Digitisation was already on the corporate agenda before the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, with most offices around the world having operated remotely for the past month or so, this is more important than ever.
In the UAE, for example, Emirates NBD’s Corporate Banking division has witnessed a 60% month-on-month increase in digital on-boarding volumes as new and existing transaction banking clients opt for digital channels for their ongoing cash management and trade finance requirements.
The bank also reports that 96% of the Corporate Banking division’s payment volumes are now processed through its digital channels with smartBUSINESS payments, smartTrade services and ICCS Collect (remote cheque deposit) being the top three services availed by clients.
The bank recently enhanced its smartTRADE portal, introducing a smartCOLLECTION service that enables clients to request processing of Export Collections entirely online. The new service is part of the bank’s overall commitment to continue supporting businesses with safe and ongoing operations during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
“We firmly believe that digital innovation has to bring demonstrable business benefits to our clients by supporting their objectives and bringing greater efficiencies to their operations,” said Ahmed Al Qassim, executive vice president, general manager of Corporate Banking at Emirates NBD. “The UAE is a key international trade hub and it is encouraging to see UAE companies focused on business continuity as they respond to the ongoing market dynamics around COVID-19 by migrating to digital ways of conducting business.”
Opening up trade finance with APIs
Meanwhile, open banking is being used to support the increasing digitisation of trade finance. Surecomp, a provider of global trade finance solutions for banks and corporates, has announced the opening of its Application Programming Interfaces (API) architecture to customers in a sandbox testing environment.
The APIsure service is already being used by some of the largest banks in Europe for real-time processing of their bank guarantees and letters of credit. For existing customers, it can now be trialled free of charge in an API sandbox for a limited time period. The company says this is to highlight the importance of digitised trade finance in the age of COVID-19.
Designed in cooperation with the banks, APIsure aims to ensure the highest standard of security, compliance, scalability, monitoring and transparency. It offers flexible and agile back-office connectivity, alongside an API management system (APM) and API sandbox. The service also includes a developer portal where partners can develop apps and services. Current APIs enable productivity and efficiency as well as data analysis and visualisation services. The firm says that future developments include advanced risk management, robotic process automation (RPA), know your customer (KYC) functionality and compliance.
The company also announced that one of the largest banks in Europe has been the first to go live with an API to Conpend, one of Surecomp’s fintech partners providing trade finance document digitisation services. This has enhanced the efficiency of their operations while breaking down legacy barriers, improving the time-to-market of trade finance services to its customers and reducing the risk exposure of paper-based transactions.
Blockchain supporting new supplier onboarding
Every business needs the efficiencies that digital channels offer during the pandemic, but this is particularly the case for those healthcare organisations on the front line. IBM has announced that it has launched a Rapid Supplier Connect solution to assist these firms and government agencies in the US and Canada. Using the IBM Blockchain, the solution helps users to rapidly identify and onboard alternative vendors and non-traditional suppliers who have pivoted to address the shortage of equipment, devices and supplies needed for COVID-19 relief efforts. The company says that Rapid Supplier Connect is available at no cost until 31 August 2020 to qualified buyers and suppliers in the US and Canada.
Suppliers and buyers currently joining the network include hospitals and other organisations such as Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider, and The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation, which is onboarding more than 200 American suppliers from its 3,000 global community members.
Buyers who access the network can benefit from a broader range of suppliers outside of their traditional supply chain, a streamlined supplier onboarding process, validation checks and inventory information in near-real time. Suppliers benefit from a portable online identity, access to user feedback and the ability to post and manage inventory availability. Real-time insight into a volatile and uncertain supply chain is never simple, and with the challenges of the current global situation, IBM harnessed the Trust Your Supplier blockchain-based identity platform built by Chainyard for qualification and identification, in conjunction with its existing Sterling Supply Chain Suite and highly scalable Inventory Visibility microservice to deliver this increased visibility.
The Rapid Supplier Connect solution is designed to complement existing supply chain networks and their payment systems. However, IBM says that buyers also have the option to use the services of a third-party paymaster for a fee, CDAX, which will secure funds on behalf of buyers in a custody and settlement account, holding goods ordered contractually from the supplier under a consignment arrangement until the buyer verifies acceptance of the order and releases funds to the seller. Project N95, which is serving as a clearinghouse for information on COVID-related suppliers will also help with supplier vetting. Dun & Bradstreet is contributing its identity resolution, firmographic data, and supplier risk and viability scores, RapidRatings provides financial health data on suppliers, and KYC SiteScan will provide “Know Your Business” due diligence report access. Thomson Reuters will provide access to its CLEAR customer due diligence tool, to provide buyers with access to real-time and comprehensive data to vet suppliers and identify potential fraud risks.
While digital innovations such as the IBM solution are being developed to respond to the specific nature of the COVID-19 crisis, they also offer a tantalising glimpse at what is possible in this space when business eventually returns to ‘normal’.
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