Barclays Seychelles involved in a world first in trade finance |19 September 2016
Africa was at the forefront of technological change recently as Barclays Africa and its UK shareholder Barclays PLC completed the world’s first trade finance transaction using Blockchain technology.
On September 6, 2016, Barclays Africa conducted a world-first in the Blockchain and Trade Finance space. This was facilitated by teams in Barclays Africa, Barclays Seychelles and Barclays UK, and was the first live transaction of its kind.
The trade, between Ireland and the Seychelles, was based on a new technology platform developed by Wave, an innovative start-up company that went through the Barclays Accelerator programme last year. It could herald a new era of simpler, faster and safer trade finance.
The pilot trade involved a letter of credit transaction between an Irish supplier and the Seychelles Trading Company (STC) Ltd, clients of Barclays UK and Barclays Seychelles respectively. It used the Wave technology platform to transfer the electronic Bill of Lading, with the funds sent via Swift.
How does the new Wave application work?
The Wave application allows all stakeholders in the supply chain to receive send and track a digital Bill of Lading as well as upload and send related documentation. The application is highly secure, achieved through its use of Blockchain technology which records and verifies the ownership of the documents and therefore the goods related to the trade.
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation estimates that “7% of the global value of trade is absorbed by the cost of documents alone”, which means companies around the world stand to save significant costs and time, with the shipping industry and financial institutions expected to be some of the biggest beneficiaries.
George Wilson, head of Africa Trade Financial Institutions, says that “While trade finance is ripe for innovation, it has been a difficult area to digitise because every unique trade involves numerous parties – importers, exporters and banks at either end, shipping carriers and customs officials – and they all have to be supportive and comfortable with the technology”.
Temi Ofong, chief executive - corporate and investment banking Africa (Ex. South Africa) & head of corporate for Barclays Africa, said Africa continually provides examples of new technology leapfrogging over existing and often outdated systems.
“This technology solves a lot of issues for everyone involved in trade finance. It reduces risks such as fraud, it prevents forgeries of documents, and it eliminates a huge amount of paper work. Importantly, it saves a lot of time – typically these documents take anywhere from 2 to 10 working days to be couriered from party to party. Now it can be done electronically in hours or minutes, depending on the back end processing. The improvements in trade finance heralded by this pilot project will be good for economic growth in Africa. This partnership also demonstrates the strong working relationship between Barclays UK and Barclays Africa, which will continue as Barclays PLC reduces its holding in Barclays Africa.”
STC’s chief executive Veronique Laporte stated- “The allure of Wave is in its simplicity. It’s easy to operate and simply reduce paper based transactions in the international trade. An industry wide roll out of such application will greatly benefit any company dealing with imports or exports.”
Managing director of Barclays Bank Seychelles (Ltd), Johan Van Schalkwyk, affirmed that “This is a historic moment for the bank. To be able to achieve a world-first here in the Seychelles is something we can be very proud of. We have contributed towards a leap in the Global Trade Finance industry’s history. It is also a great example of how Barclays is striving towards making innovative technologies a reality for our clients. We thank the Seychelles Trading Company for its support in making the pilot a successful one”.
It is anticipated, through the participation of all stakeholders in supply chains, that this technology will create significant efficiencies as well as reduce costs and eliminate inherent risks associated with trade documentation globally.