HSBC Holdings Plc. has executed a trade finance deal using blockchain for an export by Reliance Industries Ltd to US-based Tricon Energy, marking the first ever overseas blockchain payment from India. Mint explains what it means for the payments ecosystem.
Why was blockchain used in a trade finance deal?
In the case of Reliance Industries, the letter of credit (LC) was issued by ING Bank for Tricon Energy USA, the importer. HSBC India was the advising and negotiating bank for Reliance Industries. In LC-based trade finance transactions, physical documents have to be validated by multiple parties from across different countries, making these a time-consuming affair (5-10 days). With blockchain, the data can be segregated and the whole process completed within, say, 24 hours, and in a transparent manner, with the status of the process visible to every party.
How has blockchain been adopted for such transactions?
In March, HSBC and ING Bank executed a live trade finance deal for Cargill using enterprise blockchain firm R3’s Corda scalable blockchain platform and the help of tech services provider CryptoBLK. The exchange was done in 24 hours, said HSBC. On 23 September, SBI Ripple Asia said a Japanese consortium of 15 banks would use Ripple’s blockchain tech for payments and settlement. On 24 October, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Wells Fargo, Brighann Cotton undertook a transaction involving a shipment of cotton from Texas to Qingdao using a distributed ledger for all parties.
How many banks are on a blockchain?
JP Morgan announced the expansion of its Interbank Information Network to include over 75 banks. Banks in India formed “Bankchain" alliance to explore blockchain-based solutions.
Can blockchain be used for remittances?
Remittance transactions cost a small fortune as these involve third parties. Blockchain solutions may cut transaction costs and make the process faster. Platforms specializing in remittances such as Bitspark and BitPesa use block-chain tech to send money across borders. TransferGo Now lets Indian customers make instant money transfers to India from Europe using Ripple’s blockchain tech, which it claims is faster than using the payment system of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.
What has RBI said?
Though RBI said that banks could set up a “private blockchain for their internal purposes", there are security concerns. First, block-chain should not be positioned as a cure for all banking ills. Second, a June McAfee report warns against placing undue trust in blockchain implementation. Third, most such implementations are permissioned (private). In a permission-less blockchain such as bitcoin, anyone can set up a node and join the network. The question, then, is: Does a permissioned blockchain qualify as a true blockchain implementation?