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The name Marco Polo might be synonymous with the Italian merchant and explorer who set sail in the 14th century, yet today the name has been taken up as a banner by a consortium of leading banks who – together with trade finance technology specialist TradeIX and enterprise software firm R3 – are trialing a new trade finance solution leveraging distributed ledger technology.
The Marco Polo initiative, spearheaded by French international banking group BNP, Germany’s Commerzbank, as well as ING from the Netherlands, aims to develop an ‘interoperable’ solution for developing an open-source trade finance network that could simplify processing across various supply chain processes.
The project’s view is to enable real-time connectivity between participants and to eliminate information siloing which could otherwise yield discrepancies. Specifically, the Marco Polo initiative hopes to mitigate risk through the provision of payment commitments and further through payables finance and receivables finance.
Speaking on the potential for banks to leverage blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) Jacques Levet, Head of Transaction Banking at EMEA BNP Paribas, offered that “We see the proof-of-concept as an important milestone in this project. The fact that more banks have joined also illustrates the interest in this project and in the potential of DLT in supply chain finance solutions.”
Nikolaus Giesber of Commerzbank similarly quipped that “We (Commerzbank) are one of the first three banks to successfully perform the proof-of-concept acceptance tests which is a major achievement for us. We are pleased with how far the development has come in such a short timespan. Together we have proved, that blockchain technology will make trade finance faster and more transparent for all participants”.
A fruitful partnership
The project’s participants – TradeIX and R3 – each provide technical experience and product-backing. TradeIX provides TIX, which is an open platform to provide application, tools, and infrastructure for trade and finance.
R3, specifically, is a New York-based distributed database technology company; the company, which has been partnered with Microsoft since 2016, is behind Corda -a distributed ledger platform designed specifically for businesses. Corda is designed to record and manage financial agreements to create synchrony and avoid friction in disputes.
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