Voltron, a coalition of banks building a blockchain-based network for automating Letters of Credit and trade finance documentation, has thrown open its doors to other banks and corporates ahead of a planned roll out in 2019.
Founding members of Voltron include Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC Holding, HSBC, ING, NatWest, SEB and Standard Chartered.
Operating over R3's Corda platform, HSBC and ING demonstrated the viability of the proposition in a trial conducted with international food conglomerate Cargill in May this year. The transaction involved a shipment of soybeans from Argentina to Malaysia via Singapore, and a letter of credit between the two banks issued on the Corda platform.
In addition, trade documents produced on external networks by a corporate’s supply chain partners can be digitally sent, verified and processed in Voltron. This new model provides legal enforceability of title documents on Corda.
The trade finance industry is worth around $9 trillion annually and conventional paper-based, letter of credit transactions can involve multiple parties and take between 5 to 10 days. In contrast, the Cargill transaction was completed on a single shared platform and took less than 24 hours to be completed.
Voltron has set its sights on building an industry-wide utility, crating a technology partner programme and inviting other banks and multinational corporates to climb aboard. The coalition says it is currently working with four of the leading trade finance platform vendors to incorporate Voltron services into their applications.
The Bolero network and electronic Bill of Lading (eBL) functionality is included at launch. The essDocs network and eBL package will start the initial design and integration with Voltron, with others to be added on a rolling basis.
David Rutter, CEO, R3 comments: “It is critical for banks and corporates to have the option to work with the technology partner of their choice, as this lowers barriers to adoption and helps drive widespread deployment of Voltron via our partners. In addition, our focus on industry collaboration and open networks uniquely positions Voltron to scale by leveraging the Corda Network to ensure interoperability with other global trade initiatives and other networks including supply chain, cash, insurance and identity.”
The issue of interoperability among disparate blockchain-based platforms formed the basis of a second DLT-themed announcement at the international Sibos conference from Accenture, which demonstrated the prospect of business process synchronisation between Digital Asset, R3 Corda, Hyperledger Fabric and Quorum.
Industry analyst Gartner has estimated that the number of blockchain platforms could continue to grow to more than 70 before competition and consolidation narrow the field to a much smaller number of dominant providers.
Accenture believes that concerns about picking the ‘wrong system’ or looking ahead to perceived challenges to connecting blockchain-based ecosystems that may be on different platforms has been a hindrance in moving the technology forward.
The consultancy is aiming to solve the problem by by the installation of an 'interoperability node' that resides, and provides the lines of communication, between two or more DLT platforms. The node includes embedded business logic that contains the business standards, policies and guidelines by which the different blockchain platforms have agreed to work together.
Emmanuel Viale, managing director, Accenture Labs, says: “Business is conducted across multiple ecosystems and, in many instances, we’re seeing these ecosystems align to 'fit-for-purpose' platforms. But for blockchain to achieve its full potential these different platforms must interact seamlessly with each other, and our technology solutions show that this is possible — while still delivering the security and transparency benefits that blockchain offers.”