Technologies and innovations have interacted with trade for thousands of years, from advancing transportation methods to the advent of the container to the emergence of fragmented production networks. TradeTech, or the set of technologies and innovations that enhance trade efficiency, inclusivity, and equitability, is fundamental to harnessing the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good. Its importance is evidenced by the disruptive effect of technologies on business models, reconfiguration of value chains, efficiency gains, achievement of sustainable outcomes, and inclusion of micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises in trade.
The evolution of trade finance can be viewed as a composition of two layers: at the first level is the transformation of internal systems and processes from analogue to digital, ultimately useful in streamlining trade processes; at the second level is trade process optimisation and improved synchronization between different parties thanks to new technologies and more excellent connectivity. The second level also involves process transformation, but it relies on data generated by the first to further enhance trade operations or introduce a new class of service.
The emergence of alternative lending models would have been impossible without the automation and acceleration of loan origination and servicing processes. Modern alternative trade finance solutions process loan applications and automate routine, rule-based procedures, leveraging technologies like the blockchain with smart contracts, the Internet of things (loT), big data, artificial intelligence (Al) and machine learning (ML), and robotic process automation (RPA).
These technologies also disrupt global finance supply chains. loT functions as a distributed input or sensor to collect real-time information about the position, status, and condition of goods and send it digitally via the Internet. Blockchain technology acts as an eternal, valid, safe, and transparent data store for the supply chain process. Finally, AI and ML augment human intelligence in activities such as credit risk analysis. The ultimate goal is to automate and systematise the trade financing process by leveraging real-time risk analysis data and improving credit-decision efficiency and effectiveness. This enables businesses to build enriched client relationships, supporting their needs and helping generate growth opportunities.
Blockchain represents an opportunity to streamline and simplify the complex world of trade finance, saving consigners, consignees, and their financiers billions of dollars every year. Blockchain's key features address major bottlenecks that exist in trade finance and bring boundless opportunities that can address many current industry challenges.