Marco Polo, the trade finance blockchain with more than 20 global banks on board, is piloting its first trading arrangement between Germany and Russia.
The pilot announced Friday involves Alfa-Bank and Novolipetsk Steel Company (NLMK) on the Russian side and Commerzbank plus metals engineering firm Vesuvius GmbH in Germany.
Marco Polo, a joint undertaking between technology firms TradeIX and R3, has a grand vision of global blockchain-based trade finance replacing paper and trust with shared, instant digital verification.
The array of banks on Marco Polo reflect this global aspiration: Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, ING, LBBW, Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Natixis, Bangkok Bank, SMBC, Danske Bank, NatWest, DNB, OP Financial Group, Alfa-Bank, Bradesco, BayernLB, Helaba, S-Servicepartner, Raiffeisen Bank International, Standard Bank, Credit Agricole and National Bank of Fujairah.
The teams involved in the Russia-Germany pilot are by no means enterprise blockchain neophytes.
“We launched our first distributed ledger technology in trade finance as early as 2017. Since then, corporate blockchain solutions have been considerably elaborated, and earned our clients’ confidence and proved their applicability to real business processes,” said Dina Merkulova, head of trade finance at Alfa-Bank.
A long journey
In contrast to the live and kicking European SME-focused trade finance blockchain we.trade, Marco Polo is taking a measured and methodical journey to production.
Previously, the 22-bank blockchain consortium added the capability for a third party in a trade (a logistics provider, for example) to trigger a payment to a supplier at the moment goods are shipped. This milestone work also involved Commerzbank with LBBW shepherding a trade between engineering technology firm Voith and KSB SE.
Enno-Burghard Weitzel, Commerzbank’s global head of trade finance products, said in a statement:
“Our international corporates show continuous interest in piloting the Marco Polo Payment Commitment together with us and banks of our global network, like Alfa-Bank. Marco Polo network, meets our customers’ growing demand for increased speed of transaction and transparency, optimized financing, enhanced working capital management and possible integration of ERP systems.”
At the recent Sibos conference in London, representatives from Marco Polo and we.trade shared a panel. Asked if conversations around interoperability had started yet between the two camps, which build on R3 Corda and Hyperladger Fabric, respectively, Daniel Cotti, managing director at Marco Polo and TradeIX, said:
“In global trade, we are used to collaborating.”
From right: Ciaran McGowan, head of we.trade; Agnes Joly, head of trade service at SocGen; Daniel Cotti, managing director, Marco Polo/TradeIX; Mira Skrzypczak, head of working capital products, RBS; Alisa DiCaprio, head of research and global trade strategy, R3. Image from Sibos 2019 in London via Ian Allison for CoinDesk.