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Five takeaways from the Asia Tradetech Forum

Asia / 13-06-18 / by

Hong Kong played host to the GTR Asia Tradetech Forum this week – an event which discussed and debated the influence of technology on the trade finance sector. Here are the five key takeaways from the forum.


  1. Geopolitics trumps the rest

Despite the fact that technology promises so much that is new, the event was a reminder that in trade finance, people matter most. As speakers took to the stage, 1,609 miles away in Singapore, preparations were underway for the meeting of the century, between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. While the summit was largely dominated by the north’s nuclear weapons programme, Trump’s name came up time and time again at the forum, mostly because of the uncertainty he has instilled in the global trade system.

In this special administrative region of China, the trade war remains a hot topic. Alan Wong, the founder of Global Trade and Supply Chain Finance Advisory, spoke of the potential drag the ongoing dispute could have on global trade. “The potential trade war could cost US$470bn if it causes the full level of damage,” Wong said. That would be 0.5% of GDP, or the equivalent of removing one of the UAE, Algeria, Vietnam or Bangladesh from the global economy.

Many expect the trade war to wreak most destruction in the tech sphere. Wong pointed out that of the world’s top 11 semiconductor producers, only one is in China. Rectifying this situation is high on the Chinese government’s agenda and will form a crucial part of its Made in China 2025 initiative, through which the government will pour resources into high tech engineering. This is China’s Industrial Revolution 4.0 and is expected to see the same sort of subsidies that helped it power through its heavy industry phase over the past couple of decades.


  1. What is Hong Kong’s identity?

Recently in Hong Kong, the chief economist at Allianz, Ludovic Sabran, bemoaned the lack of innovation in Hong Kong and Singapore, its regional rival. 20 years ago, he said, trade bankers were sent to Hong Kong to learn how to structure. Now, such expertise appears to be lost and there’s a sense that Hong Kong is resting on its laurels, just as mainland cities such as Shenzhen and Hangzhou are emerging as the real hubs of innovation in the region (they are the founding places of TenCent and Alibaba, respectively).

Perhaps fearing this, the PR machine in Hong Kong has been in overdrive in recent months. It champions its chops as a fintech hub, but in reality, Hong Kong doesn’t provide anywhere near the levels of support that Singapore does to companies there. The one area where it has a distinct advantage over rivals is as a potential clearing centre for transactions and projects as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – something that was discussed at this forum.

According to Wong, the BRI will add US$10tn to regional trade over the next 10 years. As well as providing the deal-making environment required to assuage international investments, Hong Kong can also look to be a major exporter on the BRI route. The city’s MTR system is world famous and its operator, the MTR Corporation is seeking to export its model around the world. Electrical utility CLP Power, meanwhile, is co-sponsor of the Vung Ang 2 power plant in Vietnam, a BRI project.

Wong also discussed the Greater Bay Area, a Chinese government initiative to build “a world-class city cluster across the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau region”, and another key “selling point” of Hong Kong’s. Described as “the next big thing”, the Greater Bay Area will have a population of 56 million and a combined GDP of US$3.6tn within three years (up from US$1.36tn today).

Many Hong Kongers fear the concept of being absorbed into the mainland. On the face of it, this appears to be the logical conclusion of both the BRI and the Greater Bay Area Initiative. If it is to retain its identity, Hong Kong should do more to encourage innovation among its companies and people.


  1. Does fintech mean too much choice? 

With fintech, comes more choice – but is there too much choice? In trade finance, we’re seeing a constant stream of new entrants to the fintech scene. In the invoice financing space, there are dozens of players emerging with platforms in Asia. In blockchain, various consortia compete for space, seemingly at odds with the original concepts behind the technology, of openness and collaboration.

“Choice is great, but there’s too much choice,” said Jolyon Ellwood-Russell, trade finance partner at Simmons & Simmons. “Platforms need to speak to each other. We need uniformity and standardisation, but standardisation is difficult to achieve. It’s difficult to know where to allocate resources: do we need to pick a winner? Will one giant emerge?”

Consider the situation with blockchain and the three competing technologies of Hyperledger, Corda from R3 and Ethereum. Many banks are members of or users of all three. Many banks are also developing on their own solutions, outside of the official collaborative work, without any idea which of these will emerge as the dominant force.

In recent weeks, the battleground has heated up further still. HSBC and ING ran a first transaction on Corda in May, while the banks behind the blockchain platform for trade finance will be making their product live this month, on Hyperledger Fabric. Stories emerged last week of a cash shortage at R3 (these have been vehemently denied to GTR by well-placed sources within the organisation), but it feels as though the knives are being sharpened and rather than collaboration, we’re entering a more viciously competitive environment.


  1. What does the future hold for traditional trade finance?

In an event geared towards tradetech, this was an almost existentialist question posed to one panel of mainly orthodox bankers. The conclusion drawn was that yes, digitisation is coming, but the pace of change is slow. Traditional tools will be around for a long time yet, but when change comes, practitioners must be ready to make that leap.

“I don’t think we’re looking immediately for a new world. It’s not just one step and we’re there. It’s a long and exhausting journey,” said Holger Frank, head of financial institutions and transaction banking at UniCredit in Hong Kong. He said that the bank had exited the R3 consortium because they “got the impression it was a blockchain provider needing to find problems”.

Meanwhile, Jenny Chan, senior treasury manager at commodity house RGE Group, said that while the company is keeping on top of technological advancements, what they do is dictated by moving markets and their banks play a key role in supporting that.

“Markets us tell us where we should go and banks tell us what the opportunities are when we get there. We rely on the bank knowledge, it’s not just transactional. It’s a business partnership,” she said.

Tommy Chan, head of trade product management for Asia Pacific corporates at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that the bank’s role has evolved. “We hear loud and clear from companies and what they want from banks are: digitisation, transparency, risk management,” he said.


  1. Gender issues with local nuances

As part of this event, GTR extended the Women in Trade Finance programme, having previously hosted such fora in Dubai, London and New York. Some of the speakers have worked in trade finance around the world and described Hong Kong as having more female leaders than some western hubs. Others spoke very warmly of having supportive male allies, but overall, it was clear that the industry has plenty of work to do.

For both sexes, one of the major issues discussed was lack of communication. Often, females in Asia will not put themselves forward for a new role or promotion, even if they have the requisite skills and experience. On the other hand, the traditional male-centric culture means that men often won’t ask for time off to help support their partners’ careers: fewer men in Asia take paternity leave or become stay-at-home fathers, meaning it’s often the woman’s career which is made to suffer.

Of course, the issues vary between institutions and cities. Ginnie Chin, the CEO and co-founder of Culum Capital, says that in a former role as a trade banker, she was transferred to an office in Mainland China and spent the entire time trying to convince her sceptical colleagues and bosses that she was up to the task. Inwha Huh, global head of structured trade solutions at HSBC, recalled starting off her career on Wall Street, where gender issues were laughed off. However, that changed over time and the workplace evolved to allow flexible working and to have day-care on-site – issues on which Hong Kong is still lagging behind in many cases.

The conclusion was that if you’re a global bank or company, having a one-size-fits-all global strategy to gender equality is unlikely to work. Different societies have different requirements and nuances, and planning should take place on a local level but with the same goal: retaining women in senior roles.

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Privacy Policy

Our privacy commitments

This Privacy Policy outlines the information we may collect about you in relation to your use of our websites, events, related publications and services (“personal data”) and how we may use that personal data. It also outlines the methods by which we and our service providers may (subject to necessary consents) monitor your online behaviour to deliver customised advertisements, marketing materials and other tailored services. This Privacy Policy also tells you how you can verify the accuracy of your personal data and how you can request that we delete or update it.

This Privacy Policy applies to all websites operated by Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd (as indicated on the relevant website).

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Any questions regarding this Policy and our privacy practices should be sent by e-mail to or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

Who are we?

Established in 2002 and with offices in London and Singapore, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is the world’s leading trade and trade finance media company, offering information, news, events and services for companies and individuals involved in global trade.

Our principal business activities are:

  • Business-to-Business financial publishing. We provide a range of products and services focused on international commodities, export, supply chain and trade finance markets including magazines, newsletters, electronic information and data
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This Data Protection Policy explains when and why we collect personal information about people who visit our website, how we use it, the conditions under which we may disclose it to others and how we keep it secure.

Why do we collect information from you?

Our primary goal in collecting personal data from you is to give you an enjoyable customised experience whilst allowing us to provide services and features that will meet your needs.
We collect certain personal data from you, which you give to us when using our Site and/or registering or subscribing for our products and services. However, we also give you the option to access our Sites’ home pages without subscribing or registering or disclosing your personal data.

We also collect certain personal data from other group companies to whom you have given information through their websites (including, by way of example, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and subsidiaries, in accordance with the purposes listed below). Should we discover that any such personal data has been delivered to any of the Sites, we will remove that information as soon as possible.

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This Data Protection Policy ensures Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd:

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Data protection law

The Data Protection Act 1998 described how organisations – including Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd – must collect, handle and store personal information. These rules apply regardless of whether data is stored electronically, on paper or on other materials. To comply with the law, personal information collected must be stored safely, not disclosed unlawfully and used fairly.

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How do we collect information from you?

We obtain information about you when you use our website, for example, when you contact us about products and services, when you register for an event, register to receive eNewsletters, subscribe or register for a trial to our GTR magazine/website.

 Types of Personal Data Held and its Use

1.      Customer Services and Administration

On some Sites, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd collects personal data such as your name, job title, department, company, e-mail, phone, work and/or home address, in order to register you for access to certain content, subscriptions and events. In addition, we may also store information including IP address and page analytics, including information regarding what pages are accessed, by whom and when.

This information is used to administer and deliver to you the products and/or services you have requested, to operate our Sites efficiently and improve our service to you, and to retain records of our business transactions and communications. By using the Sites and submitting personal information through the registration process you are agreeing that we may collect, hold, process and use your information (including personal information) for the purpose of providing you with the Site services and developing our business, which shall include (without limitation) the purposes described in the below paragraphs.

2.      Monitoring use of our Sites

Where, as part of our Site services, we enable you to post information or materials on our Site, we may access and monitor any information which you upload or input, including in any password-protected sections. Subject to any necessary consents, we also monitor and/or record the different Sites you visit and actions taken on those Sites, e.g. content viewed or searched for. If you are a registered user (e.g. a subscriber or taking a trial), when you log on, this places a cookie on your machine. This enables your access to content and services that

are not publicly available. Once you are logged on, the actions you take – for example, viewing an article – will be recorded (subject to any necessary consents). We may use technology or a service provider to do this for us. This information may be used for one or more of the following purposes:

  • to fulfil our obligations to you;
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  • to track compliance with our terms and conditions of use, e.g. to ensure that you are acting within the scope of your user licence;
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  • to enable our journalists to contact and interact with you online in connection with any content you may post to our Sites.

Please see paragraph 5 below for more information on cookies and similar technologies and a link to a page where you can turn them on or off.

3.      Marketing

Some of your personal data collected under paragraphs 1 and 2 above may be used by us to contact you by e-mail, telephone and/or post for sending information or promotional material on our products and/or services and/or those of our other group companies.
We give you the opportunity to opt-out of receiving marketing communications. Further detail can be found on the applicable Site and in the footer of each marketing communication sent by us, our group companies or service providers. See also “Consents and opt-outs” section below.
We will not share your information with third parties for marketing purposes.

4.      Profiling

We may analyse your personal information to create a profile of your interests and preferences so that we can contact you with information relevant to you.

5.      Cookies and similar technologies

All our Sites use cookies and similar technical tools to collect information about your access to the Site and the services we provide.

What is a cookie?

When you enter some sites, your computer will be issued with a cookie. Cookies are text files that identify your computer to servers. Cookies in themselves do not identify the individual user, just the computer used.

Many sites do this whenever a user visits their site in order to track traffic flows, recording those areas of the site that have been visited by the computer in question, and for how long.

Users have the opportunity to set their computers to accept all cookies, to notify them when a cookie is issued, or not to receive cookies at any time. Selecting not to receive means that certain personalised services Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd offers cannot then be provided to that user.


Why do we use cookies?

  1. Log In – Where we provide log in mechanisms for site users a cookie is created at login and for the duration of the session. Each cookie contains a unique reference number only (no personal information) which is used to confirm you are authorised.
  2. Analytics – To allow us to keep track of traffic to our website we use cookies. The cookies simply tell us if you have previously visited our website so we can get more accurate figures for New vs Returning visitors.

Find and control your cookies

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We may use cookies to:

  • remember that you have used the Site before; this means we can identify the number of unique visitors we receive to different parts of the Site. This allows us to make sure we have enough capacity for the number of users that we get and make sure that the Site runs fast enough
  • remember your login session so you can move from one page to another within the Site;
  • store your preferences or your user name and password so that you do not need to input these details every time you visit the Site;
  • customise elements of the layout and/or content of the pages of Site for you;
  • record activity on our Sites so that we understand how you use our Sites enabling us to better tailor our content, services and marketing to your needs;
  • collect statistical information about how you use the Site so that we can improve the Site; and
  • gather information about the pages on the Site that you visit, and other information about other websites that you visit, so as to place you in a “market segment”. This information is only collected by reference to the IP address that you are using, but does include information about the county and city you are in, together with the name of your internet service provider.

Most web browsers automatically accept cookies but, if you prefer, you can change your browser to prevent that, or to notify you each time a cookie is set. You can also learn more about cookies in general by visiting which includes additional useful information on cookies and how to block cookies using different types of browser. Please note however, that by blocking, deleting or turning off cookies used on the Site you may not be able to take full advantage of the Site.

6.      E-mail tracking

E-mail tracking is a method for monitoring the e-mail delivery to those subscribers who have opted-in to receive marketing e-mails from GTR, including GTR Africa, GTR Asia, GTR Americas, GTR Europe, GTR Mena, GTR eNews, Third party e-mails and GTR Ventures.

Why do we track e-mails?

So that we can better understand our users’ needs, we track responses, subscription behaviour and engagement to our e-mails – for example, to see which links are the most popular in newsletters. They enable us to understand the consumers journey through metrics including open rate, click-through rate, bounces and unsubscribes. Any other purposes for which Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd wishes to use your personal data will be notified to you and your personal data will not be used for any such purpose without obtaining your prior consent.

How do you track GTR eNewsletters?

To do this, we use pixel GIFs, also known as “pixel tags” – these are small image files that are placed within the body of our e-mail messages. When that image is downloaded from our web servers, the e-mail is recorded as being opened. By using some form of digitally time-stamped record to reveal the exact time and date that an e-mail was received or opened, as well the IP address of the recipient.

7.      Consents and opt-outs

You can give your consent to opt-out of all or any particular uses of your data as indicated above by:

  • Indicating at the point on the relevant Site where personal data is collected
  • Informing us by e-mail, post or phone
  • Updating your preferences on the applicable Site or eNewsletter (unsubscribe and preference options are available in the footer of each eNewsletter)

To turn cookies and similar technologies on and off, see the information in paragraph 5 above. Any questions regarding consents and opt-outs should be sent by e-mail to or by writing to Data Protection Officer at, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, United Kingdom. Alternatively, you can telephone our London headquarters at +44 (0) 20 8673 9666.

8.      Disclosures

Information collected at one Site may be shared between Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd and other group companies for the purposes listed above.

We may transfer, sell or assign any of the information described in this policy to third parties as a result of a sale, merger, consolidation, change of control, transfer of assets or reorganisation of our business.

9.      Public forums, message boards and blogs

Some of our Sites may have a message board, blogs or other facilities for user generated content available and users can participate in these facilities. Any information that is disclosed in these areas becomes public information and you should always be careful when deciding to disclose your personal information.

10.  Data outside the EEA

Services on the Internet are accessible globally so collection and transmission of personal data is not always limited to one country. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd may transfer your personal data, for the above-listed purposes to other third parties, which may be located outside the European Economic Area and/or with a different level of personal data protection. However, when conducting transfers, we take all necessary steps to ensure that your data is treated reasonably, securely and in accordance with this Privacy Statement.

Who has access to your information?

Confidentiality and Security of Your Personal Data

We are committed to keeping the data you provide us secure and will take reasonable precautions to protect your personal data from loss, misuse or alteration.

However, the transmission of information via the internet is not completely secure. Although we will do our best to protect your personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of your data transmitted to our Site; any transmission is at your own risk. Once we have received your information, we will use strict procedures and security features described above to try to prevent unauthorised access.

We have implemented information security policies, rules and technical measures to protect the personal data that we have under our control from:

  • unauthorised access
  • improper use or disclosure
  • unauthorised modification
  • unlawful destruction or accidental loss

All our employees, contractors and data processors (i.e. those who process your personal data on our behalf, for the purposes listed above), who have access to, and are associated with the processing of your personal data, are obliged to keep the information confidential and not use it for any other purpose than to carry out the services they are performing for us.


Everyone who works for or with Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd has some responsibility for ensuring data is collected, stored and handled appropriately. Each team handling personal data must ensure that it is handled and processed in line with this policy and data protection principles. However, the following people have key areas of responsibility. The board of directors is ultimately responsible for ensuring that Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd meets its legal obligations.

Name of Data Controller

The Data Controller is Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd. Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd is subject to the UK Data Protection Act 1998 and is registered in the UK with the Information Commissioner`s Office.

How to access, update and erase your personal information

If you wish to know whether we are keeping personal data about you, or if you have an enquiry about our privacy policy or your personal data held by us, in relation to any of the Sites, you can contact the Data Protection Officer via:

  • By writing to this address: Data Protection Officer, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, 4 Hillgate Place, London, SW12 9ER, UK
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8673 9666
  • E-mail:

Upon request, we will provide you with a readable copy of the personal data which we keep about you. We may require proof of your identity and may charge a small fee (not exceeding the statutory maximum fee that can be charged) to cover administration and postage.

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd allows you to challenge the data that we hold about you and, where appropriate in accordance with applicable laws, you may have your personal information:

  • erased
  • rectified or amended
  • completed

Disclosing data for other reasons

In certain circumstances, the Data Protection Act allows personal data to be disclosed to law enforcement agencies without the consent of the data subject. Under these circumstances, Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd, will disclose requested data. However, the Data Controller will ensure the request is legitimate, seeking assistance from the board and from the company’s legal advisors where necessary.

Changes to this Privacy Statement

We will occasionally update this Privacy Statement to reflect new legislation or industry practice, group company changes and customer feedback. We encourage you to review this Privacy Statement periodically to be informed of how we are protecting your personal data.

Providing information

Exporta Publishing & Events Ltd aims to ensure that individuals are aware that their data is being processed, and that they understand.

  • How the data is being used
  • How to exercise their rights

To this end, the company has a privacy statement, setting out how data relating to individuals is used by the company. This is available on request and available on the company’s website.

Review of this policy

We keep this Policy under regular review. This Privacy Statement was last updated in April 2018.