partnership that made the trade possible was not known as Voltron at the time,
but that is what Bain is now calling it in an announcement that said the solution is
“targeting production” for 2019. We assume this means that the platform will be
ready for large-scale, real-world use at some point in 2019.
Closer to the Real World
has been written about how blockchain technology can improve trade finance — the
process of providing credit for companies that exchange goods across borders.
That is because there is much for blockchains to disrupt in this industry,
which is rife with siloed operations, poor visibility and communication between
different stakeholders, and a paucity of trust for companies and banks that are
operating across international borders.
issuing credit has required banks to work individually with different companies
as they buy and sell goods. Shipments are frequently delayed as companies wait
for credit to be confirmed and reconfirmed. Payments might also arrive late.
technology can theoretically resolve all of these issues by providing a single,
immutable ledger that all stakeholders can use to record issuance of credit and
trade transactions as goods move across the globe. In this way, distributed
ledgers would help to automate much of the trade finance process, improve
visibility and avoid delays.
several companies or consortiums have announced efforts to use blockchains or
distributed ledgers to improve trade finance. The initiative announced by IBM and Maersk in 2017 is probably the
best-known example. Others include a proof-of-concept
by Japanese companies, and TradeIX’s Marco Polo
Network, which launched in early 2018 (and which, like Voltron, also
uses the Corda blockchain).
similar initiatives show that banks and international trading corporations are
keenly interested in using distributed ledgers to improve trade finance.
They’ve also demonstrated that the technology actually works. However, so far,
these efforts have not yet moved beyond the proof-of-concept stage.
Bain’s promise that Voltron will be ready for primetime in 2019 is notable.
course, even more notable would be confirmation that the Voltron trade finance
platform is actually being used. For now, we’ll have to keep holding our breath
for such an announcement. Although Bain said that Voltron is “continuing to
extend its corporate customer programme to undertake more live transactions and
is in active discussions with a number of corporates,” it remained tight-lipped
about who those potential customers are or when in 2019 the platform might
enter into general-purpose use.
Still, even in the absence of specific details or absolute confirmation
about Voltron’s impending availability, the platform does at least appear to be
crossing the line between proof of concept and reality, if Bain is to be
believed. Given the slowness of similar trade finance initiatives to do the
same thing, that’s significant. We’ll continue following Voltron to see if, at
some point in 2019, it proves to be the world’s first blockchain-based trade finance
solution to achieve large-scale adoption.