First blockchain-based trade platform for SMEs

Visitors inspecting an interactive display yesterday at the Singapore FinTech Festival, which features 300 exhibitors and runs until tomorrow.
Visitors inspecting an interactive display yesterday at the Singapore FinTech Festival, which features 300 exhibitors and runs until tomorrow.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The first blockchain-based digital trade platform for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore will be ready in the first quarter of next year.

Called the Fasttrack Trade (FTT), the platform is a partnership between Prudential Singapore and StarHub. It is being developed by fintech start-up Cites Gestion with funding from Prudential.

StarHub will offer its SME customers access to FTT's services while Prudential will offer insurance to help them mitigate business risks, the companies said in a joint statement yesterday.

The FTT will allow SMEs to seek business partners, buy and sell goods, and buy insurance via a single platform, among other things.

Powered by distributed ledger technology - better known as blockchain technology - a common audit trail can be shared between counterparties on the platform. In addition, every transaction on the FTT is recorded and traceable, making it safer and cheaper for SMEs to conduct trade transactions and access financing.

The tie-up between Prudential and StarHub is part of a broader plan to create a digital business-to-business (B2B) marketplace that will unite service providers across multiple industries to support the growth of SMEs.

Said Prudential's chief partnerships distribution officer, Ms Stephanie Simonnet: "Convenient and affordable access to non-traditional sources of funding and to protection will help smaller businesses fulfil their growth ambitions and manage risk."

The aim is to open up the FTT to SMEs beyond Singapore. "Today, there is a huge trade financing gap in South-east Asia because of a lack of financing and access to business services, especially for smaller businesses. A digital platform such as FTT could help boost the trade corridors in South-east Asia, strengthen business communities, and bring about significant economic benefits to everyone," said chief executive officer and co-founder of Cites Gestion Agnes Hugot.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'First blockchain-based trade platform for SMEs'. Print Edition | Subscribe