It was quite a year for Marco Polo; described earlier in 2018 by the Global Trade Review (Wass, 2018) as “an open account trade platform powered by blockchain technology with a goal of enabling real-time connectivity between trade participants”. The journey to get this far has been exhilarating; let’s have a look back at what happened in 2018 – and take a glimpse into what we expect to see in 2019.
What have we achieved?
Following a successful PoC in 2017 with a consortium of banks, 2018 saw the launch of the Marco Polo pilot phase. With the release of the pilot software in September, over hundreds of transactions continue to be conducted in 10 countries on the Marco Polo Receivables Discounting and Payment Commitment software modules.
Each of the 12 founding members have deployed their own Corda infrastructure. On R3’s Corda test network, participants have been able to communicate and manage their data using the Marco Polo CorDapp built by TradeIX.
What started as a group of financial institutions and two technology providers, has rapidly evolved into a diverse ecosystem of participants. Engagement with ERP providers, logistics, insurance and additional third-party service providers continues to add value to the evolving network. Support from R3 technology partners namely, Microsoft and Oracle, has heightened our collaborative efforts; and ERP integrations to the platform ensure we are pushing the corporate agenda for Marco Polo.
The network has come to life through our continuously collaborative approach; it would be hard not to acknowledge the countless full day workshops in London, the many distributed dial-in meeting invites and of course, the hard work and input from all those participating. It really has been a unique experience to say the least and we are proud to say that both TradeIX and R3, alongside the 12 financial institutions have collaborated and created this network as one.
Awareness was a key goal for us in 2018 – we wanted to ensure that the industry knew we were making a change. The multinational nature of our founding members ensured that we had exposure all over the globe. The Marco Polo team flew the flag all round the clock: to name but a few, there were sightings at some of the biggest events in the industry from CordaCon in London, to EuroFinance in Geneva, SIBOS in Sydney and Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco. Throughout all these events, we adopted our mantra of decentralization of our marketing efforts. Instead of confining ourselves at one stand – we established our presence at 12 bank stands and communicated a message of unification to the market.
So, where do we see this going?
Marco Polo’s purpose is to ensure working capital and trade finance solutions are made accessible to all. By introducing this lower cost infrastructure to the market, the network will not only push trade services to large multinational businesses, but also to the long tail in the business landscape – a lucrative sector which has long awaited the availability of a new solution. The growth of the network via corporate traction, data service providers and technology partners is critical for 2019, and will only enrich the ecosystem further.
Alongside our unified team, who have co-created the product, is the technology itself. The open architecture of the platform makes use of open APIs to existing bank portals, distributed ledger technology Corda, integration to existing ERP providers and works seamlessly with cloud deployments. Marco Polo is looking to break down the traditionally experienced siloes in this market and leverage the technology to provide seamless connectivity to other and future business networks.
How is 2019’s outlook shaping up?
The Marco Polo roadmap is exciting – with additional modules being co-created and new participants joining the network, we will be taking a long, deep look at governance to ensure we are best positioned for the future of decentralizing trade finance. As we alluded to before, this initiative has allowed us to think about the wider market, beyond financial institutions and multinational companies. ERP will therefore continue to drive our corporate goal in making these products more accessible to all. The involvement of third parties is critical for going to market and we want to ensure we’re continuing to add value to the initiative, which may likely come in additional services that complement the existing trade finance products. Keep your eyes peeled in 2019!
Hear it for yourself from the members!