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It is strange to think that there had been an optimistic outlook for global trade ahead of 2020. Circle back to the end of 2019, and that was the case, with global recovery expected off the back of a sluggish year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, described by IHS Markit as the largest black swan event since The Second World War, quickly dashed any chance of such a rebound being realized. Instead, lockdowns, restricted movement across borders and sweeping economic and social uncertainty—coupled with uncertain U.S. trade policies, Brexit and other external factors—saw 2020 become a year like no other.

Indeed, global trade was forced to adapt and continued to serve as a vital lifeline that helped to keep supply chains flowing and boost confidence wherever possible.

Banks played a vital role. They accelerated digitization strategies, with technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence further coming to the fore over the past 12 months. As ever, they altered their offerings, and each became more or less attractive to those corporations partaking in global trade. 

Here, we reflect on these offerings and rank the top 10 banks for global trade in 2021. 

The banks in this list are not acclaimed based on the volume or value of transactions. Rather, they have been recognized owing to their commitment to service–through innovation, targeted solutions and meeting the specific cross-border trade needs of those corporations that they serve.

Size and stature do not always equal best-in-class. Many of the banks listed here are indeed major players, but we have focused on those institutions harboring some of the key qualities to look for when selecting a provider.

A series of different criteria have factored into this, including:

-Competitive advantages


-Product and service innovation

-Financial robustness and security

-Knowledge of local requirements and conditions

-Customer satisfaction

-ESG compliance


Citi is globally renowned, currently operating in more than 90 markets and transacting in over 130 currencies. 

The company prides itself on a knowledge and understanding of local markets–a skillset that is particularly useful to those embarking on expansion across borders or looking to ramp up trade activities in new countries. It tailors its services to each region and country rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Citi is also a key figure in driving global industry technological transformation. Its digital toolkit comprises key connectivity solutions such as integrated APIs (application programming interfaces), and it has also positioned itself as leading innovator in the usage of blockchain. 


Where global trade is mentioned, HSBC is never too far behind. The bank recently took the top spot in Euromoney’s Trade Finance Survey for a fourth year running, testament to its ongoing investments into further financial skills, digital capabilities, and product innovation. 

The bank actively positions itself as a thought leader with the publication of key export insight reports, while its Trade Forecast Tool imparts crucial short- and long-term knowledge on prospects in key markets whilst prioritizing user-experience. 

Its services include a renowned Ex-Im Bank Working Capital Guarantee Program alongside currency exchange, documentary collections, export collections, FX trading, trade credit insurance and more. 


UniCredit offers a wide variety of global trade finance services including global securities services, export finance, internet banking and transactional sales via its Global Transaction Banking business. Despite being built on a network of more than 4,000 key banking relationships that span 175 territories globally, the bank primarily caters to its core customer base in 14 core Central and Eastern European markets alongside 18 other countries worldwide.

The firm is renowned for its innovative attitudes toward product development including its award-winning Trade Finance Gate client portal, and market leading customer service. 

Deutsche Bank

With 130 years under its belt, Deutsche Bank is one the most experienced providers of finance for global trade. Its integrated global network spans 80 locations in 40 countries, its primary area of expertise being the navigation and management the risks associated with import, export and domestic trade transactions. 

The company has a strong presence in key emerging markets spanning Asia Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America. Here, it imparts key services including advisory and distribution services, documentary collection, documentary remittances, financial supply chain solutions, letters of credit, standard remittances, structured commodity trade finance, syndicated trade loans and trade receivables finance.

Standard Bank

Plaudits can be paid to South African figurehead Standard Bank in the realm of technological innovation. The firm leverages APIs to connect its internal systems with those of its clients. As a result, approximately 80 percent of its issuance procedures for lines of credit and guarantees are automated, with average execution time of just one minute.

The company excels in trade document management. Its core services include trade finance open account and supply chain solutions, documentary trade finance and international payments, and it’s also working closely on product development with fintech partner Traydstream.

Santander Group

Santander has positioned itself as a leading light on environmental, social and corporate governance, and is a truly valuable player in the global trade community. During the pandemic, the company sought to deliver solutions that would dampen economic hardships by addressing the needs of the individual countries in which it operates, offering financial assistance to SMEs that reached a peak of $1.2 billion daily between April and May 2020.

The company also reacted dutifully in other ways, namely through the development and deliverance of various digitization projects that prioritized public health. 

ING Group

With its 57,000 employees serving 39.3 million customers, corporate clients and financial institutions in more than 40 countries, the vast majority of ING’s business is conducted in European markets. The company offers an array of international payments, cash management and trade finance services including letters of credit, documentary collections and guarantees.

ING Group is an initiating member and key investor in Contour–a trade finance project seeking to transform the status quo through the deployment of blockchain-based technologies. 

Bank of America

As the name would suggest, Bank of America remains a stalwart and fan favorite serving the North American market. During the pandemic, the firm introduced its Intelligent Treasury Roadmap–an initiative built to optimize client treasury operations and working capital.

Through operational simplification and ongoing advisory expertise, the bank’s Global Transaction Services team was able to successfully help clients mitigate risk and detect and manage fraud during what was both a turbulent and opportunistic period.

BNP Paribas

BNP Paribas remains one of the top trade finance banks globally, operating more than 100 dedicated trade centers in 60 countries. Among its core specialties are the bank’s export and import services and solutions built to optimize cash conversion cycles.

The firm primarily prides itself on imparting key knowledge and expertise. Its network of 350 trade finance experts is readily leveraged to provide tailored training programs based on the location and requirements of individual client companies.


Commerzbank’s headline figures include 50 billion pounds in trades spanning 150 markets and 50 currencies annually. Albeit an established player with a 150-year legacy, the firm has proactively invested in new technologies including that of blockchain. 

To this end, 2020 saw the company mastermind the first Turkish-German trade finance transaction of the Marco Polo blockchain network alongside Isbank.


New Challenges for Brazilian Markets

Usually, when we talk about Latin America one of the first markets that come to mind is Brazil.

Brazil is experiencing a unique moment never experienced before in the local economy: the lowest level of interest rate and, therefore, a large demand from investors for assets that could generate a considerable performance, in the period.

Historically, the Brazilians Investor Profile has been strongly related to a conservative shape, once the Selic rate – the country’s basic interest rate – has constantly been at comfortable levels for those people who invest in conservative products, such as Savings and Certificates of Deposit, for example. Nonetheless, this perspective has been changing since the end of 2016 with the consecutive action from the ‘Comitê de Política Monetária’ (known as COPOM – very similar to the US FOMC) in reducing the interest rate, and proportionately seeking to promote the local economy. In addition, this domestic reduction is being quite influenced by the US Federal Reserve process of cutting rates.

It is possible to observe the interest yield curve below:

For this reason, financial institutions and brokerage firms are working hard on clients ‘financial education and portfolio reformulation, in order to adapt their clients’ investment portfolio to this new stage of Brazilian Market. Most analysts and advisors are aligned and agree with the Central Bank’s official reports, betting on new interest rate cuts for 2019 and, as a result, it benefits other types of asset classes, such as the Brazilian Stock Market.

Regarding that, the Ibovespa (Índice da Bolsa de Valores de São Paulo), the main indicator of the average performance from the Brazilian stock market, at the beginning of 2019 was quoted at approximately 91,000 points and until the last day of September it had an evolution of around 15% reaching its 103,600 points, with a standard deviation of, approximately, 20%. The Index has now reached record levels. Typically, with the movement of diminishing interest rates, as any other economy, there is a natural increase in demand for this type of assets, which takes a favorable and positive aspect of the segment this year, specifically given the Pension Reform approvals and lower projections for the IPCA (Índice de Preços ao Consumidor Amplo) – Brazilian official inflation index.

The latest statistic released showed 2.89% in the 12 months through September, according to IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (Brazilian government statistics agency). The Central Bank’s official year-end goal for 2019 remains 4.25%, and due to this fall in inflation expectations most economists consent to another 50 basis point cut in the Selic rate at the end of this month – precisely, the next reunion will happen in 10/29/2019 and 10/30/2019.

Essentially, for the local investor, there are several alternatives to access this market, such as Equities Funds, ETFs or Active Mutual Funds. Furthermore, the whole market is gradually seeing an increase in fundraising this type of product, this is very clear if we look through the development of new asset management firms, for instance. Consequently, the biggest challenge for the investor is to adapt themselves to this relatively new type of culture in diversifying the portfolio with risky and volatile products.

Brazil’s Banco Bradesco Confirms Blockchain Integration

Bradesco Bank – the second largest private bank in Brazil, released information confirming the integration of the Marco Polo Network. The global trade finance network combines R3’s Corda blockchain technology and the TradeIX distributed trade finance platform to create a unique, paced process for financial institutions to utilize.

Marco Polo’s Network gives banks and other financial institutions the advantage of learning and exploring opportunities in blockchain technology prior to implementing strategic trade finance initiatives with the platform.

“Facilitating financial inclusion and supporting economic growth is one of our key priorities. Following the successful digitalization of our retail services, we’re now focused on leveraging the best technology to develop new trade finance solutions for our corporate banking customers,” said Roberto Medeiros, Bradesco’s Head of International and Trade Finance in the announcement.

“Our Research & Innovation Department carefully assessed the options available to implement blockchain solutions and APIs. The expertise of the Marco Polo Network, the forward-looking vision and the end user-focused approach convinced us that we had found the optimum place to succeed,” he added.

With a focus on improving trade finance by increasing transparency, connectivity, and optionality, the joint finance initiative provides solutions and efficiencies to minimize financial roadblocks while maximizing client and partner relationships.

“As Marco Polo’s global network continues to grow momentum, it is clear that it is bringing tremendous value to the trade finance and working capital sector. Institutions which get ahead of the curve by engaging actively with blockchain technology now through use-cases and pilots will be ahead of the curve and gain a significant competitive advantage. Banco Bradesco is joining a network leading the way in exploring how blockchain can improve the entire trade finance lifecycle,” said David E. Rutter, CEO of R3.

Source: Marco Polo