The Hong Kong Export Credit Insurance Corporation (HKECIC) has launched a product alongside fintech FundPark aimed at boosting trade finance for exporters in the booming e-commerce sector.

As part of the tie-up, HKECIC and private (re)insurer Scor will provide trade credit insurance cover for loans extended by FundPark to Hong Kong merchants exporting goods abroad.

The product marks the first time HKECIC will underwrite risk and supply cover based on non-traditional data, as it works to boost financing for SME e-commerce exporters, the state insurer says.

Performance and operating data collected from e-commerce marketplaces will be a “primary consideration” for assessing a merchant’s non-payment risk, says Terence Chiu, HKECIC commissioner.

“Cross-border e-commerce trade has been growing tremendously worldwide in the past few years. HKECIC is glad to collaborate with SCOR to offer a market first e-commerce trade insurance backed financing solution.”

Anson Suen, chief executive and co-founder of FundPark, says the “first of its kind” solution will facilitate the provision of working capital to “more merchants who may find it difficult to acquire financing”.

The launch comes amid rapid growth in e-commerce trade across the Asia Pacific, as exporters increasingly tap sales opportunities via digital marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart Marketplace and eBay.

In China, the epicentre of the e-commerce boom, HSBC forecasts that cross-border e-commerce trade volumes will hit US$500bn in 2025, up from US$155bn five years ago. This rise is in part driven by the emergence of digital marketplaces and e-commerce giants such as Alibaba, Temu and Shein.

Rising e-commerce trade is presenting opportunities for non-bank lenders such as FundPark, which launched in 2016 and has since provided over US$8bn in financing for SMEs.

The firm says it aims to help tackle the US$2.5tn trade finance gap and uses AI, data analysis and its proprietary risk-management platform to make credit decisions on SME borrowers.

As part of this approach, the firm harnesses real-time data from partners including Amazon, eBay, Tmall and Walmart to assess the performance and creditworthiness of an SME merchant.

This removes the need for collateral, a key requirement for SME merchants that often lack a physical store or strong balance sheet. Many firms may have been trading for less than a year.

“Assessing trade financing risk is never an easy task, especially when it comes to SMEs, whose strength and potential may not be easily realised by looking at their financials or traditional risk underwriting factors,” says George Leung, chief executive of Scor Reinsurance Asia.

However, insurers and financiers can “seize opportunities in this undiscovered segment”, he says.

There are also signs of growing bank involvement in the sector, with HSBC having partnered with various fintechs in Hong Kong and China over the past few years to boost financing for e-commerce SMEs.

In July, HSBC partnered with Dowsure Technologies, a China-based cross-border e-commerce API platform, to facilitate the provision of trade finance to online suppliers by leveraging transaction data rather than collateral or financial documents.

E-commerce is set to be a key focus of a joint venture between HSBC and B2B platform Tradeshift, slated to launch in 2024.