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Rewiring Trade and Working Capital Finance: Interview with Robert Barnes, CEO of TradeIX

Interview with Robert Barnes, CEO of TradeIX

Rob Barnes is co-founder of TRADEIX. Rob’s trade finance experience and expertise started in the logistics and financial technology sectors. In 2002, he founded PrimeRevenue Inc and was the CEO of one of the pioneers of supply chain finance (SCF) applications. He developed the largest non-bank SCF application with over $120B in annual processed volume through a combination of technology and services. In 2007, Robert founded the consulting company, Aradya and advised banks including HSBC, RBS, Morgan Stanley and Westpac on supply chain and trade finance.  Robert will be sharing more details about TRADEIX with us in this interview.

Please tell us your name and about yourself? 

I’m the CEO, co-founder of TradeIX and a founding member of the Marco Polo Network. I am responsible for our strategy and leading a fantastic group of visionaries, trailblazers and builders.

What is TradeIX? 

TradeIX is a distributed platform provider, delivering technology that powers global trade and streamline supply chains. We enable our customers, such as banks, their corporate clients, insurance or logistics companies and other ecosystem participants, to transact and exchange data smarter, faster and safer, and with a lot more transparency, using distributed ledger and cloud technologies. 

TradeIX is the technology behind the Marco Polo Platform. The Marco Polo Network is a consortium of banks, corporates and other trade ecosystem participants. Marco Polo is a completely distributed architecture with no centralized data. That means, no data is shared unless it’s permissioned, so it guarantees privacy between the network participants. Marco Polo leverages Corda blockchain technology. As a result, there’s no need for a centralized database which is unprecedented in trade and trade finance, ensuring  stability, privacy and accessibility regardless of the size of company.

What problems is the Marco Polo Network solving and what solutions does it bring to the trade finance market? 

If you look at how trade and trade finance is conducted today, what jumps out, are very siloed paper intensive processes that are slow and costly.  Trade flows are not efficiently connected and require a massive amount of paper and people-intensive processing. Somehow, this siloed and inefficient way of working has been going on for centuries. 

Today, there is an opportunity to actually connect trade flows efficiently together, so that buyers, suppliers, logistic providers and insurance companies   can communicate, and exchange information and data in a way that makes trade faster, cheaper and safer for corporates and their banks. So in a nutshell, what we do is building the infrastructure and software to replace or “rewire” corporate data, bank information and data silos so that they can exchange and share information more efficiently and securely to access more trade and financing opportunities.

Tell us more about the Marco Polo Network; how does it work and what are the benefits for banks and their clients to join? 

The Marco Polo Network is the first distributed trade finance platform powered by blockchain technology. It allows members to send and receive trade and finance related information, respond to queries and complete transactions with the data stored in a distributed ledger, efficiently and securely.

 Marco Polo meets the following key objectives required by corporates and banks to operate within the global supply chain: 

Privacy – protects sensitive pricing information

Transaction immutability between the buyer, supplier and banks

Data synchronization

Data residency legal requirements

Frictionless adoption

Accuracy of information

Speed of execution – Connect Once to Connect to Many (COCM) 

Marco Polo ensures data privacy; sharing data is permission-based allowing participants to only share data with trading partners where required. It also guarantees the provenance of all transactions. 

Leveraging blockchain technology and APIs (Application Program Interfaces), the network also connects with other data providers and market constituents such as credit insurers and logistics companies providing greater transaction visibility and transparency. This results in highly trusted transactions between participants which naturally lower costs of transacting between the various buyers, suppliers and other trading parties.

Who are the members of the Marco Polo Network? 

Initially Marco Polo was led by a group of 12 banks who foresaw the opportunities this initiative would create for them and their corporate customers. 

Today, Marco Polo has over 25 financial institutions in addition to the two main technology partners, TradeIX and R3. There’s a fantastic momentum and we’re growing rapidly. We expect close to 50 banks and to be engaged with at least 30 to 40 of the fortune 1000 global companies within the near future

 Tell us more about your joint force with technology firm R3? 

We have integrated Corda distributed ledger technology into the Marco Polo Network allowing participants of the Network to exchange stateless and state flows and contracts such as Purchase Order, invoices, payment instructions  funding requests, etc. 

We partnered with R3 two years ago because they share the same vision:

financial and trade transactions between counterparties need to have privacy, immutability and transparency and have to scale to millions of business globally.

Leveraging Corda distributed ledger technology is the most efficient way to achieve this. 

With Corda, we are able to build an infrastructure where customers can connect once-to-connect-to-many. Therefore, this collaboration is very strategic to us, and we’re very proud to have partnered with R3.

Do you have more opportunities for partnerships? 

Our vision for the Marco Polo Network is that TradeIX should not be the only technology company that’s building applications on the network, so creating a partner program is essential to Marco Polo’s growth. 

Our goal is to open Marco Polo and allow other companies as well as technology providers to build and make their applications and services   available on the network. 

We welcome many types of partners and trade ecosystem participants such as insurance and logistics services providers.

Would you like to share some of your success stories and technical progress? 

Our Marco Polo members have completed a number of successful pilots with some very large companies such as Voith, KSB or Schott in collaboration with Commerzbank, LBBW and Bangkok Bank for instance, both national and international transactions across Europe and Asia. 

Marco Polo goes into production in October 2019, we’ve overcome technical challenges associated with a purely distributed decentralized architecture and are ready to scale Marco Polo together with our technology partners, such as Microsoft and R3. 

2020 is a very exciting year for us as we’ll be ramping up aggressively and scaling to facilitate and support billions of transactions over the network.

What’s next on your roadmap? 

At the moment we’re focused on delivering four major modules which are: Supply Chain Transaction Management, Receivables Finance, Payment Commitment and Payables Finance, also known as Supply Chain Finance.

We will present Marco Polo at the upcoming SIBOS conference at our Marco Polo Stand 07 Discovery Hall in London 23-26 September. 

Our long-term objective is to offer a wide range of open account, traditional and structured trade finance solutions.  So for the coming years, we have a full agenda in terms of new modules and products to be deployed on the Marco Polo Network.

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