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TREASURY

Blockchain revolution meets hard reality in trade finance

The recent failures of we.trade and Serai, HSBC’s B2B trade finance platform for SMEs, highlight the challenges that blockchain-based solutions face in trade finance.

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Photo: iStock

In 2018, the World Trade Organization asked: can blockchain revolutionize international trade? It reported on possible applications of blockchain and stated that the technology opened interesting opportunities to enhance the efficiency of several processes and cut costs in these areas.

The author of the report said that if the projects under development succeeded, blockchain could become the future of trade infrastructure and the biggest disruptor to the shipping industry and to international trade since the invention of the container.

One of the highest profile ventures in this space was we.trade, which started offering commercial services in 2019. A joint-venture company owned by 12 European banks and IBM, it promised to enhance cash flow by digitizing paper-based processes.

However, the platform struggled to deliver a return on investment for its backers. Even financial support from IBM and a new capital round were not enough to prevent it folding in May.

It is interesting to see a shift away from blockchain for some trade finance-related initiatives, especially since blockchain was positioned as the key differentiator for their solution
Jacco De Jong, Bolero
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Just a few weeks later, B2B online trade platform Serai also admitted defeat in its efforts to build a commercially viable business.


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