Transforming Trade Finance Transacting - Global Trade Magazine
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  October 13th, 2016 | Written by

Transforming Trade Finance Transacting

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  • Blockchain digitizes and automates international trade processes.
  • Microsoft-BofA collaboration aims to reduce transaction settlement times.
  • New technology benefits include more predictable working capital, improved efficiency, and enhanced audit transparency.

Microsoft Corp. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced a collaboration on blockchain technology to fuel transformation of trade finance transacting.

The two companies will build and test technology, create frameworks, and establish best practices for blockchain-powered exchanges between businesses and their customers and banks. Microsoft Treasury experts will serve as advisors and initial test clients, establishing the first Microsoft Azure-powered blockchain transaction between a major corporate treasury and financial institution.

“By working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch on cloud-based blockchain technology, we aim to increase efficiency and reduce risk in our own treasury operations,” said Amy Hood, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Microsoft. “Businesses across the globe are undergoing digital transformation to grow, compete, and be more agile, and we see significant potential for blockchain to drive this transformation.”

Currently, underlying trade finance processes are highly manual, time-consuming and costly. With blockchain, processes can be digitized and automated, transaction settlement times shortened, and business logic applied to related data, creating a host of potential benefits for businesses and financial institutions including: more predictable working capital, reduced counterparty risk, improved operational efficiency, and enhanced audit transparency, among other benefits.

“The potential benefits of blockchain will help drive meaningful supply chain efficiencies to the clients of both Microsoft and the bank,” said Ather Williams, head of Global Transaction Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “This project is another example of our continued commitment to introduce financial innovations for the betterment of global commerce.”

Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a Service was first introduced in November 2015. The global scale, hybrid cloud capabilities, extensive compliance certification portfolio, and enterprise-proven security of Azure provide businesses with confidence and choice, especially in highly regulated industries like financial services, health care and government. More than 80 percent of the world’s largest banks are Azure customers. Furthermore, more than 75 percent of the global systemically important financial institutions are using Azure, representing the highest bar for legal, compliance, security and acquisitions teams.

Development and testing of the initial application, built to optimize the standby letter of credit process, is currently in progress. Following the initial development and testing, the teams will work to refine the technology and evaluate applications to include more complex use cases and additional financial instruments.


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