A strong focus on digitisation in trade finance made the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Banking Commission’s 2017 annual meeting in Jakarta an environment where Bolero chairman Daniel Cotti and I felt we had much to contribute.
With nearly 600 delegates present from 58 countries including many senior figures in international banking and trade, the event (April 3 to April 7) put the spotlight on the digitalisation of trade finance. Discussions focused on how it could simplify and reduce the costs for business, while also allowing banks to better serve small-to medium-sized enterprises, a key priority for ICC.
During the conference, Bolero took an active role in two in-depth discussions. Daniel moderated a debate on the “opportunities and obstacles in trade finance digitalisation”, while I was a panellist at a breakout session on paperless trade. These meetings addressed similar areas and in my case that included an assessment of the current state of play, an outline of lessons learned to date and some sharing of advice on implementation. We also covered the legal frameworks and where we saw the opportunities arising. This allowed me to outline what Bolero is doing as a result of our partnerships around the globe and what we see in terms of adjacent-space applications and networks, providing a new level of visibility in transactions.
Inclusivity also proved to be a hot topic, in light of continuing reports about the difficulty that small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have in obtaining trade finance. As a large proportion of these applications are rejected, despite small businesses being the lifeblood of many national economies, the Fintech companies have started using their ingenuity to bridge the finance gap. At the conference, however, the question was raised about how trade digitisation can also assist SMEs in this difficult area, with opinions varying. While there are problems in assessing the creditworthiness of SMEs, digitisation can help in providing more accurate and complete data.
From a Bolero perspective it was good to witness some forward momentum at the ICC on the clarification of legal questions around digitisation, enabling wider acceptance around the globe. The ICC commission has also formed a new working group on digitisation, to which Daniel will make a significant contribution, helping it come up with key guidelines.
Bolero was frequently mentioned in many panel discussions. a clear indicator of how we are leading the thinking on trade finance digitisation.
Notwithstanding that it was an international event, regional banks were strongly represented and speakers from the Indonesian government stressed how the problems of trade are directly relevant to their country which is heavily involved in supplying natural resources and commodities.
Over the course of the two days it was abundantly apparent that Bolero has a major role to play in advancing trade digitisation. Overall, the event was much more energetic and enthusiastic about digitisation than its official “annual meeting” title might suggest. Those present were committed to overcoming the remaining obstacles and to boosting world trade through digitisation.