Credendo, Belgium’s export credit agency, has launched an innovation lab that aims to “recode” trade credit insurance and related products for the digital era.

Area42, which currently has bases in Brussels and Paris, is headed by Credendo’s chief information officer, Lode Vermeersch, and led by Christophe Spoerry, who co-founded the Euler Hermes Digital Agency. In this new role, Spoerry will have a similar remit based around rethinking credit risk management and trade finance, although he tells GTR that Area42 will operate with a higher level of autonomy from Credendo, which is limiting its involvement to providing financial backing and advisory services.

“Area42 was formed because we are not sure that credit insurance and surety bonds are the answer to the mission of Credendo in the longer term, and it’s the same for the other credit insurers to be honest,” says Spoerry. “The mission is to support trade, and trade is becoming more platform-based. There are new paradigms such as blockchain, which facilitates a lot more open account trade, and 3D printing which shortens the supply chain, and therefore the position of a trade insurer is clearly at risk. That is why there is the need for an initiative such as Area42 that paves the way for the future solutions that Credendo may have in a five to 10-year horizon.”

Thus far, Credendo has brought together a number of as-yet unnamed partners, which include fintech companies, tech firms and marketplace providers. The main focuses of work include innovations in credit insurance and factoring, as well as accounting and CRM solutions for online marketplaces. Area42 hopes that these latter solutions, while outside of the traditional remit of export credit, will serve as a way of reaching new clients, particularly given the explosive growth in e-commerce in recent years. “This is an essential ingredient for us to access more data, to reach more companies, and to better understand the needs of customers,” says Spoerry. “This was one of the biggest issues I encountered when I launched EHDA: how do you get feedback from customers at a certain scale when they have no clue who Euler Hermes is? We are getting around this by bringing in partners who have a good relationship with customers, which will help inform what we should be building.”

The first project to roll off the Area42 production line is currently in beta. Called Marjory, it is led by Kamel Tansaout, former B2B head at marketplace solution provider Mirakl. A tech start-up, its main value proposition is to help marketplace operators like French multinational retailer Carrefour to reconcile the business model of the marketplaces they launch with their own legacy systems and organisations.

“When I was at EHDA we were invited to many marketplaces at a very late stage of development, and this made credit insurance integration extremely hard because the model had already been created. The position that we are taking is about thinking early stage. We want to create a solution that a marketplace wants from day one when they start to draw out their user journeys,” says Spoerry. “Once we solve this core process issue then we can bring in a catalogue of service partners and integrate financing, KYC, AML, and of course credit insurance.”

Other projects are also underway, but are as yet undisclosed. The official launch of Area42 will be later this year, when the initiative will make public the names of its partners and clients.