Banks from across the world have come together to officially launch the Trade Club Alliance’s digital platform to “matchmake” cross-border trading partners.

The platform, led by Santander, uses machine-learning technology, which links up businesses that are looking to trade goods internationally by providing key market information such as rules on regulations, trade tariffs, currency analysis, market trends and shipping requirements, in a secure, online location. Companies are also able to seek advice on financial products that would suit their needs from any one of the 14 alliance banks currently on the platform.

The initiative was originally created by Santander in 2015 to connect businesses in Europe with Latin America. Following its success, the programme was rolled out worldwide and saw the formation of the Trade Club Alliance.

In his keynote at the launch of the platform in London on October 1, Nathan Bostock, Santander CEO said the Trade Club Alliance is a “timely response” to the profit margins that have been continuously squeezed since the 2016 referendum, adding, “we are a force to be reckoned with”.

The digital platform currently stores over 25,000 market reports from 186 countries and has 21,000 global members, with ambitious goals to scale up and host more than 1 million businesses worldwide by 2022.

“This is a kind of startup,” Jon Barañano Gaviña, chairman of the Trade Club Alliance and business development director at Banco Santander told GTR at the event. “We are 14 banks coming together to explain to the world that we have created this ecosystem.”

Gaviña said that the bank’s initial aim was to create an efficient network for its customers looking to score sales overseas in regions lesser known to the bank, such as Africa and Asia, which meant it had to gain access to these markets.

He said the real key to achieving this is using local data sets, as this enables firms to strategically choose their next cross-border trading countries and companies. Therefore, he added, “the strength of the alliance is down to the partnering banks, as they are the ones with the local data”.

Each alliance bank is responsible for vetting businesses before they become a member, and overseeing the admission process, which Gaviña said has several “filters” to ensure trading partners are “trustworthy”.

The first banks to join the initiative in 2016/17 were Nordea, Eurobank, KBC, Banco BPM, Attijariwafa Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea. The following year, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, CIMB, Crédit Agricole, Standard Chartered and RBC joined; this year MUFG and Standard Bank also inked deals.

Santander now wants to onboard more banks. “We need to scale up,” Gaviña said. “In a few years we will hopefully be about 20 banks, representing additional regions. We reach about 65% of worldwide trade right now, but we are still missing relevant countries such as China, Australia and some others.”