By Jacco de Jong, Global Head of Sales, Bolero International

Corporates engaged in international trade are all too frequently stuck with manual methods despite advancing digitisation in many other areas of professional life.

This manual approach to trade finance transaction handling not only consumes the time of skilled employees, it also undermines agility at a time when exporters and importers face enormous pressure from high inflation, rising interest rates, the disruptions of the Ukraine war and the continuing imbalance between supply and demand in global markets. Chinese lockdowns also continue to cause major disruptions.

With so much unpredictability affecting trade and its financial supply chain, there are definite advantages for corporates that accelerate digitisation to streamline their trade finance processes and enable faster and more effective decision-making.

What corporates and their staff need is end-to-end visibility of trade transactions from one pane of glass instead of multiple portals and methods of communication.

Banks need to support or provide all-in-one trade portals

Solutions are available that have all these capabilities and more. All it takes is for banks to deploy or support them. They come as trade portal platforms that digitise trade finance instruments and documents to give corporate customers that critical level of visibility right across the ecosystem of participating banks, financial organisations and counterparties in each transaction. The added capacity to expand networks beyond a one-to-one connection means banks can provide customers with new capabilities that win their continued loyalty in a cost-efficient way. Digitisation of the customer experience and advanced transaction-management through trade portals should therefore become priorities for banks.

Corporates need a consolidated view and the ability to manage their open account transactions and letters of credit, bank guarantees, and electronic presentations of trade documents such as bills of lading.

Proven technology and established networks are vital

There is an important consideration in all this. Digitisation of trade finance requires connected and effective networks, founded on advanced technology that is tried and tested. More advanced trade portals have already proved themselves in the real world and have their own networks. Their reach extends to organisations including other financial institutions, carriers, forwarders, and major corporate customers.

These SaaS platforms can be fully and securely integrated into the back-end systems of major global banks in a quick time to market. They have already achieved a critical level of interoperability – a key sticking point for many new systems. Such platforms will, for example, take care of important updates, such as those applying to SWIFT messaging types and standards. The streamlined efficiency and increased visibility of these advanced portals has earned them a high level of credibility in more forward-looking organisations. And with multi-layered architecture and browser-agnostic functionality they offer high levels of scalability and flexibility.

In unpredictable times these platforms bring corporate customers much greater control and the flexibility to adapt to significant market changes and new financial pressures that characterise the current global economy. Increased adoption of digital trade finance solutions by banks across the globe will enable corporates to communicate far more easily with all their banks and finally move away from antiquated paper processes and multiple communication channels.