Indian private-sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank has completed India’s first trade finance transaction using blockchain technology. According to the Economic Times, Kotak teamed with Deloitte to reduce the wait times of Letter of Credit (LC) transactions with banking partner JP Morgan Singapore from 20 to 30 days to a “few hours.”
Traditionally, LC’s move through a time-intensive approval process that involves several intermediaries and documents from different countries with mixed regulatory demands. However, blockchain technology streamlines the process by providing a means for concrete verification, eliminating fraud, and providing a ledger for transaction participants. KVS Manian, president of corporate and investment banking at Kotak, expressed that the Proof-of-Concept (PoC) is only the first step to even bigger things in the future when he said:
"In the Indian context, banks are experimenting with blockchain applications in various areas of transactions journey and processes, including paper intensive processes of Trade Finance and Supply Chain financing segments, which are ripe for disruption. Our proof of concept transaction will change the narrative hereon. We are leveraging this technology to give our clients hassle-free and profitable trades finance solution on an almost real time basis."
Blockchain use in the financial sector has increased exponentially over the past year and a number of large financial magnates have expressed interest in the technology for various financial use cases. In January, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released a white paper that highlighted key features and possible applications of the technology. However, despite the RBI’s recent expressed interest, Manian states that the country is slightly behind when it comes to digital finance innovation:
"In an evolving digital ecosystem, while instant money transfers have progressed significantly, trade finance in India has a lot of catching up to do. Blockchain, the 'distributed ledger' technology has emerged as an object of intense interest in the financial services industry and beyond. Since 2008, the blockchain technology has evolved from a way of recording transactions to a digital revolution that has the potential to be highly secure, transparent, resistant to outages, auditable, and efficient."
Nevertheless, Katak has expressed that blockchain technology could be the wave of the future for banks by helping streamline a number of operational processes, reducing risks, and improving the customer experience in a number of key areas, such as KYC, remittance, import/export finance, supply chain finance, syndicated loans, and regulatory auditing.