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Blockchain testing to digitise international trade

SEB, together with eleven other leading trade finance banks, has developed a prototype for the modernisation of manual and time-consuming document management in international trade using distributed ledger technology. "The technology has the potential to create major efficiency gains for all parties, reduce risks and, in the long run, promote growth for international trade," says Paula da Silva, head of Transaction Services, SEB

The project was done in collaboration with R3, a US technology company, which develops Corda, an infrastructure platform for the financial sector. In 2015, SEB joined an international banking consortium, Distributed Ledger Group, which collaborates with R3 to develop the blockchain technology. Since May this year, SEB is an owner and the largest Nordic investor in R3.

A first proof of concept was developed in 2016 and in February-March this year work began in earnest to develop a full-scale prototype to handle the entire chain in connection with an export letter of credit transaction. This is enabled by all parties, both buyers and sellers, as well as the notifying and confirming bank, having access to a distributed ledger, where the necessary documents are registered simultaneously with all participants.

Distributed ledger technology, also called blockchain technology, has the potential to offer significant efficiency gains.

"There are potential benefits for all parties, not just for the banks, but also for buyers and sellers, who can make major efficiency gains and reduce operational risks. The results show that the technology and the solution work,” da Silva says. In the longer run, this can also benefit international trade in general.

"Today, there are a lot of international business that does not get done because many small and medium-sized companies find that the process is too costly, resource-intensive and risky.”