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Automation key to launching trade finance document checking into digital future

Automation is key to accelerating trade finance organisations’ digital journeys, according to a new whitepaper – ‘Trade finance document checking and data management: the case for automation’ – from Conpend, a banking software specialist. The whitepaper explores the transformative potential automation has for the global trade finance supply chain, and showcases ING Bank as a notable example of what can be achieved with automation powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

According to the ICC, almost 80% of world trade relies on trade finance, which in turn, depends on accurate documentation to run smoothly. Yet, despite rapid technological advancement and an increased appetite from organisations to shift to digital in recent years – especially so during the Covid-19 pandemic, large volumes of paper-based documents persist in the supply chain. In fact, 45% of bank respondents in an ICC survey reported that physical paper for documentary transactions had been removed “to no extent”.

With many yet to start their paper to digital trade finance journeys – and electronic documentation not currently viable for certain supply chain markets and participants – the reliance on paper-based documentation is likely to continue within the supply chain for some years to come. But this does not change the fact that today’s global supply chain is in urgent need of a more efficient and reliable method to manually check and process the sheer volume of paper-based trade finance documents that go through the system every day. A solution that bridges both paper-based processes and electronic documentation is therefore key to driving digital change, while enhancing the processing of paper and continuing to support the trade participants that use it.

Marc Smith, founder and director of Conpend, said: “Such solutions enable trade finance processes to be transported into the future – today. With our TRADE AI app, we aim to help banks automate previously laborious, manual-only processes, such as document authentication and identity verification. Automation drastically cuts the time it takes to perform checks, driving operational efficiencies while also helping to reduce errors and optimise resources so that higher value work can be prioritised instead.”

Automation converts scanned, paper-based documents into digital documents, with AI applications then able to ‘read’ the content and check it against pre-defined rules – for example, compliance requirements and legal specifications. ML enables such applications to build ‘knowledge’ from all the transactions and data it has processed, thereby generating continual improvement.

Torben Sauer, CEO at Conpend, added: “Whether banks are dealing with paper or digital documentation, TRADE AI can traverse seamlessly between the two, thereby perfectly complementing existing trade finance processes while simultaneously driving a bank’s digital journey. Our customer, ING Bank, is a perfect example of a leading bank that sought to innovate the manual checking process of paper documents. By leveraging TRADE AI, ING Bank successfully achieved faster turnaround times, reduced errors and improved its interaction with clients for day-to-day activities.”