Ian Kerr, CEO

After two decades of innovation, who doubts the benefits of digitisation in international trade?

Speed, security, accuracy, reduced man-hours. Digitisation wins hands down every time and yet the majority of trade transactions still rely on paper. For many, the message is still not getting through.

The focus is perhaps too often on technology alone. Yet we know at Bolero, that for any digital solution to work it must be based on the everyday experience, improving a range of complex business processes end-to-end.

Interoperability of any new technology will also be crucial to any future solutions. For example it must offer integration potential with the ‘Internet of Things’ and developments in the movement of goods, as well as Blockchain, a technology that certainly promises major efficiency gains. Yet, to be a success, any blockchain-based solution will need to achieve integration with ERP systems, a bank’s back-office systems, traditional trade workflows and advanced trade platforms like Bolero’s that are already using digitised trade documents.

We are also seeing greater acceptance of trade digitisation among banks everywhere from Italy to China, along with some of the world’s largest companies. In India, the vast Reliance Industries last year collaborated with HSBC to complete India’s first electronic letter of credit (LC) for an export deal. The exchange took just a single day for completion rather than the standard 20-plus days for physical documents.

There should be no question that paper-based processes need to be left behind, but for digitisation to be successful, technology must not just match, but improve day-to-day working processes in international trade.

Which brings naturally brings us back to blockchain. The applications have arrived, but to have the greatest chance of successful implementation interoperability with current digital platforms used by the banks, corporates and carriers is key.

Across the industry, trade’s next step towards a safer, smarter and faster future edges closer as digitisation takes another step towards improving trade the world over.