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HSBC looking into Middle East for next trade finance blockchain trial

HSBC is looking to carry out its next trade finance blockchain pilot in the Middle East, according to the bank’s regional head of trade.

Sunil Veetil, in an interview with GTR, says the Middle East will be the next region of focus for HBSC when expanding its recently successful trial for a blockchain-based letter of credit solution.

In fact, the bank also announced in May that it had conducted its first live, commercial trade finance transaction on blockchain together with ING for agrifood trading giant Cargill. The deal was completed using the R3 Corda platform, with a cargo of soybeans exported from Argentina to Malaysia.

Corda’s letter of credit module, which has been developed by 12 banks, enabled the transaction time to be reduced from a standard five to 10 days, to 24 hours.

According to Veetil, the announcement created great interest among clients in the Middle East, some of which HSBC is now looking to involve in the next stage of the trial.

He did not give any further information on which clients the bank is in discussions with, but says the Middle East is an “ideal place” for testing blockchain, given the region’s growing importance as a trade hub between the East and West.

“If you look at the region, there is a huge reliance on trade, so there are huge benefits that our clients can derive from this technology,” he says.

Another “uniqueness” of the Middle East, he explains, is that there’s considerable push for change from the regulators.

“There is currently a large focus on blockchain, fintechs are opening up, banks are encouraging fintech and accelerators, and we have our own hubs where we work with locally groomed startups. Definitely I can see that interest is very high in the region, within the government and the regulators. And they are quite nimble, they move quickly,” he says.

He adds that HSBC is currently in discussions with UAE regulators, which are keen to provide the necessary support for the bank’s blockchain pilot.

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