Roberto Mancone is leaving his post as COO of we.trade, one of the most prominent blockchain companies in the trade finance industry.
He will be replaced at the beginning of May by Ciaran McGowan, who has been appointed general manager.
Mancone has been spearheading the we.trade initiative from when it started as what he calls “a simple idea” almost three years ago. At the time, he was global head of disruptive technologies and solutions at Deutsche Bank, one of the project’s initiators.
Backed by a consortium of some of the world’s largest trade finance banks, the we.trade initiative was formed to help the industry ease and streamline open account trade finance transactions using blockchain technology.
The consortium made its first official announcement in January 2017 – at the time under the name Digital Trade Chain. It later rebranded to we.trade and was incorporated as an independent legal entity in Dublin in April last year. Mancone left Deutsche to become the company’s COO and has since been the public face of the project.
The company today has 12 shareholders: CaixaBank, Erste Group, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale, UBS and UniCredit.
we.trade has become a pioneer in bringing a blockchain-based trade finance platform into production. The platform is targeted at SMEs in Europe, helping them to 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 from their banks.
Earlier this year, the firm announced it had signed its first licence agreements with 14 banks, who are now actively using the platform. It is also working with eTradeConnect in Hong Kong, a similar blockchain platform, to explore how the two solutions could work together.
Speaking exclusively to GTR, Mancone says the decision for him to leave we.trade was made jointly between him and the company’s board.
“For me, this is the right time, because I am comfortable that the most difficult and uncertain part – the creation of the company, the building of the platform, going live, signing licence agreements, etc – is now over,” he says. “I am satisfied that the company is in a shape that can leverage and capitalise on what we have built. we.trade’s success now relies fundamentally on the capabilities of the banks to attract clients. I’m much more into the building stage, and so I think it’s valid at this point that somebody else leads the commercialisation.”
His aim, he says, has always been to demonstrate two things: “The first is that the technology is robust, the second is that the project ended up being something tangible: a legal entity, with its own clients and revenues,” he says. “Both of those things are now the case. So it’s a success story.”
Before joining Deutsche Bank in 2007, Mancone worked with BNP Paribas for more than 16 years in various corporate banking roles.
Speaking of his next move, he quickly confirms he won’t be looking to go back into banking. “Not a traditional bank at least,” he says.
“At the moment, I’m engaging with stakeholders from different industries. Over the past two years I have seen the technology evolve a lot. It has matured to a level where there are opportunities to create new operating models, new business models which can really change the way business has been done,” he says, adding that he would like to “ride this wave of change”.
He further notes that existing technology initiatives in trade finance like we.trade, Marco Polo, Voltron, B3i and Tradeteq “are all primarily driven by the same stakeholders – banks and insurance companies – who tend to have a cautious approach and try to apply new technology to an existing business model”.
“They don’t have the freedom necessarily to create new operating models, because inevitably, they don’t want to change dramatically the status quo as a player in the market. But there are other players out there that are ready to consider new ways of lending and providing solutions to the client, because they don’t have any particular stake,” Mancone says.
Replacing Mancone, McGowan will join we.trade as general manager. New to the trade finance industry, McGowan joins from consultancy firm Vision 1, where he was a workforce planning consultant. He has a wealth of operational and technology management experience at early-stage and mid-sized global companies across the airline, pharmaceutical and banking industries, including at Novartis, Pharmapod, Etihad Airways, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland.
Sharing a board statement, Fernando Lardies, co-chairman of we.trade, says: “The board welcomes the appointment of Ciaran and is delighted to have a steady hand at the operational helm as we continue to expand our network and push into a commercialisation phase.”
He further thanks Macone for his “outstanding work and leadership”.
“Roberto was our founding COO and he was the driver for the establishment of the company, the enlargement of the shareholder base and successful launch of the platform. we.trade is well positioned for its next phase of growth.”