HSBC Holdings Plc completed a transaction using blockchain which it said shows the technology is commercially viable for trade finance.
Together with ING Bank NV, the London-based bank handled a letter of credit for Cargill Inc. which relied on the blockchain technology developed by the R3 consortium, according to an emailed statement on Monday. The letter of credit backed a shipment of soybeans transported last week from Argentina to Malaysia, the statement added.
Cargill was the exporter and importer on a deal that saw Cargill Geneva selling soybeans on behalf of Cargill Argentina, and Cargill Singapore buying the goods on behalf of Cargill Malaysia.
It was done using the letter of credit (LC) module of Corda, which has been developed by 12 banks. This enabled the transaction time to be reduced from a standard five to 10 days, to 24 hours. The LC was issued by HSBC, with ING acting as the advising bank. The value of the transaction has not been disclosed.
However, its work on the Corda platform has apparently accelerated beyond its other blockchain developments.
Corda is a platform owned by R3, a US company founded by David Rutter, with members including more than 200 banks, financial institutions, regulators, trade associations, professional services firms and technology companies.
While the LC was executed on blockchain, other elements of the transaction cycle – such as the bill of lading – were not.
The transaction was an end-to-end trade between a buyer and a seller and their respective banks that was completed on one shared digital application rather than multiple systems, according to HSBC. It was the first scalable live trade finance transaction using blockchain, it added.
“This is an inflection point for how trade is conducted,” Vivek Ramachandran, HSBC’s global head of innovation and growth for commercial banking, said in the statement. “With blockchain, the need for paper reconciliation is removed because all parties are linked on the platform and updates are instantaneous.”
In April, an application for syndicated loans called Fusion LenderComm became the first to go live on the Corda platform. The app had been piloted by banks including BNP Paribas, BNY Mellon, HSBC, ING, Natixis and State Street. It had been developed since early-2017 by fintech company Finastra and R3.
ING has also been heavily involved in the trade-based developments on blockchain technology. As well as being among the banks working with Fusion LenderComm, it was reported to be working with trading house Mercuria and French bank Société Générale to build a blockchain solution for oil trading, early in 2017.
The news comes two months after HSBC’s senior innovation manager, Joshua Kroeker, told GTR that the bank was ready to do live trade finance transactions on blockchain.
The bank had been involved in one of the earlier blockchain projects for trade finance when it worked with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) on a proof of concept to mirror letters of credit using distributed ledger technology.