Andrew Raymond, Group Head of Sales

Have we finally reached the tipping-point in trade digitisation?

For so long any practical application of technologies such as blockchain has been little more than a pipe dream. Yet at Sibos 2018 in Australia we heard discussions about real, grounded applications such as the Voltron platform, pioneered by Bolero’s partner R3, that hold out the promise of meeting the requirements of organisations immersed in world trade.

Sibos is the premier business forum for the global financial community where  all aspects of payments, securities, cash management and trade are debated. This year’s event in Sydney attracted more than 7,600 delegates and 166 exhibitors on two showroom floors. We were there four days and none was wasted, with a number of new company contacts and many more informal conversations of potential value.

Standards are holding back digitisation

It was great to see that Bolero was frequently cited as an important innovator and participant right across the trade digitisation movement. We saw genuine recognition that the Bolero platform is delivering the gains of digitisation for corporates, banks, forwarders and shipping liners.

Yet in many sessions, despite the optimism about how digitisation of trade documentation delivers real benefits in speed, cost and security, the question of standards was repeatedly aired. Speakers talked of how bodies drafting standards move at a glacial pace and have failed to keep up with digital technology, with the result that digitisation is held back, and the benefits denied to more organisations.

Banks, shippers and corporates looking to streamline workflows are hampered by lack of interoperability of many new solutions due to the absence of common legal or data standards. The substantial amount of debate on this topic at Sibos was striking, but not surprising, given the growing levels of frustration. Some speakers were very forthright about the need for updated standards for bills of lading, invoices and shipping documents so we can all extract the substantial efficiency gains from digitisation and electronic presentation. The feeling was that too many heels are being dragged at present.

Bolero in key blockchain initiative

We saw a number of key initiatives being launched at Sibos including R3’s Voltron, of which Bolero has been an integral part.  This launch delivers an open platform for documentary trade, targeting production on R3’s Corda Enterprise blockchain platform in 2019. Founding members of Voltron include Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC Holding, HSBC, ING, NatWest, SEB and Standard Chartered. Voltron’s initial aim is to use blockchain technology to bring significant efficiencies to transacting letters of credit. Bolero’s eBL solution will be integrated onto the Corda platform for the issuance and management of eBLs allowing title of the goods to transfer digitally.

Bolero helps underpin the UK-Australia FinTech Bridge

Bolero was also pleased to be invited to be part of the British delegation to the UK-Australia FinTech Bridge event prior to Sibos. The Bridge was established earlier this year by the two governments to foster cooperation. Our invitation to attend the event in Sydney is a mark of how Bolero is increasingly building awareness and a strong customer base in the region.

Overall, Sibos has been a very encouraging event for Bolero. Trade digitisation is continuing to gain momentum and Bolero is at the heart of the changes that are taking place.