Economic headwinds and geopolitical tension resulted in a drop in trade flows last year, marking a reversal from the post-pandemic growth observed in 2021 and 2022. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Banking Commission’s latest Trade Register report forecast a 7.4% decline in trade and supply chain finance revenue for 2023 compared with 2022.
The ICC, however, also predicts an annual rise of 3.8% until 2032—when trade is anticipated to reach an estimated $91 billion. Trade is likely to be spurred by the convenience created by the Electronic Trade Documents Act (ETDA)—which came into effect in September 2023 to much fanfare—giving digital versions of international trade documents, such as bills of lading, the same legal recognition under English law as their traditional paper counterparts.
Although we now have the legal framework, we shouldn’t expect an instant switch to digitalization. People still need to change both habits and mindsets, says Enno-Burghard Weitzel, SVP for Strategy, Digitalization, and Business Development at digital trade finance platform provider Surecomp. “You need to let go of the paper, and you need to trust that going with a digital solution will give you the same benefits and comfort. Because while we all dislike paper for its downside, it has benefits.”
Like the dollar, which has proved crisis-proof since the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement—making it the currency of choice for international trade—Weitzel believes paper will remain sticky for some time. “We need that mental change; and that, I would argue, is a journey still ahead.”
The world’s largest direct-membership organization for shipowners, charterers, shipbrokers and agents—the Baltic and International Maritime Council—has launched the ambitious “25 by 25 pledge,” a commitment by some of the world’s biggest shippers in the bulk sector to target moving 25% by 2025 of their annual seaborne trade volume for at least one commodity using electronic bills of lading.
With such a challenging task ahead, Weitzel has faith that corporates, not banks, will drive innovation—to achieve gains in convenience and efficiency. Mencía Bobo, global head of Trade and Working Capital Solutions at Santander Corporate & Investment Banking (Santander CIB), believes banks must be committed not only to keeping up with this new environment but to anticipating the needs arising from the digitalization journey on which clients are embarking and also to maximizing the potential of technological advancements to increase inclusivity and equity. “From transforming a traditional paper-based industry such as the documentary trade into a fully digitalized sector, to supporting corporates in digitizing their [business-to-business] sales by granting credit to small buyers, or embedding our supply chain and receivables finance platform into our clients’ [enterprise resource planning],” says Bobo, “Santander CIB is proud of having established this year key alliances with major players of the tech industry that are allowing us to lead the trade transformation and facilitate the day-to-day business of our clients.”
It also opens up opportunities for nonbanks to provide trade finance. André Casterman, managing director of Casterman Advisory, is something of a trade-tech stalwart. He says the e-bills of exchange under the ETDA are attractive to asset managers because of new climate change practices (for instance, a transaction including carbon offset will generate a better environmental, social and governance score). Also, fraud protection practices will address credit insurers’ concerns (credit insurers could, for example, validate e-bills of exchange on public blockchains).
Blockchain is a technology that was seen as a panacea for driving digital trade finance. Since 2016, banks joined various trade-focused consortia—pouring cash into them—but by creating siloed ecosystems the consortia are failing to reach their earlier promise. Last year, Contour became the latest of the big bank-led distributed ledger platforms to close, following the failures of the Marco Polo Network, we.trade and TradeLens.
Because of its ability to improve security, streamline operations and increase transparency, blockchain will still have a role in trade finance but will work alongside other technologies. Casterman believes digital ledger technology could even make new asset classes, including trade finance, accessible to retail investors.
In collaboration with the ICC, Swift has just released the first application programming interface (API) standard for bank guarantees. API-based open platforms will allow all trade parties to connect, which promises to bring more fintech engagement, which will bring greater innovation to the table. While banks will continue to play a major role in trade finance, a more open proposition is on the horizon.
Methodology: Behind the Rankings
Global Finance editors select the winners for the Trade Finance Awards and the Supply Chain Finance Awards with input from industry analysts, corporate executives, and technology experts. The editors consider entries as well as independent research, taking into account objective and subjective factors. It is not necessary to enter to win, but the additional information supplied in an entry can increase the chance of success. This year’s ratings, which cover eight regions and approximately 100 countries, territories and districts, were based on performance from the fourth quarter of 2022 through the third quarter of 2023.
Global Finance uses a proprietary algorithm with criteria—such as knowledge of customer needs, financial strength and safety, strategic relationships, capital investment, and innovation. The algorithm incorporates those ratings into a single numeric score, with 100 equivalent to perfection. When more than one institution earns the same score, we favor local providers over global ones and privately owned over government owned.
World’s Best Trade Finance Providers 2024
|Best Trade Finance Provider – Bank
|Best Trade Finance Provider – Non-Bank
|Most Innovative Bank for Trade Finance
|Best Trade Document Management
|Best Use of Artificial Intelligence in Trade Finance
|Best Provider of Sustainable Finance Solutions in Trade Finance
|Best Trade Finance Software Provider
|Best DLT Platform for Trade Finance
|Best Bank for Export Finance
|Best Bank for Trade Finance in Emerging Markets
|Best Bank for Trade Finance in Frontier Markets
|British Arab Commercial Bank
|Caribbean Development Bank
|Central & Eastern Europe
|Raiffeisen Bank International
|Country and Territory Winners
|Raiffeisen Bank International
|Bosnia & Herzegovina
|Raiffeisen Bank International
|First Capital Bank
|Banco do Brasil
|United Bulgarian Bank
|Royal Bank of Canada
|Banco Itaú Chile
|Cyprus Development Bank
|CSOB Czech Republic
|Banque du Caire
|National Bank of Greece
|Bank of Ireland
|EXIM Bank Jamaica
|National Bank of Kuwait
|BGL BNP Paribas
|Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia
|Banque Centrale Populaire
|Titan Trust Bank
|Banco Mercantil Panamá
|Bank of Commerce
|Qatar Development Bank
|United Arab Emirates
|US REGIONAL BANKS
|Fifth Third Bank
|Bank of the West
BEST TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER—BANK
With comprehensive trade outsourcing services, BNY Mellon is the bank of choice for other financial institutions looking to avoid high costs without losing trade finance customers. To limit compliance costs, for example, many financial institutions worldwide have restricted the number of Swift’s Relationship Management Application (RMA) exchanges they maintain with their correspondent banks. BNY Mellon developed RMA as a service to help banks route their Swift MT 700 letter of credit messages directly to the beneficiaries’ banks, using BNY Mellon as an intermediary bank for their letter of credit activity.
A multibank supply chain finance program that includes collaboration with fintechs ensures cash optimization for corporate buyers and supports the working capital needs of their suppliers.
BEST TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER—NON-BANK
Supporting more than 200 trade and supply chain finance banks worldwide, Finastra enjoys around a 28% share of the estimated global trade finance market. Offering an aggregation solution for banks, with a growing ecosystem of services through its FusionFabric.cloud marketplace platform, Finastra allows for the managing and handling of digital documents using distributed ledger technology (DLT).
Notable partnerships include Cleareye.ai, whose ClearTrade advanced artificial intelligence (AI) offering can help banks improve operational productivity by 70%—automating stringent regulatory and compliance processes and manual and highly paper-intensive operations. A multiyear global agreement with Microsoft to offer a full microservices architecture gives banks increased agility, flexibility and scalability. Collaborating with IBM on its Connected Trade Platform brings enterprise-level security, workflow customization, and robust support around industry standards and best practices.
MOST INNOVATIVE BANK FOR TRADE FINANCE
Recent Santander trade finance innovations include a state-of-the-art multibank platform that combines scalability and the best user experience, with a fully digitalized journey for suppliers and multiple connectivity options for the buyers, including enterprise resource planning integration and a single entry point that combines supply chain finance, cash management and foreign exchange solutions. A business-to-business buy-now-pay-later offering in partnership with insurer Allianz Trade and Norwegian fintech Two provides an innovative way to cover the supply chain end to end, from purchase order financing—via a new pre-confirming option—to invoice reconciliation.
“Technology is shaping a new trade ecosystem in which constant innovation, efficiency and cost containment are the cornerstones of business development, imposing fierce competitiveness among corporates,” states Mencía Bobo, global head of Trade and Working Capital Solutions at Santander Corporate & Investment Banking. “It is also a driver for inclusion since digitalization maximizes volume, significantly reduces time and provides efficiency, ultimately making it easier for SMEs [small and midsize enterprises] to participate in international trade and access competitive financing.”
BEST TRADE DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
An end-to-end digital trade finance solution, the LiquidX platform automates manual processes—merging every endpoint, from origin to settlement, in one place, regardless of clients’ platforms. LiquidX combines state-of-the-art computer vision and natural-language processing techniques within a scalable machine learning pipeline to transform legacy assets such as invoices and purchase orders into digitized assets. Once digitized, a transformed asset is verified, linked to associated contracts, and dynamically connected to automated workflows.
BEST USE OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN TRADE FINANCE
The Automated Workflow for Trade Finance was created by Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP) to increase the efficiency of the trade finance supply chain to sustain rising business volumes. ISP’s Trade AI platform was initially used to automate documentation conformity checks. Work is underway, with the continued integration of Trade AI and ISP back-end systems, to enable the bank’s operators to utilize a single platform. As trade finance continues on its path of digitalization, ISP is laying the foundations for a seamless trade finance service.
BEST PROVIDER OF SUSTAINABLE FINANCE SOLUTIONS IN TRADE FINANCE
BNP Paribas continues to lead the pack, topping Dealogic’s sustainable bond and loan market league tables, ranked as the global leader for social bonds in 2021, and taking the top spot for sustainable finance bond underwriting with 6.4% market share during the first half of 2023, an increase of 1.1 market-share points year-on-year.
Three years after inaugurating the first-ever Social Impact Bonds fund in France, BNP Paribas in June launched its European Impact Bonds Fund 2, a new €70 million (about $76 million) fund aiming to stimulate the impact bond market across the EU.
Having ceased all financing dedicated to developing new oil and gas exploration or production activities in 2023, BNP Paribas is also taking the lead in supporting the circular economy. This includes providing L’Oreal with its inaugural sustainability-linked bond (SLB), which sets a target to recycle or bio-base 50% of its plastics packaging by 2025; assisting H&M with an SLB targeting an increase to 30% in use of recycled materials; and providing Marks and Spencer with a sustainability-linked loan to remove disposable plastics from its packaging portfolio.
BEST TRADE FINANCE SOFTWARE PROVIDER
With a centralized digital hub, Surecomp’s trade finance platform, RIVO, enables users to communicate with every trade participant for a streamlined and transparent transaction process. From vessel tracking and environmental, social and governance (ESG) scoring to legal entity identifiers to validate the identity of trading partners, RIVO brings trust to all stakeholders in a trade transaction.
“Surecomp aggregates functionalities and makes it easy to use, and that’s where we see our part,” explains Enno-Burghard Weitzel, senior vice president for strategy, digitalization, and business development at Surecomp. From the efficient execution of guarantee requests and the ability for corporates to choose competitive rates across multiple financiers, to invoice validation and fraud prevention, Surecomp provides solutions that make it easier for corporates, financial institutions, and fintechs to process trade finance seamlessly and sustainably.
BEST DLT PLATFORM FOR TRADE FINANCE
Taurus is a digital-asset platform to custody, issue, and manage cryptocurrencies, tokenized assets, and digital currencies. With clients in nine countries on three continents, Taurus works with more than 30 leading financial institutions, including six systemic banks. Taurus launched its TDX platform in 2021, the first independent regulated marketplace in the world to instantly connect banks, issuers, and investors to exchange any digital asset. It is now the European market leader in digital assets and blockchain. Taurus can issue, store, transfer, and trade across public and private blockchains.
Digitization of private assets and securities is becoming the new standard in the digital-asset industry, Taurus believes. The Taurus technology stack includes a tokenization platform, digital-asset custody, and digital-asset nodes, completed by a license from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority to trade tokenized securities.
BEST BANK FOR EXPORT FINANCE
Credit Agricole’s Export Finance teams operate across 20 countries, reinforced by the global footprint of Credit Agricole CIB and Credit Agricole Group, which are located in almost 50 countries worldwide. They offer export credits and supplier credits covered totally or in part by an export credit agency (ECA); financings sponsored or supported by multilateral and development banks (the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Finance Corporation, European Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, African Development Bank, etc.); and commercial loans tied to export contracts, untied loan programs, or investment guarantees granted by ECAs.
Established relationships with over 20 ECAs and a well-developed relationship with corporate clients and government ministries position Credit Agricole well to provide tailor-made financing and advisory solutions for various projects across all sectors. Origination teams work closely with the dedicated Export Finance Structuring team, which includes sustainability experts.
BEST BANK FOR TRADE FINANCE IN EMERGING MARKETS
TDB’s trade finance operations focus on supporting activities that are critical to the growth of its member states and underpin their real economies, like sourcing strategic commodities; boosting high-value exports and export diversification; supporting industrialization, technology transfer, and higher productivity through imports of equipment; shoring up the capacity of regional and national financial institutions; and facilitating greater intra- and inter-African trade and regional integration. Products offered include import and export financing; structured commodity finance; pre- and post-shipment finance; issuance of letters of credit, guarantees and bonds; and supplier-focused working capital offerings, including receivables purchase financing and invoice discounting.
BEST BANK FOR TRADE FINANCE IN FRONTIER MARKETS
British Arab Commercial Bank
With offices in Abidjan, Algiers and Tripoli, plus active relationships in many other countries across Africa and further afield, the British Arab Commercial Bank (BACB) focuses on trade flows to and from Africa and the Middle East.
Having helped companies in developing markets to trade internationally for over half a century, BACB, as a specialist bank, is helping to close the trade finance gap for companies in countries where many larger banks hold no interest.
With an on-the-ground presence in 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in key financial centers including London, New York, Beijing, and Dubai, Standard Bank is well placed to meet trade finance needs in Africa. The recent partnership with DP World—a global leader in supply chain offerings—enables African companies to access working capital from Standard Bank via the DP World Trade Finance platform. A strategic partnership with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China provides valuable renminbi currency links to enhance Sino-African cooperation.
The bank launched its TradeOnline cloud-based platform in 2022. By allowing clients to digitally submit instructions and clone previously executed transactions on preapproved guarantee wording and Swift templates, the platform brings efficiencies across the supply chain and provides transparency for all.
DBS offers a full suite of trade solutions, including pre-export finance (PEF), specialized inventory solution (SIS), and trade borrowing base finance (TBBF). PEF is a trade solution financing a seller before it exports goods or services. It supports the sourcing and procurement of raw materials and the building of usable components from them for export. This ensures that the seller has the necessary funds to fulfill export orders. SIS is a procurement offering through a partnership with Inventory Solution Providers. TBBF acts as pool-based trade financing—catering to seasonal demand and matching funding requirements with the trade-assets level of a company. All of these financing solutions help create supply chain resilience.
An early adopter of trade digitalization, DBS has championed electronic bills of lading (eBL) by utilizing the TradeTrust framework and digital wallets to validate the provenance, authenticity, and title ownership of a bill of lading and enable trade documents and title transfers—bridging digital islands and overcoming current eBL closed-loop platform constraints.
Caribbean Development Bank
Focused on the implementation of regional and multilateral trading agreements and trade facilitation, the work of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) includes supporting effective trade policy and planning, helping governments overcome technical trade barriers, simplifying and harmonizing export procedures, supporting customs departments and other border agencies, and supporting regional trade agreements.
In October, the World Trade Organization and the CDB signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on trade-related technical assistance and trade capacity-building efforts targeting both Caribbean and non-Caribbean countries.
CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Raiffeisen Bank International
All the banks of the RBI Group—representing 12 Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries—have fully fledged trade finance units. Updates to the online trade portal eTradeOn enable corporate clients to submit inquiries for guarantee issuance and letter of credit confirmations and to view all received quotations through a user-friendly dashboard. RBI has also enriched its ESG flagging tool—users can now copy and paste ESG data from one transaction to another with a few clicks.
Although CEE is RBI’s core trade finance market, a strong focus on CEE and the countries of the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia ensures support for clients wherever they operate.
In addition to local offerings—international guarantees, letters of credit, silent guarantees, import and export financing, trade loans, A/B loans, prepayment to exporters, factoring and reverse factoring, vendor factoring, forfeiting and usance payable at sight letters of credit—BBVA has invested in the highest do-it-yourself traceability of its trade finance products in the region. BBVA’s Sustainable Business Goal 2025 includes mobilizing €300 billion in green finance to help fight climate change and to promote sustainable infrastructure, agribusiness, entrepreneurship and financial inclusion.
Headquartered in Bahrain, Bank ABC has a strong presence in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Libya and the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council. In 2023, Bank ABC saw a significant increase in documentary trade business volumes. The launch of new digital supply chain finance and documentary trade platforms and the first phase of its Wholesale Banking Corporate Portal will bolster future global trade finance business.
In addition to an extensive global network of dedicated trade finance and risk advisory teams, MUFG clients can utilize Trade Manager—an online total trade portal for corporate clients. It supports initiation and management of daily trade transactions in real time, with trade transactions easily accessed from a customizable dashboard.
As a global leader in the securitization market, MUFG has more than €25 billion in outstanding exposure across more than 150 transactions. Faced with market uncertainties, the popularity of trade receivables securitization has skyrocketed—as corporates increasingly turn to it to free up cash flows. MUFG can offer competitive pricing when compared to other long-term unsecured facilities.
With an international trade network covering 37 countries, Societe Generale can supply a full range of innovative and responsible offerings—documentary, structured, and tailor-made.A strong emphasis on ESG means Societe Generale can offer an ESG version of its entire range of offerings to better support corporate clients’ ESG strategy, working with them on every step of the process, from advisory to financing and securing their needs. The 2023 launch of Easytrade, a trade finance platform, will streamline communication between corporations and the bank, bringing greater speed and efficiency to all trade finance operations, with high security and reliability.