In my prior article “Cross-Border Payments 101,” I discussed the movement of cash across borders. However, taking a step back, the whole process of trade — the flow of cash and goods together — has its own set of challenges.
Roughly 80% of trade transactions today are settled on open account terms, which is the simple exchange of payment. For example, wire, credit card, or check for goods, often involve the buyer or seller extending credit to his counter-party. That is cash in advance if the buyer is financing the seller, or delayed payment if the supplier is financing the buyer.
There are certain transactions where corporates want features not accomplished through an open account, such as the ability to transfer risk away from the transacting parties and/or obtain financing from external sources, such as banks.
80%–90% of trade includes some form of credit, insurance, or guarantee (bank-intermediated or inter-firm credit), whether it’s an open account or letter of credit. Corporates also seek the help of banks with documentation and document collection in the trade process.
While banks have developed products to meet these needs, trade as a standalone business is not very profitable. It has come under pressure due to higher capital requirements (related to SLR constraints) and increased competition, forcing banks to look at ways to improve profitability.
Besides, corporates face some friction as well, as there is a lack of transparency in the current process. That is hindering the ability to track…