HSBC bullish on Asia, invests in blockchain for trade finance
By Kiran Kaur Sidhu March 13, 2019
- 89% of Malaysian respondents are positive on the outlook for international trade
- Asia to be a “heavy recipient” of the group’s technology investments
“THE prospects for Asia remain bright. Companies are telling us that they’re confident, especially companies in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia. The confidence levels here are high compared to the rest of the world,” said Stuart Tait, group general manager and Asia-Pacific regional head of commercial banking of HSBC Bank, in a media briefing on March 12 alongside Andrew Sill, HSBC Malaysia country head of commercial banking.
Based on the HSBC Navigator Survey in 2018 end, 89% of Malaysian respondents were positive on the outlook for international trade compared to the global number of 78%.
Tait sheds light on the local sentiment: “Some of that is because Malaysia would be a nett beneficiary from trade tensions as some production is moved to markets like this.”
Despite the trade tensions between the United States (US) and China, HSBC expects 2019 to be a strong year.
“Companies are trading in much the same way as they have been in the run up to the tensions and discussions between China and the US.”
While some larger companies have shifted production locations, there has not been a large scale move of supply chains. “It may or may not happen,” said Tait.
Blockchain for trade finance
As for upcoming technology investments, the group has set aside US$15 to US$17 billion for the next three years. While the exact figure for Asean and Malaysian capital expenditure was not disclosed, Tait said Asia will be a “heavy recipient” of the investment since 80% of the group’s profits comes from the region with Malaysia receiving a “good share”.
HSBC’s commercial banking business will be investing “multiples” of what it has invested historically. In the near future, one of HSBC’s main focus will be on blockchain technology for trade finance.
“It’s a really good area for us to focus on because we handle about a 100 million pieces of paper every year just in trade finance,” explained Tait, adding that blockchain digitises documents and quickens the process from five to 10 days to 24 hours.
In May 2018, HSBC performed the world’s first blockchain trade transaction. Together with another bank, HSBC worked with agriculture firm Cargill to finance a shipment of soybeans from South America to Malaysia. “Since then we’ve had other transactions in India and Singapore. As time goes by, we expect to handle more and more.”
Tait explains that it takes collaboration and co-creation for blockchain for trade to take off. “It’s great that the regulators are involved. Although we’re by far the world’s largest trade bank, we know we can’t do it on our own but we want to play a leading role.”