Davos 2019: Surviving the Trade Finance Gap

Bain Partner Gerry Mattios discusses a growing challenge for small- and medium-sized companies.


Davos 2019: Surviving the Trade Finance Gap

Gerry Mattios, an expert vice president with Bain's Performance Improvement practice, explains how solutions like blockchain and distributed ledger technology can help SMEs navigate the trade finance gap.

Read the transcript below:

GERRY MATTIOS: This morning, we had a panel on trade. We discussed trading blocks and blockchain. There were five panelists, including the World Bank and a couple of private companies in the technology sector.

We discussed a very important challenge that small-and-medium enterprises are facing, which is a trade finance gap of $1.5 trillion. That means small-and-medium enterprises don't have access to trade as much as big companies have because they get swallowed by paperwork, documentation, lack of funding and resources. So we discussed ideas of how we can overcome those challenges, how blockchain and distributed ledger technology can help overcome those issues.

And frankly speaking, I came out of the session really excited because there's a lot of good solutions and applications out there. However, what's missing right now is not the proof of concept, but the scaling up. And that was the key thing that we discussed is how to scale up, what's the role of the governments, the private sector and public organization like the WTO.

The biggest challenges for CEOs of an SME or a medium company is how to best deploy their resources to manage import-export procedures, customs, documentation and all the paperwork that comes with it. Typically, companies really struggle. And that's where technology and digital technology can come in and overcome some of these issues, make it smoother.

For example, we have paperless trade. Meaning, you can clear customs before your shipment even takes off from the US to China or vise versa. And that makes a big difference for companies, not only because they can get paid faster, which means less working capital, but also, it just makes it a lot more efficient from a supply chain optimization perspective. I was still surprised with how many use cases are out there for blockchain in trade. I thought that we had captured most of them, but I was still taken aback by how many there are out there and, some of them, how mature they are.

So again, the question is not about the availability of applications but more about how to scale those up and start setting some standards.


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