Andrew Raymond

How welcome it was to experience all the energy and enthusiasm at GTR MENA, the major regional trade finance event in Dubai which I attended with my Bolero colleagues

Despite the geo-political tensions in the Middle East, much of the area is thriving and there is no let-up in the appetite for digitisation. Governments, businesses and corporates can see how digitisation will help differentiate their region as forward-looking and innovative. They also know that in trade finance, digitisation of workflows and documentation will generate growth and stimulate economic diversification beyond the era of oil-based prosperity.

This energy was reflected in the increased numbers attending the event and the genuine sense of forward momentum that emerged from all the discussions. Last year the event was an excellent opportunity to make initial connections and our attendance this year enabled us to cement our position as a digitisation leader in the region,

Cooperation between banks and fintechs is also much closer in the MENA region and we were at the centre of valuable conversations about collaboration, not just between banks and fintechs, but between corporates, banks and government entities.

The panel discussion I took part in looked at “Fresh perspectives” and stressed the importance of achieving interoperability between trade finance platforms, which of course, led to a discussion about the necessity of standardisation for documentation.

Along with our chairman Daniel Cotti on another panel, the Bolero presence ensured that standardisation initiatives (such the work undertaken with the International Chamber of Commerce) were considered. This was part of the debate about achieving the much-desired network of networks that will make trade hugely more efficient. This discussion has moved on from the fixation with blockchain to a more mature approach embracing the concept of platforms.

Collectively, our public deliberations covered the business process challenges involved, especially around diverse documents such as invoices. We also had some great conversations about electronic presentation and electronic bills of lading (eBLs), those documents which are so crucial to international trade and have so many uses.  It is safe to say the idea of electronic presentation has now become mainstream.

While conservatism still guides trade practice in many areas of the world, in the MENA region the many official initiatives on digitisation act as strong catalysts towards innovation and standardisation.

Now that trade digitisation is such a phenomenon in the MENA region, the GTR event confirmed that Bolero is right out in front.