As the year comes to a close, we take a look at the GTR website statistics to find out which stories our readers cared about the most in 2017.
1. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies
For yet another year, blockchain was of huge interest to players in the trade finance space. No wonder, considering the tsunami of new projects and pilots announced throughout 2017. But what might be considered an opportunity for some is clearly of big concern to others. Will blockchain make trade finance banks redundant? some may have asked themselves. The short answer is that we still don’t know, but the article did nevertheless draw the most readers to GTR’s website this year.
Projects of particular interest to GTR’s readers include Swift’s proof of concept as well as the launch of the Digital Trade Chain consortium, now known as we.trade. These and a range of other announcement were made during Sibos, one of the world’s biggest finance events. In addition to the usual buzz about recent developments, at this year’s event there was one topic that likely caused the organisers at least some irritation: Ripple decided to host a rival event, in the same city, at the same time. GTR’s readers were naturally keen to find out why.
One new trend for 2017 was the strong interest in cryptocurrency for the specific use of financing trade. Among the top stories of the year, therefore, was that of Populous launching a cryptocurrency invoice finance solution and IBM’s foray into the cryptocurrency payments.
2. New players in trade finance
For years, we have been hearing that banks are under an existential threat from alternative lenders, be it commodity traders or shadow bankers. Now, with technology, the threat has grown to critical levels. This is embodied by the volume of stories we’ve run this year about new players in the business, pioneered by the Maersk-IBM supply chain launch in March.
As well as lenders, the past calendar year has seen a plethora of trade finance platforms launching. Perhaps the highest profile of these is TradeIX, which is led by PrimeRevenue founder Robert Barnes and former JP Morgan, RBS and ABN Amro trade banker Dani Cotti. In Asia, Tan Kah Chye, another veteran trade financier, was one of those behind the launch of trade distribution platform CCRManager in Singapore, while smaller alternative lenders have been launching platforms on a regular basis.
Top story: Maersk-IBM to launch supply chain s0lution
3. European banks start financing Iran
In 2016, sanctions that had been enforced against Iran for decades were lifted. It was a move welcomed by the trade finance industry, which saw the bountiful opportunity in this highly-populated, resource-rich nation, which had been starved of international capital for generations. Among our most-read stories of 2017 was the news that European banks had begun financing in Iran.
Austria’s Oberbank and Denmark’s Danske Bank each entered into framework agreements with a number of Iranian banks, under which they will provide financing for Austrian and Danish companies exporting to Iran. The agreements were more symbolic than anything else. Despite the removal of EU sanctions, some US embargoes remain in place and banks are wary of breaching these. These deals were a show of confidence.
Following closely on the heels of blockchain and cryptocurrency, regtech was a very popular topic among GTR readers in 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, readers were drawn to our report that regtech could result in huge savings for banks. The cover story of our print edition in May/June, which outlined the developments in artificial intelligence, machine learning, biometrics and blockchain, also proved a hit.
Indeed, our reporting over the course of 2017 showed that perhaps more than any other field of fintech, banks are already investing heavily in regtech and plan to continue to spend. Perhaps for this reason, our readers were very keen to explore news of new entrants to the regtech, automation and compliance markets, as well as learning more about what traditional names are doing in the space.
5. GTR’s awards
Every year, GTR has the task of selecting the best providers in an increasingly competitive market. In the tough current climate, with pricing down around the world, geopolitical risks a continual threat and the invasion of fintechs, banks, insurers, law firms and other players in the trade cycle have to do more than ever to stand out.
These awards are fiercely contested: there are hundreds of entries for many different categories, regional and global, each year. The results are perennially a popular read – this year more than ever.
Top story: GTR awards leaders in trade