The Leaders in Trade awards highlight excellence in the trade, commodity, supply chain and export finance and fintech markets. The names listed under each category are based on submissions sent to GTR and, where relevant, Best Deals signed in 2018 were referenced as further substantiation.

GTR revealed the shortlist for the Leaders in Trade awards in February, and the winners were named at the Charity Awards Dinner on May 2.


Regional awards

Best trade finance bank in Southern Africa:

Shortlisted nominees: Crown Agents Bank, Rand Merchant Bank, SMBC, Standard Bank

Winner: Rand Merchant Bank


Best trade finance bank in East Africa:

Shortlisted nominees: Citi, Crown Agents Bank, SMBC, Standard Bank

Winner: Standard Bank


Best trade finance bank in West Africa:

Shortlisted nominees: BACB, FCMB Bank (UK), The Access Bank UK, Zenith Bank (UK)

Winner: The Access Bank UK


Best trade finance bank in Middle East & North Africa:

Shortlisted nominees: Arab Bank, BACB, FAB, Standard Chartered

Winner: Standard Chartered


Best trade Finance bank in North Africa:

Winner: BACB


Best trade finance bank in North America:

Shortlisted nominees: Citi, Scotiabank

Winner: Citi


Best trade finance bank in Latin America:

Shortlisted nominees: Banorte, Santander

Winner: Santander


Best trade finance bank in Asia Pacific:

Shortlisted nominees: ANZ, HSBC, Mizuho, Westpac

Winner: Mizuho


Best trade finance bank in the Nordic Region:

Shortlisted nominees: Danske Bank, Nordea

Winner: Nordea


Best trade finance bank in Eastern Europe:

Shortlisted nominees: Raiffeisenbank, Ukrgasbank, VTB Bank

Winner: VTB Bank


Best trade finance bank in Western Europe:

Shortlisted nominees: Commerzbank, Crédit Agricole, ING, Nordea, Santander

Winner: Crédit Agricole


Best trade finance bank in the UK:

Shortlisted nominees: Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, Santander

Winner: Barclays



Global awards

Best trade finance law firm:

Shortlisted nominees: Allen & Overy, Norton Rose Fulbright, Sullivan & Worcester

Winner: Sullivan & Worcester


Best export credit agency:

Shortlisted nominees: African Trade Insurance Agency (ATI), SERV, UK Export Finance

Winner: UK Export Finance


FI that has made a significant contribution to sustainability:

Shortlisted nominees: Barclays, BNP Paribas, Halotrade

Winner: BNP Paribas


Most innovative bank:

Shortlisted nominees: BNP Paribas, Citi, HSBC, ING

Winner: HSBC


Best fintech disrupter:

Shortlisted nominees: Liberty Specialty Markets (Toredo), Orbitt, Taulia, Tradeteq,



Best trade finance software provider:

Shortlisted nominees: CGI, China Systems, CryptoBLK

Winner: CGI


Best alternative trade finance provider:

Shortlisted nominees: Greensill, PrimaDollar, Stenn International

Winner: Greensill


Best correspondent bank:

Shortlisted nominees: BNY Mellon, Crown Agents Bank

Winner: Crown Agents Bank


Best development bank in trade:

Winner: Asian Development Bank


Best trade credit and political risk insurance underwriter:

Shortlisted nominees: AIG, AXA XL, Chaucer, Liberty Specialty Markets

Winner: AIG


Best trade credit and political risk insurance broker:

Shortlisted nominees: BPL Global, JLT Specialty, Texel

Winner: BPL Global


Best supply chain finance bank:

Shortlisted nominees: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Santander

Winner: Santander


Best commodity trade finance bank:

Shortlisted nominees: Deutsche Bank, Société Générale

Winner: Deutsche Bank


Best export finance bank:

Shortlisted nominees: BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, SMBC, Standard Chartered

Winner: Standard Chartered


Best trade finance bank:

Shortlisted nominees: BNP Paribas, Citi, Crédit Agricole, HSBC

Winner: HSBC


Best trade finance bank in Southern Africa: Rand Merchant Bank

Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) has scooped a Leaders in Trade award for the second year in a row, having won best bank in Southern and Eastern Africa in 2018. Its success is due in part to its presence in 12 African markets. In the three largest markets of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, it is the leading – or at least close second – institution in terms of asset size and volume of traditional trade instruments.

RMB’s trade business has benefitted from the five trade finance operation hubs in its global home base in South Africa, and is further supported by a document-checking facility in Mumbai.

RMB has worked to push boundaries in terms of technological innovation in the region, with one of its 2018 deals securing a GTR Best Deals award.

The winning deal saw RMB create an innovative supply chain finance (SCF) solution to fund the suppliers of its parent group FirstRand Bank. The transaction required RMB to purchase invoices from the parent group’s suppliers at a discount, providing an ideal opportunity to trial SCF technology that is now considered market leading in South Africa. “At RMB our thinking digs deeper and goes further. It’s an approach we call ‘solutionist thinking’: a can-do mindset that is considered and innovative, curious and resilient, with a passion for possibilities,” the bank says in its submission. As a further example of this innovation, RMB’s fintech team worked on a new blockchain solution last year which aims to dematerialise the paper guarantee business in South Africa.

The bank is also pushing forward with its expansion of non-vanilla product offerings in African subsidiaries, including SCF, escrows and Islamic trade finance.


Best trade finance bank in East Africa: Standard Bank

Standard Bank successfully scooped the award in this newly-created category of best bank in East Africa. The bank is well known for its historic and wide-ranging footprint across the African continent, having been established in South Africa for 153 years and operating franchises across the rest of the region since the 1990s. It has a substantial presence in the key East African markets including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The bank is considered the largest African bank group by assets. Its trade finance team managed to issue an impressive 14,200 letters of credit between October 2017 and October 2018. It currently has 252 supply chain finance clients.

“As a trusted and dependable partner in Africa, we pride ourselves on the global relationships that we maintain and our large market for trade finance across Africa,” Standard Bank says in its submission. “Our extensive footprint and networks assist our clients with international transactions into Africa and facilitate trade flows originating on the continent.”

Standard Bank’s on-the-ground, local knowledge and capabilities are complemented by its global reach with teams operating in major finance centres such as London, New York, Dubai and Beijing.

One of the bank’s many landmark deals signed last year and sent to GTR to back up its submission included a multi-million-dollar transaction in Tanzania supporting the development of the Standard Gauge Railway expansion project. It is hoped that the railway will eventually connect Tanzania to neighbouring Rwanda, facilitating trade between the two countries.

GTR also recognises Standard Bank’s focus on doing business that supports its social, economic and environmental values – whether that be through financing infrastructure, trade flows or economically empowering its clients and the local populations.


Best trade finance bank in West Africa: The Access Bank UK

The Access Bank UK was a worthy winner of this award: it is a UK-based wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nigerian bank, Access Bank, and has played a pivotal role in helping companies interested in investing in or trading with Western African countries.

Over the course of 2018, the bank financed more than US$330mn-worth of deals, supporting trade in equipment, trucks, soft commodities and petroleum products. Its core business is focused on its role as a confirming bank for its correspondent banking partners, including its parent company.

The banks says it is constantly looking for means of diversifying its income streams through expanding the reach of its services throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. It handles a growing volume of letter of credit (LC) transactions, processing more than US$3bn-worth of LCs in 2017 and exceeding US$3.2bn by last November. It regularly issues LCs for the Nigerian government and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and works with many African development finance institutions, including the African Development Bank and the African Export-Import Bank.

The Access Bank UK also has an operation at the Dubai International Financial Centre, where it supports trade between Asia, the UAE and Africa.

After receiving its award at the GTR awards dinner in London in May, Jamie Simmonds, chief executive officer and managing director of The Access Bank UK, commented on the win: “This achievement highlights the bank’s continuous growth in the trade finance sector. The bank is very proud of the award and to have gained recognition for the support we provide to our customers in West Africa.”


Best trade finance bank in the Middle East & North Africa: Standard Chartered

Despite tumultuous market conditions, Standard Chartered remains dedicated to supporting trade in the Middle East and North Africa. Its strong structuring capabilities has seen the bank undertake a range of complex deals and for complex markets in 2018. As a result, its trade department secured an 8% growth in trade assets and contingents in the first nine months of last year.

In particular, Standard Chartered has taken a frontrunner role on export finance deals in the region, including a US$2.52bn facility for the construction of Route 2020 in what is one of the UAE’s largest transactions ever. The facility, which won a GTR Best Deals award, saw Standard Chartered leading an intricate structure with two fronting export credit agencies (ECAs), three reinsuring ECAs as well as international and local banks. The financing will support the seven-station extension of Dubai’s red metro line to the Expo 2020 site in South Dubai.

The bank has also impressed with its commitment to exploring new technologies locally. For example, 2018 saw it kick off a pilot with Siemens Financial Services, the financing arm of Siemens, in the UAE to test blockchain-based smart guarantees in trade finance.

Built by TradeIX on R3’s Corda framework, the solution enables Siemens to digitise and automate its guarantee process – a traditionally paper-intensive business – for customers with large transaction volumes, from initiation of the bank guarantee to the claim handling.


Best trade finance bank in North Africa: BACB

BACB’s trade finance business is seeing impressive growth, having more than doubled its volumes from 2016 to 2018. Last year, the bank handled in excess of US$3bn-worth of trade finance business, predominantly capturing trade flows in and out of Africa.

The bank’s commitment to North Africa, despite a difficult political climate in many of the markets, is what won it this award. With shareholders from Libya, Algeria and Morocco, BACB is uniquely positioned to understand and operate where many international players are absent. Case in point, BACB is one of the few international banks that has continued to support trade flows into Libya and has substantial market share in the country. The bank is present in five other countries across North Africa.

Furthermore, BACB’s presence across the rest of the continent makes it crucial in Africa’s plans to increase the share of intra-Africa trade – particularly in light of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which recently took effect. The trade area comes with ambitions of a single African market for goods and services, covering 1.2 billion people and a GDP of US$2.5tn across 55 countries, and trade finance will be an important enabler of this goal. Most notably, BACB has been focusing on promoting trade between North and Sub-Saharan Africa, including strategically important transactions between Algeria and South Africa.


Best trade finance bank in North America: Citi

Tariffs, trade tensions, and the reworking of Nafta have pushed organisations across North America into rethinking the supply chains they initially set up during times of stable, open trade policy. With this have come new business challenges, from managing the complexities of trade finance to optimising working capital and mitigating risks. But finding the right support isn’t always easy. Citi, as one of the world’s largest providers of trade and supply chain finance, set itself apart from the competition last year, making it the obvious choice for a win in this category.

With 177 supplier finance programmes, 658 buyers, 10,000+ suppliers and 13 acquisition specialists across North America, the bank has worked hard on developing new ways to advise, support and provide its clients with specialised solutions for all their trade needs.

One big sticking point for many corporates is that traditional supplier finance programmes have offered limited currency options and been unable to provide the scale that global organisations need. Last year, Citi expanded its supplier finance programmes with WorldLink, a cross-border payments solution that enables buyers to process payments in over 120 currencies with one seamless platform and a single implementation. This has allowed Citi clients to further optimise working capital, increase efficiency, strengthen relationships with their suppliers, and enhance their ability to negotiate in their supplier’s local currency. The enhanced Citi supplier finance programme with WorldLink is currently piloting in North America, with plans to rollout globally over the next year.


Best trade finance bank in Latin America: Santander

Santander has a long history in trade finance in Latin America, and is by far the region’s largest bank, with a strong presence in the main economic hubs of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay. With over 50,000 employees located in Latin America, the bank has a deep knowledge of the local regulatory and business environment, which – combined with access to international markets throughout the global Santander network – provides an unparalleled trade finance service to its clients.

“This local/global combination is unique in Latin America as the banking landscape mainly consists of local players which do not have a similar global network, or global banks that do not have a strong local presence,” the bank says.

Santander has been involved in numerous ground-breaking trade finance deals across the region, and 2018 was no exception. One of them, a US$1.3bn export finance transaction for PetroPerú as part of its US$5bn Talara refinery modernisation project, was selected as a GTR Best Deal. Santander acted as export credit agency (ECA) agent and mandated lead arranger for the transaction, which was Spanish ECA Cesce’s largest-ever financing, as well as the largest-ever financing arranged by any ECA in Peru. The deal paved the way for other potential ECA financing for much-needed transmission lines, energy generation facilities and airports in the South American country.


Best trade finance bank in Asia Pacific: Mizuho

Mizuho’s trade finance business across the breadth of its short, medium and long-term solutions had a strong year in 2018. In the short-term space, the bank says its product range contributed to its receivable financing customer base increasing by 30% last year as compared to 2017. Meanwhile, its ambition to bring supply chain platforms to most of its overseas networks was fulfilled in 2018 with the addition of China and Japan. It now reaches 17 countries.

In the longer tenor space, Mizuho’s relationships with most of the major ECAs and multilateral finance institutions has contributed to several major multi-bank financing deals. One such deal was recognised in GTR’s Best Deals awards. It involved the Korean ECA K-sure providing its largest ever financing support in the global telecom sector – as well as its largest deal in India – to support Korean exporters, including Samsung, as part of Reliance Jio’s 4G-LTE telecom network project across India. Mizuho was one of mandated lead arrangers on the facility, which drew in US$500mn.

Elsewhere, 2018 saw the bank build on its previous successes in the technology space. It was involved in several international blockchain consortiums, mainly pursuing paperless trade, as well as partnering with startup companies and conducting proofs of concept. It is also working on robotic process automation and optical character recognition for automating its trade finance processing.


Best trade finance bank in the Nordic Region: Nordea

Nordea retained its crown in this category for another year thanks, in part, to its continued work to align and streamline trade between the Nordic countries where it is present: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. This requires overcoming differences in languages and currencies, along with regulatory inconsistencies between EU and non-EU countries, which the bank says it can do because of its global scale and local presence.

Throughout 2018, Nordea worked to streamline business across the Nordic region. The bank says it’s taking an ‘open thinking’ approach by focusing on its advisory services to become even more
of a partner to its customers.

In terms of its technology, the bank’s Trade Finance Global solution has become the leading online banking system in the Nordics for handling documentary collections, documentary credits, guarantees and standby letters of credit for both import and export.

Moreover, Nordea has introduced its first robot to increase automation in its trade finance processes.

Elsewhere, the bank contributed as a founding member of, the Europe-based blockchain platform for open account trade finance. The platform took several steps forward in 2018 into new geographies and expanded services.


Best trade finance bank in Eastern Europe: VTB Bank

Russia’s VTB Bank has broadened its trade finance horizons in recent years, continuing its support of the country’s exporters, and so scoops this award for the second year in a row.

The bank reported a 30% growth in its trade and export finance (TEF) business volumes between 2017 and 2018. Last year, it completed more than 600 TEF deals with over 90 banking counterparties and almost 200 corporate clients in more than 40 countries. Currently, the bank’s trade finance deal pipeline amounts to more than US$7bn.

Additionally, VTB Bank is a key financing partner for Russia’s export credit agency, Exiar, and the entire Russian Export Centre Group. Its business exposure to Exiar increased by 80% in 2018 over the year before.

Both overseas and domestically, the country’s trade industry is benefitting from the political and economic courting going on between Russia and China, which has resulted in a significant uptick in the volume of goods and services going both ways, and a series of co-operation deals being signed between their various financial institutions. Through its agreements with Chinese banks, including Sinosure, VTB Bank continued to support Sino-Russian trade in 2018, executing deals in the metals and mining, oil and gas, retail and transport industries.

Overall, VTB Bank more than doubled its volume of China business in 2018. The bank’s current portfolio of deals with Chinese counterparties is more than Rmb15bn (US$2.2bn).


Best trade finance bank in Western Europe: Crédit Agricole

Crédit Agricole has remained at the forefront of this crowded market by being an active player in some of the biggest innovations in trade finance in recent years. One example includes a deal in March 2018 with the International Finance Corporation on what they described at the time as an “innovative and impactful” transaction that allows the French bank to expand its trade finance activities in emerging markets.

The deal frees up US$510mn that Crédit Agricole will provide as so-called ‘social loans’ in emerging markets, to support health, education, infrastructure and other key sectors.

In terms of technology, 2018 saw the finalisation of blockchain-based platform komgo, of which Crédit Agricole is a founding member. The bank additionally implemented robotic process automation into its credit processes to improve efficiency.

Also new in 2018 was the product development launch of DocChain, the bank’s new blockchain-based guarantee issuance product. The platform is in the final phase of being rolled out and will cater for the issuance of cross-border and domestic guarantees.

To introduce its customers to these new products, the bank has opened its Paris office to host client events on innovation and technology.

Moreover, Crédit Agricole remained active in its export finance business throughout 2018. In April the bank signed a US$400mn financing deal with Petroleo Brasileiro for the import of UK goods and services. The deal was backed by the UK’s export credit agency UK Export Finance, which provided export credit guarantees for the orders financed under the deal by Brazil’s state-owned oil and gas company.


Best trade finance bank in the UK: Barclays

Barclays has managed to unseat the previous winner in this category to claim the title of best trade finance bank in the UK.

Barclays supported around 322,000 exporting clients with payments and trade in 2018, and referred more than 640 clients to the UK’s department for international trade to discuss opportunities.

Additionally, the Barclays export credit agency team launched several joint initiatives with UK Export Finance, the UK’s export credit agency, including the new Barclays green trade loan scheme. Under the scheme, the bank provides facilities of at least £250,000 to eligible green initiatives.

Also new in 2018, Barclays partnered with King’s College London to examine what more is required to help UK businesses increase their exports. The bank ran a series of events around this issue in 2018 and published three papers articulating how businesses can develop into successful exporters.

Throughout the year, Barclays gave extensive trade training to all its UK corporate relationship directors and trade specialists to develop their understanding of the external environment and assess how to better meet clients’ trade and working capital needs.

Finally, 2018 saw the opening of Barclays’ new trade centre in Birmingham, which is dedicated to helping UK businesses export more goods and services.

The centre has a focus on export activities into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as more broadly across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Far Eastern markets.


Best trade finance law firm: Sullivan

Sullivan’s full-service trade and commodity finance group has had a busy 2018. Throughout the year, it advised more than 50 major trade finance banks and financial institutions as well as funds, corporate borrowers, agents and trustees, national and international organisations and the insurance market. This exceptional workload made it the obvious choice for this award.

The group’s practice focuses on developing markets, advising on the full range of trade and commodity finance structuring and documentation. The team also has deep experience representing clients in a wide range of trade finance disputes, including arbitrations, as well as in litigation in the UK and the rest of the world. Additionally, partners regularly advise on regulatory, bribery and corruption and sanctions issues in connection with trade and commodity finance.

Highlights in 2018 include advising Africa Trade Finance as arranger of a US$160mn club trade finance facility for Nigeria’s United Bank for Africa; working with Afreximbank on the structuring and documentation of various trade finance and letter of credit facilities across Africa; and advising UK trade finance funds on the structuring and documentation of multiple financings for various soft commodity producers and exporters across West Africa and for pre-export, pre-shipment and warehouse financings across Africa.

In one of the more technical bits of legal mastery last year, the firm also advised Baft on its updated English law master participation agreement (MPA) and associated usage guidelines. The MPA, drafted more than 10 years ago and updated for the first time in 2018, serves as the industry standard for secondary market transactions to facilitate the buying and selling of trade finance-related assets globally.


Best export credit agency: UK Export Finance

Supporting trade as your country gets ready to cut ties with one of the world’s largest trading blocs is no easy task, but UK Export Finance (UKEF) gamely rose to the challenge in 2018. As the UK prepares for Brexit, UKEF has been front and centre of the government’s measures to grow trading relationships around the world and boost exports as a share of GDP from 30% to 35%.

UKEF’s direct lending facility (DLF) is recognised as a game-changer, enhancing UK exporters’ attractiveness in emerging markets. Under the DLF, fixed-rate finance is available to cover new international sales by any business exporting from the UK, to any country where UKEF medium-term cover is available, and can be made in sterling, US dollars, euro or Japanese yen. The 2018 budget saw UKEF’s direct lending capacity increased by £2bn in the years after Brexit, up from £3bn previously, and will focus on developing markets following the UK’s departure from the EU.

“The increase is designed to ensure that exporters have the support they need to enter new markets following the UK’s departure from the EU. UKEF has a strong pipeline of projects that are likely to require direct lending support, and we anticipate continued high levels of demand for this product. This measure is designed to enable us to meet this demand,” UKEF tells GTR.


FI that has made a significant contribution to sustainability: BNP Paribas

By now, financial institutions and corporates alike need little convincing about the benefits of taking into account the social and environmental impacts of their actions. However, achieving true sustainability requires real commitment and co-operation between all stakeholders. BNP Paribas’ submission thus stood out for its proactive approach to breaking silos and achieving buy-in from exporters, investors and export credit agencies.

“Sustainable finance is more than a short-term trend,” the bank tells GTR. “We are convinced sustainability is a reality which is impacting our business and the business of our clients through many channels: regulations, a shift in technologies, the need to bridge the gap in infrastructures in emerging countries to create the conditions of a sustainable growth, requests for more sustainable behaviours coming from our customers, the civil society and our investors.”

In 2018, the bank brought together 12 of its business lines, including trade and export finance, to share best practices and drive home the rationale for developing a culture of sustainability. Externally, BNP Paribas also joined the recently created International Chamber of Commerce/Berne Union sustainable finance working group in order to foster more sustainable transactions among export finance players.

One such deal signed in December, a US$436.8mn Sinosure-covered facility for 86 scrubbers to be installed on shipping company MSC’s container vessels, deserves a mention. As the largest ECA financing for marine scrubbers and the first involving Sinosure, the facility directly contributes to the clean-up of marine engine emissions ahead of the International Maritime Organisation’s global sulphur cap, effective from January 1, 2020.


Most innovative bank: HSBC

2018 continued to be a year of innovation for many trade finance banks. Yet again HSBC stood apart from its peers, investing across the board in some of the industry’s most important technology projects.

Most significantly, the bank took a leading role in piloting the Voltron blockchain application for digital letters of credit. Last year HSBC was part of the solution’s first three live, commercial pilots, and the bank has continued its testing in 2019. The pilots have shown incredible improvements in the time it takes to exchange documentation related to a letter of credit: what used to take five to 10 days can be done with Voltron in 24 hours.

But that isn’t all for HSBC. The bank was one of the first to go live on, a blockchain platform for open account trade finance. It is also a member of eTradeConnect in Hong Kong, on which it completed its first batch of live transactions in October 2018.

Last year also saw HSBC innovate with non-blockchain technologies, entering an initiative with six other banks to build a new platform called the Trade Information Network, with CGI as the technology provider. Based on cloud technology, the solution goes to prove that blockchain is not the only game in town for the world’s most innovative trade finance bank.


Best fintech disrupter:

After years of countless fintech announcements, proofs of concepts, trials and pilots, the trade finance industry has finally got a production-ready blockchain platform. This has made an obvious contender for a Leaders in Trade award.

Built by IBM and powered by Hyperledger Fabric, the platform helps SMEs in Europe manage, track and protect open account trade transactions. It gives them full visibility on transaction and shipment status, digitalises the whole process from order creation to payment execution, and enables them to access financial services.

Backed by a consortium of some of the world’s largest trade finance banks, the project has been underway since early 2017 – initially under the name Digital Trade Chain. It later rebranded to and was incorporated as an independent legal entity in Dublin in April last year.

The company today has 12 shareholders: CaixaBank, Erste Group, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale, UBS and UniCredit.

While there are many banking consortia exploring the use of the blockchain and distributed ledger technology for trade finance, has set itself apart by ensuring a swift market launch. Earlier this year, the firm announced it had signed its first licence agreements with 14 banks, who are now actively using the platform.

Meanwhile, has also taken the lead in exploring how its application can interoperate with other platforms – an issue that will only grow in relevance as more blockchain solutions go live. Since October last year, has been working with eTradeConnect in Hong Kong, a similar blockchain platform, to find out how the two applications could link together. This will be crucial to ensure that users of can utilise the platform for trade beyond Europe.


Best trade finance software provider: CGI

This award goes to a company that has helped take the trade finance industry a significant step ahead in its innovation journey.

CGI spearheaded a range of technology initiatives in 2018. Most notably, it was selected as the technology provider for the Trade Information Network, an initiative driven by seven large trade finance banks (ANZ, Banco Santander, BNP Paribas, Citi, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Standard Chartered) to build a multi-bank supply chain finance data exchange. The solution allows corporates to submit and verify purchase orders and invoices to request trade financing from the banks of their choice, essentially pulling together the multiple procure-to-pay networks and supplier portals that exist in the market. By gathering this data in one place, banks will be able to check whether a document has already been financed, thus mitigating the risk of double-financing and fraudulent trade information.

Last year also saw CGI collaborate with its customers and other tech companies to explore technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence. For example, it worked with Scotiabank on a proof of concept that integrated CGI’s Trade360 trade finance platform with Trafinas, an intelligence process automation solution by fintech firm Conpend, in order to automatically capture, identify and classify documents as part of its transaction flow solution.

CGI also collaborated with National Bank of Canada and blockchain firm Skuchain on a pilot programme to streamline the process of negotiating standby letters of credit and guarantees. By integrating Trade360 with Skuchain’s Brackets blockchain-based platform, customers were able to initiate, conduct and conclude negotiations entirely on smart contracts that can intelligently construct agreements and securely communicate any changes in terms to relevant parties.


Best alternative trade finance provider: Greensill

Alternative finance is growing in importance as traditional lenders become increasingly risk averse. Greensill is one of the world’s leading non-bank working capital providers, helping to release the some US$3.5tn locked up in invoices globally. Since the company was founded eight years ago, it has made US$60bn available to a pool of 1.7 million suppliers in more than 60 countries. It serves as a financier to governments including the UK and US, as well as some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Airbus, General Mills and Vodafone.

2018 was another year of growth for Greensill: it was chosen by the UK government’s procurement organisation, Crown Commercial Service (CCS), to run an early payment programme for pharmacists who dispense drugs.

In what was awarded as a GTR Best Deals award, Greensill provided a £1bn-plus programme that enabled pharmacists to be paid early, instead of waiting two-plus months for payment from the UK government.

The alternative lender had to act quickly, as the previous bank-led scheme needed to be replaced within nine weeks of signing. Greensill’s team transferred more than 1,600 pharmacists to its scheme ahead of the deadline.

CCS is currently exploring other areas where the UK government can implement supply chain finance for early payment.


Best correspondent bank: Crown Agents Bank

Crown Agents Bank is a first-time winner in this category, impressing GTR judges with its ability to act as a bridge for payments, trade and investment in and out of Africa and other emerging markets – successfully navigating some of the most risky countries.

The UK-regulated bank works with both central and commercial banks in challenging African markets including Sierra Leone, Liberia, the Gambia, Djibouti, Madagascar, Seychelles, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique as well as other non-African regions such as the Pacific Islands and the Caribbean. It provides correspondent banking services, trade finance, cash management and foreign exchange.

With around 180 years of experience in supporting trade and investment flows between developing and more developed markets, Crown Agents prides itself on enabling investment that will have a positive impact on real people’s lives. “This approach also puts us in the driving seat to foster south-south payments, trade and investment, which becomes critical for new initiatives such as the Africa Union’s continental free trade area, which we see as a fundamental initiative to develop the African continent,” says the bank, which counts charities, multilateral institutions and development agencies among its clients.

With a strong focus on risk management, Crown Agents Banks says it offers a “thorough due diligence-based approach”. “In order to get our clients to achieve such standards, we not only invest our time and knowledge in assessing the client’s status quo prior to onboarding, but most importantly we propose paths for them to achieve the standards we expect them to attain before we are comfortable in on-boarding them,” the bank says. “In essence we are striking at the heart of the derisking issue in a risk-focused and cost-effective manner.”


Best development bank in trade: Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) had an impressive year, with strong growth figures in its trade finance activities and deals finalised in a wide variety of developing regions and sectors.

Overall, the bank supported trade worth US$6.2bn last year, up by 50% from the year before. The number of transactions it completed also rose to 4,500, up 40% from 2017.

The ADB’s 2018 highlights include a €14.65mn deal for a Bangladesh power plant; a US$90mn facility to improve Georgian air traffic services; and US$49mn for solar panels in Vietnam.

Also new in 2018, the ADB took steps to preventing criminals and terrorists from using the global financial system by launching its Trade Finance Scorecard. The ADB says the scorecard addresses market gaps stemming from unintended consequences of global measures to fight money laundering and terrorism. It focuses on the interpretation, implementation and compliance with anti-money laundering regulations.

The diagnostic tool gives an industry-wide rating of between one and 10 to assess how a range of ‘elements of effective regulation’ are being deployed to deal with money laundering.

Last year further saw the ADB forge new relationships through its trade finance programme’s (TFP) bank twinning initiative, which leverages banks’ expertise and strength to share knowledge. In 2018, the TFP twinned with Hamkorbank in Uzbekistan and Armeniabank.

Elsewhere, the ADB TFP conducted a gender audit to assess human resources policies at 19 partner banks to identify practical and implementable enhancements that will attract, retain and promote more women in banking. The study found that 12 banks had implemented 25 of the TFP’s gender initiative recommendations.


Best trade credit and political risk insurance underwriter: AIG

AIG’s expansion of its array of trade finance-related product offerings caught the attention of GTR.

“In 2018, AIG broadened its trade finance capabilities to better partner with banks and alternative lenders on their trade finance or working capital flow transactions across the full spectrum of products, including receivables finance, supply chain/confirmed payables finance and other working capital products,” the insurer says, adding that its “unique approach combines in-depth trade finance expertise with structuring, legal, technology and operational intelligence”.

AIG only set up its trade finance unit in 2007 and yet it has gone from strength to strength, not least in the area of technological innovation. The insurer is pushing forward with blockchain technology after piloting a private blockchain network in 2017 with Standard Chartered to support a supply chain finance programme for logistics firm DHL. The pilot used the TradeIX trade finance-specific open-source blockchain platform and it allowed for invoice data and the eligible insured amount to be placed securing on the platform providing real-time visibility for all parties.

Last year also saw the launch of a new product called the TC Bridge endorsement, which aims to tackle some of the challenges posed by Basel III regulation. It is a tool to help find a balance or ‘bridge’ between a funder’s capital relief requirements and a corporate’s need for credit risk mitigation on a buyer. It allows the seller-client to maintain their existing trade credit policy on their buyers while also providing the bank with Basel III-compliant wording on their standard forms or an AIG trade finance form that links the two, allowing the bank to obtain capital relief. This ‘bridge’ solution enables the two sides to share the cost of a single premium.


Best trade credit and political risk insurance broker: BPL Global

2018 was a year of celebration for BPL Global as it celebrated 35 years since it was first established in 1983. Winning GTR’s Leaders in Trade award will no doubt be another cause for celebration as the company reflects on its many and varied achievements.

Since the early 1980s – an era when credit and political risk insurance was still in its infancy – BPL Global has seen huge growth. It now has seven global offices serving multinational financial institutions, corporates and traders. It has an annual premium volume of approximately US$400mn and a close to 20% market share.

Last year saw the company build on its firm foundations, opening a New York office and a branch in Geneva. 2018 also saw the creation of its new excess of loss trade credit insurance team, which will help banks grow their trade finance portfolios.

“Despite this appetite for growth and innovation, we remain committed to the values that underpinned our business from the start: of being specialist, independent and of always prioritising clients’ interests,” the insurer tells GTR.

BPL Global has become recognised as a leading voice within the insurance market, spearheading initiatives designed to benefit the whole industry. Last year it published its first Market Insight report, which included an in-depth market survey, designed to meet growing demand for reliable statistics on the industry’s performance. The report was even used as a resource in the UK Prudential Regulation Authority’s consultation paper last year, which explored banks’ use of the credit and political risk insurance market and other unfunded risk mitigation tools.


Best supply chain finance bank: Santander

Santander defined supply chain finance as one of its core focus areas in 2014. Since then, the bank has been on something of a transformation process, developing new products, hiring key trade finance specialists and investing heavily into technology. As a result, it has expanded its business all over the globe, consolidating its leadership in receivables finance in many of its core countries, such as Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Poland, Germany, France and the UK, as well as expanding its activities in regions where it has been historically less active, including the US, Asia and the Andean region.

But what really made Santander stand out in the annual Leaders in Trade awards was the international confirming platform it set up last year. As compared to its previous strategy of leveraging local expertise to develop in-country confirming platforms, this gave the bank better capacity to support clients who operate on a more global basis.

“As a result we have won several mandates such as the Bosch confirming transaction which involves 19 countries,” the bank tells GTR. “To date, no other bank has ever implemented a confirming deal where more countries have been involved.”

Another exemplary deal involved an international oil and gas giant which wanted to consolidate its European and US sales to more than 450 clients into a single multi-currency receivables programme. In a US$700bn facility, Santander was able to offer one contract covering all sellers at a single and competitive pricing. A single point of entry at Santander in Madrid with dedicated product, middle office and legal teams facilitated the execution of the programme, and saw the transaction executed in less than 30 days.


Best commodity trade finance bank: Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank’s structured commodity and commodity trade finance team, led by John MacNamara, has gained a well-deserved reputation for its high-quality offering in the structured end of commodities finance, but its prowess in the flow side of the business also deserves a second look.

Last year the bank made considerable progress in partnering with traders from the large independents in Switzerland, the US and Singapore, to the in-house trading subsidiaries of the big natural resources producers and importers, stepping up in their syndicated borrowing bases, prepayments and revolving credit facilities, increasing bilateral flow lines, and generally working hard to put more firepower into play in more places, whether emerging or developed markets.

This year, on the back of having been one of the lead banks on Australia’s largest metals sector syndication which closed right at the previous year end for the Glencore/FMG Resources prepayment, Deutsche Bank has dug a new trench down under and opened a commodity trade finance desk in Sydney.

In a transaction selected as a GTR Best Deal, the bank even came in at a critical moment for Singapore-headquartered commodities company Noble Group to deliver half of a commodity trade finance facility just in time to get the troubled firm’s restructuring across the line.


Best export finance bank: Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered continued to impress on the export finance front in 2018. In particular, it set itself apart as a frontrunner in structuring and arranging complex multi-export finance transactions in its footprint markets.

Over the last three years, the bank’s export finance department has arranged over US$10bn of financings supported by export credit agencies, multilaterals and development financial institutions across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Last year saw Standard Chartered take a lead on a number of innovative ECA re-insurance structures in order to arrange large financing for its clients.

For example, the bank was involved in a €247mn 10-year buyer credit facility extended to the ministry of finance in Angola for the construction of the Lauca-Bita power transmission line. In the deal, which was supported by Denmark’s export credit agency EKF, Standard Chartered assisted in reorganising the sub-contracting structure to enable reinsurance from the UK’s UK Export Finance and Germany’s Euler Hermes, allowing EKF to optimise country limit considerations on Angola.

Standard Chartered was also a mandated lead arranger on a US$2.52bn deal for the construction of Route 2020, an extension of Dubai’s red metro line to the Expo 2020 site in South Dubai.

In what was awarded a GTR Best Deal for 2018, this multi-sourced, long-term financing package comprised two ECA-backed term loans, covered by France’s Bpifrance Assurance Export and Spain’s Cesce. The Bpifrance-supported facility, for which Standard Chartered was the facility agent, was further reinsured by Poland’s Kuke, Italy’s Sace and Export Development Canada, making it another example of how an intricate deal structure can be put in place to deliver an innovative and competitive solution to the borrower.


Best trade finance bank: HSBC

HSBC continues to stand out from its trade finance competitors on a global scale. With over 6,000 trade experts globally, the bank is present in over 60 markets, facilitating US$700bn of trade annually.

In 2018, HSBC made significant investment in new blockchain platforms, including, Voltron and eTradeConnect, helping to bring these innovative projects into a live setting.

But it is not just technology that makes HSBC a leader in its field. In a year of intense trade tensions between China and the US, the bank has remained committed to funding Chinese trade, including strategic Chinese government programmes such as the Belt and Road Initiative and Made in China 2025.

Furthermore, in 2018 HSBC increased market share across key markets for trade – Hong Kong and Singapore – to 14.4% and 12% respectively.

The bank is also significantly enhancing its supply chain finance offering. Having rolled out a new supply chain finance platform in Singapore, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, UAE and France, HSBC has increased its geographic coverage and introduced the product to new markets.

In May last year, HSBC increased its stake in Tradeshift, a global supply chain platform, becoming the largest commercial bank shareholder in the company. The partnership with Tradeshift, which was formed in 2017, is part of the bank’s strategy to provide fully digitised and automated working capital propositions to its clients. It allows HSBC customers to manage their global supply chains and working capital requirements in one digital platform and enables the bank to provide financing to companies much further down the chain.