HSBC is seeking Korean bank partners for blockchain trade finance platform

By Staff Reporter

London-headquartered HSBC is looking for Korean banks to partner with for its blockchain in trade finance platform, reports Korea Times on Tuesday.

Joshua Kroeker, HSBC’s innovation director on distributed ledger, told members of the press in Seoul that it is planning to forge ties with Korean financial institutions and tech companies for its Voltron trade finance platform that runs on R3’s Corda.

Last year, HSBC became the first global bank to conduct a live experiment to settle a trade finance transaction on the platform that helps digitize paper-based Letter of Credits (L/Cs) that currently account for nearly half of the global trade finance market.

The world’s largest trade finance bank is part of the R3 blockchain consortium that is aiming to implement distributed ledger technology to streamline the otherwise complex trade finance process that often takes as long as 30 days to settle. The blockchain is known to reduce the time it takes to complete the transaction that involves multiple parties from exporters to shipping companies to less than 24 hours.

“The biggest impact would be time. Time and transparency will help companies better manage their cash flow and working capital,” Kroeker was quoted as saying. “I am here this week to reach out to Korean banks to collaborate on this blockchain platform for letters of credit.”

HSBC has partnerships with several financial institutions for Voltron including Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC Holding, ING, NatWest, SEB and Standard Chartered.

In November, HSBC and ING launched what is known as industry’s first blockchain platform to issue an electronic Bill of Lading, as reported by us here.

It was carried with the help of R3’s Corda platform. The LC was issued by ING Bank for Tricon Energy USA (importer) with HSBC India as the advising and negotiating bank for India’s Reliance Industries (exporter). The transaction cut the time required to exchange documents from 7 to 10 days to less than a day.

Earlier in 2018, HSBC and ING facilitated a finance transaction, also on R3 Corda platform, a live trade finance transaction for food and agri-giant Cargill to ship soybeans from Argentina to Malaysia.

A digitized LC was issued using Corda by HSBC to ING. Cargill’s Geneva arm was the exporter while the Cargill’s Singapore was the importer. The time used to exchange LC, which was carried out on a single shared application rather than multiple systems, was cut from 24 hours to 5-10 days.

However, the success of such blockchain collaboratives often hinges on “network effect” and it is not surprising that the global bank is keen on drumming up more partners.

Besides Voltron, there are other blockchain in trade finance consortiums around the world such as, Macro Polo, TradeAssets, and Hong Kong’s eTradeConnect some of which are powered by IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric and focus on aspects of trade finance other than L/Cs such as “factoring.”

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