launch supply chain finance platform

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA), Kenya’s largest privately-owned bank, has launched a new supply chain platform to finance more SMEs.

With Kenya’s commercial interest rate capped at four percentage points above the central bank’s benchmark rate, the move could provide a much-needed capital to small businesses in the country.

CBA has launched the solution in partnership with Nairobi-based fintech firm Ennovative Capital (ECap), which built the platform, and the African Guarantee Fund for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, which funded the acquisition of the technology.

Implementation of the system started in April last year, and CBA has been running pilots with one of its big corporate clients since December.

It has also been piloting by buying goods itself, financing its own suppliers (including marketing agencies, IT vendors, suppliers of food, water and cleaning services) via the platform.

The technology enables CBA to offer reverse factoring, a form of financing that allows suppliers of its corporate clients to get paid before the stipulated credit period. The platform works as a marketplace where suppliers can trade their approved invoices, with no need for credit assessment.

Speaking to GTR, CBA’s value chain financing manager Euster Seghete Gerald says the bank has had “substantial interest” from corporate clients in the new solution.

She expects CBA to onboard at least five corporates and their suppliers over the next year, but going forward this specific form of financing is “a very clear growth area for the bank”.

“We have buyers who do over €200mn of supply payments in a year. So the potential is immense,” she adds.

Supply chain finance has been of interest to banks around the world for many years, as it offers them an opportunity to move away from traditional trade finance instruments like letters of credit, towards open account trade.

In Kenya specifically, however, it could be a crucial way for banks to be able to provide funding to SMEs under the country’s current interest rate cap.

Since September 2016, Kenya has capped commercial lending rates at four percentage points above the central bank’s benchmark rate, which now stands at 9.5%. While the aim was to limit the cost of borrowing for businesses and individuals, it has to a large extent had the opposite effect, with banks deeming SMEs too risky to lend to under the cap.

“Supply chain financing is big because, with the interest rate capping in the industry, many banks are looking at lending to the SMEs without having to take the risk of the SME,” Gerald explains. “Supply chain financing offers that comfort where the actual beneficiary of the funds is the SME, but the payment is coming from your corporate buyers. So the risk is way lower than any other financing, it’s almost risk-free if you are comfortable with the buyer”.

The new platform is also open to overseas suppliers, which according to ECap’s CEO Kefa Nyakundi makes it “a perfect solution for boosting intra-Africa trade and therefore facilitating the aspirations in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement signed earlier in the year”.

His statement follows doomy predictions from Moody’s saying that lack of trade finance and other non-tariff barriers would limit the full potential of a continental free trade.

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Blockchain-based certificates of origin come to Kenya

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr Bermingham

Electronic certificates of origin (eCOs) will be issued on the blockchain in Kenya, in a move that will modernise a key part of the country’s trade facilitation processes.

Fintech company vCargo Cloud (VCC) is to work with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI) to implement a blockchain-based solution that it launched in May in Singapore.

eCOs are export documents that certify the country of manufacture of a shipment. They are required by customs, banks and traders to verify goods and are commonly among the documents used in a trade finance transaction.

The solution allows for the instant, digital capture and processing of eCOs. They will be embedded on the blockchain and stored in a private ledger, where customs, banks or any other parties to the trade cycle can access them.

VCC CEO Desmond Tay tells GTR that the solution will be tweaked slightly to the specifications of the KNCCI, but that it is essentially the same as the one being used in Singapore.

“After the success in Singapore, we have been trying to bring the blockchain eCO solution to other places around the world. We are in discussions with a few chambers in Africa and Southeast Asia and expect to see further expansion soon,” he says.

VCC has an office in Nairobi, and so launching in Kenya was a logical next step, Tay says. The company is also in talks with chambers in Sri Lanka, Japan, Myanmar, as well as numerous countries in East Africa about rolling out the platform there.

Numerous other companies have begun launching blockchain-based solutions for trade in Africa. IBM is rolling out a supply chain finance platform that uses machine learning and blockchain to extend micro-loans to small businesses there.

Meanwhile, Block Commodities and Wala, a trader and a fintech platform respectively, have combined to launch a cryptocurrency commodity financing solution, providing US$10mn-worth of loans to 50,000 smallholder farmers in Africa.

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Euler Hermes’ insurtech brand expands coverage for exporters

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

Insurtech startup Credable is expanding the geographical coverage of its invoice insurance offering to cater for a large demand from exporting SMEs.

Credable, which was launched in Sweden in March, is the first stand-alone brand that has come out of the Euler Hermes Digital Agency. Using the latest insurance technology (insurtech), its fully digital platform offers Swedish SMEs an on-demand insurance option that covers against late or unpaid invoices on a single invoice or buyer.

During the pilot phase, which started in September 2017, Credable focused on insuring SMEs’ business in the four Nordic countries, but added another 13 European countries, including Italy, France and the UK, at the product launch. Now, adding another seven countries, Swedish SMEs can get coverage in 24 jurisdictions across Europe.

Speaking to GTR, Credable’s managing director Richard Garnier says this geographical expansion was only planned for later in the year, but the firm decided to “accelerate” its efforts in direct response to feedback from existing and potential clients.

“We’re continually talking to our users and prospects to understand their real-world experiences. One theme that kept emerging time and time again is how concerned SMEs are when they trade internationally, and how having the support of Credable and Euler Hermes is of interest to them,” he says.

Of the new countries covered by Credable are Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, which Garnier describes as “significant additions to the portfolio”.

He adds that export is a “particularly good use case for our customers”, as the product provides reassurance to companies that their clients in distant territories are trustworthy financial partners and their payments are protected if any problems arise.

This is done through the platform’s two main features: first, it provides an instant “traffic light” risk calculator for an SME’s potential customer. Once a Swedish SME has been accepted onto the platform, it can search a database and see the creditworthiness of a firm it is about to do business with. For this, the platform uses an API (application programming interface) to access Euler Hermes data on millions of companies around the world in real time.

Secondly, the user can automatically get a quote for insurance coverage of an invoice, and instantly buy it. The platform calculates the premium cost, based on the invoice size, the payment terms offered and the credit rating of the buyer.

Apart from the geographical expansion of the platform, today’s announcement also includes the addition of new features, one of which allows SMEs to retroactively insure their invoices.

Credable now has 400 registered SME users, many of whom are now repeat customers. But the insurtech company believes there is much space for growth, noting in a statement that Swedish SME exporters represent “a huge market opportunity”, as most trade credit insurance today does not cater for SMEs’ need for easy and flexible insurance.

As such, Garnier says the quick growth is partly due to Credable creating more awareness around its product.

“Trade credit has been largely contained for a large-corporate audience,” he says. “Here we are taking a new market on a journey, and quite often that starts with explaining the concept, and perhaps the initial transaction being local, with a known supplier, and as we explain the application’s ability and as their trading grows, they look to use it internationally.”

Going forward, Credable will continue to add more countries in which Swedish SMEs can insure their exports. Garnier says countries outside of Europe are “on the agenda”, but can’t comment on the specific timing.

What he can say is that, by the end of the year, the firm will start expanding beyond Sweden to countries in which SMEs can buy Credable’s insurance.

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HSBC and ING complete live trade finance transaction on blockchain

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr Bermingham

HSBC and ING have conducted their first live, commercial trade finance transaction on blockchain, for agrifood trading giant Cargill.

The deal was completed using the R3 Corda platform, with a cargo of soybeans exported from Argentina to Malaysia.

Cargill was the exporter and importer on a deal that saw Cargill Geneva selling soybeans on behalf of Cargill Argentina, and Cargill Singapore buying the goods on behalf of Cargill Malaysia.

It was done using the letter of credit (LC) module of Corda, which has been developed by 12 banks. This enabled the transaction time to be reduced from a standard five to 10 days, to 24 hours. The LC was issued by HSBC, with ING acting as the advising bank. The value of the transaction has not been disclosed.

While the LC was executed on blockchain, other elements of the transaction cycle – such as the bill of lading – were not.

Vivek Ramachandran, HSBC’s global head of innovation and growth for commercial banking, tells GTR that we can expect to see another few live transactions on this platform, as the bank learns how it interacts with the systems of other banks and corporations. However, the primary focus now will be on driving industry-wide adoption.

“We’ve still got a few more steps to do before we get to widespread adoption,” Ramachandran says. “A lot of people have been wanting to make sure that it works with a live transaction. That’s part of the reason this is exciting, to be able to demonstrate that a live commercial transaction with a flagship global trader and two global banks on each side of the transaction, actually works.”

While this is arguably the most advanced trade finance development on blockchain to date, the industry has a couple of years-long history of trialling the technology, with the hype at times reaching deafening levels.

In late-2016, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Wells Fargo closed a US$35,000 transaction for two subsidiaries of Brighann Cotton, taking 88 bales of cotton from Texas in the US to Qingdao in China, using Skuchain’s Brackets blockchain-based solution.

Since then there have been a plethora of pilots, trials and proofs of concepts, but general frustration in the industry that nobody is bringing blockchain technology to operational trade finance. There have been signs over recent months, however, that this is getting closer.

Batavia, a blockchain-based trade finance platform developed by IBM and a consortium of five banks, completed its first live transactions with corporate clients in April and is thought to be close to commercial use., a European platform for managing, tracking and protecting trade transactions between SMEs, backed by nine banks, is aiming to launch to business clients in the third quarter of 2018.

In India last month, meanwhile, a government-backed invoice financing platform went live with a blockchain-based solution that allowed the various companies involved to share information to prevent double financing via blockchain. However, there is no financing element to this product.

The news comes two months after HSBC’s senior innovation manager, Joshua Kroeker, told GTR that the bank was ready to do live trade finance transactions on blockchain.

The bank had been involved in one of the earlier blockchain projects for trade finance when it worked with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) on a proof of concept to mirror letters of credit using distributed ledger technology.

However, its work on the Corda platform has apparently accelerated beyond its other blockchain developments.

Corda is a platform owned by R3, a US company founded by David Rutter, with members including more than 200 banks, financial institutions, regulators, trade associations, professional services firms and technology companies.

In April, an application for syndicated loans called Fusion LenderComm became the first to go live on the Corda platform. The app had been piloted by banks including BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, HSBC, ING, Natixis and State Street. It had been developed since early-2017 by fintech company Finastra and R3.

ING has also been heavily involved in the trade-based developments on blockchain technology. As well as being among the banks working with Fusion LenderComm, it was reported to be working with trading house Mercuria and French bank Société Générale to build a blockchain solution for oil trading, early in 2017.

The bank’s managing director for innovation in wholesale banking, Ivar Wiersman, says: “It’s exciting to see this transaction has been completed successfully with clear client benefits in speed and ease in execution.”

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IBM’s latest blockchain venture brings microfinancing to Africa’s SMEs

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Sanne Wass

IBM is rolling out a new supply chain finance platform across Africa, using machine learning algorithms and blockchain technology to extend microloans to small businesses.

The tech giant’s research lab in Kenya announced today that it is working with Twiga Foods, a business-to-business logistics platform for kiosks and food stalls in Africa, on a new concept for disbursing microfinancing to businesses using a blockchain-enabled platform.

The partnership has allowed Twiga Foods, which helps farmers distribute bananas, tomatoes, onions and potatoes to 2,600 kiosks across Kenya, to add financial services to its offering and thus scale its reach. Having piloted the platform with 220 small food retailers across Kenya over an eight-week period, the trial saw its customers increase their order size by 30%.

The platform is now ready to be rolled out across Africa – to new sectors and suppliers – by the end of the year.

The idea is to utilise something that most people in Africa have – mobile phones – to bring them something they haven’t – access to working capital.

During the pilot, all loans were executed via mobile and went directly towards working capital for the businesses. When a retailer had an order delivered from Twiga, they would receive an SMS with options for financing that order. The retailer would then respond, confirming which loan option they preferred. The average loan was around US$30, offered for four and eight days with an interest rate of one and two percent, respectively.

Speaking to GTR, Andrew Kinai, the lead research engineer on the project at IBM Research, says the platform is about “linking SMEs, their suppliers and the banks” and using alternative data to give lenders the confidence they need to provide financial services.

Small businesses are hugely important for most African economies, yet they often have difficulty accessing sufficient credit due to the complexities of financing processes, high loan costs, collateral requirements and lack of a credit score.

“These vendors are quite small, so if they were to go to a bank, the bank would probably want an audited account or collateral and things like that. These small businesses don’t have that,” says Kinai. “So what we’re trying to do with our solution is to use alternate data, which can give a good idea of how well a business is doing and leverage that to provide credit to these small-scale vendors.”

This data, which includes information on purchase history as well as repayment, is crunched by the platform’s machine learning algorithm to predict the creditworthiness of a vendor. Once the credit score is determined, the blockchain platform, powered by Hyperledger Fabric and executed through smart contracts, will manage the entire lending process, from application to receiving offers, to then accepting the terms and eventually repayment.

Connecting multiple parties, blockchain is an optimal technology to manage the loan process, as it becomes transparent to all permissioned parties involved, from the lending bank to the borrower’s bank and the loan applicant themselves.

While the pilot didn’t involve any banks, the next stage of the project will be to bring in lending partners, Kinai says.

The companies are also set to expand the project to more of Twiga Foods’ vendors, as well as to other suppliers, including outside of Kenya, by the end of the year.

“For this pilot, we were doing it with one supplier, but the vendors often have other suppliers. Each of these suppliers has a snapshot of how that business is doing. So in the next step, we’re envisioning we’ll have mutable suppliers, to give an SME or vendor a ‘financial identity’, which is composed of all of these snapshots from various suppliers. A blockchain network would be very important in managing this,” Kinai explains.

It is hoped that such a financial identity stored on the blockchain could help SMEs across Africa access a wider range of financial services in the future.

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Yes Bank launches robotics tool to automate part of trade finance cycle

From Global Trade Review (GTR) | By Finbarr Bermingham

Yes Bank has launched a solution that uses robotics to digitise part of the trade finance payments process.

The tool automates the submission of the bill of entry, an account of traded goods entering the port.

A robotics solution then verifies the documentation, which is submitted digitally, by cross-checking it with the Indian government’s Import Data Payment and Monitoring System (IDPMS) or Export Data Processing and Monitoring System (EDPMS). Payment is then released, with the bank saying it has the potential to reduce payment turnaround time by 80%.

­­Yes Bank plans to roll the solution out to 2,000 corporate clients servicing markets in China, the US, Singapore, Germany and Hong Kong. The plan is to eventually “extend to other segments as appropriate, eventually to all trade finance products wherever applicable,” Asit Oberoi, global head of transaction banking, tells GTR.

The development comes one year after the Reserve Bank of India launched the IDPMS and EDPMS systems to help digitise trade in India, a move which has been widely hailed as improving efficiency in India.

“This solution would not have been possible without the visionary introduction of the IDPMS and EDPMS  by the RBI,” Oberoi says.

It also comes on the back of the biggest financial fraud in India’s history. At a branch of Punjab National Bank (PNB), fraudulent letters of undertaking (LOUs) were used over a seven-year period to skim US$1.7bn from confirming banks overseas.

The RBI has responded by banning the LOU, while the clamour to further reduce the dependence on paper-based solutions among India’s trade finance banks has grown. Oberoi declined the chance to comment on the PNB situation, but did note that “import finance from overseas lenders on an LOU for direct import is not available now”.

Yes Bank claims to be the first Indian bank to digitise this part of the trade cycle, but there have been moves from foreign banks to take advantage of the RBI’s digital agenda.

In October last year, Deutsche Bank launched TradePay, the first paperless import payment solution in the country. The solution uses IDPMS to verify import payments by checking them against details made available by the client on the system, eliminating the need for clients to share any physical documentation.

This followed Citi launching a solution which allows clients to share import payment information with the bank by quoting the RBI’s IDPMS number, without having to share documents. This was launched in April 2017.

In the wake of the PNB fraud, we can expect to see digitisation gain pace. International banks have been reluctant to accept guarantees from import financing Indian banks, which has been choking importers from vital capital.


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