RBS-owned NatWest is the newest financial institution to join Marco Polo, the blockchain-powered trade finance solution developed by R3.
Reports in Financial News London on Tuesday (July 17) said NatWest is joining the consortium run by R3 and the trade finance firm TradeIX; RBS Head of Emerging Technology Richard Crook announced the news.
NatWest joins existing members BNP Paribas, ING, Standard Chartered and others. Marco Polo provides FIs with a platform they can link to their corporate customers, using TradeIX for invoicing powered by R2's Corda blockchain technology.
According to Crook, NatWest waited until now to join because it wanted to participate in a blockchain trade finance initiative that has proven applicability.
"We have been watching this project for a while," he said. "We are now extremely committed."
Marco Polo expanded earlier this year, adding additional third-party companies including logistics solution providers, credit insurers and other companies participating in global trade processes. The initiative also confirmed a proof of concept, while BNP Paribas Head of Transaction Banking EMEA Jacques Levet said in a statement that the addition of more banks to the project "illustrates the interest in this project and in the potential of DLT in supply chain finance solutions."
Trade finance is one of the largest targets for blockchain innovation. The Asian Development Bank recently calculated a $1.5 trillion gap in trade finance availability, which disproportionately impacts small businesses struggling to expand globally.
Marco Polo is far from the only initiative exploring use of blockchain to address the trade finance gap. In May, HSBC said it completed its first trade finance transaction using blockchain, an initiative with ING. At the time, HSBC said it was the first completed transaction to use a "single, shared digital application rather than multiple systems" to execute a trade finance transaction using blockchain.