transaction banking awards

This year’s awards exemplify how banks have moved quickly to meet the changing demands created by the pandemic, without losing sight of their customers’ needs. 

Banking in a pandemic has thrown up several unexpected challenges that banks have sought to overcome. Business operations across the world are dependent on each aspect of international markets working well, and the implementation of lockdowns and slowing economies have posed a series of challenges that required quick and nimble action.

A perhaps unsurprising, but nevertheless important, change brought about by Covid-19 is the move towards greater use of digital platforms. It is interesting to see how this breaks down, as treasurers and bankers have found themselves conducting international trade deals from their homes. An innovation mentioned time and again by this year’s participants in the Transaction Banking Awards is the increased use of e-signatures, as vital documentation could no longer be signed in person.

Judging panel 

  • Francesco Burelli, Arkwright Consulting
  • Enrico Camerinelli, Aite Group
  • Al Carpetto, independent
  • Jason Ekberg, Oliver Wyman
  • Eric Li, Coalition Development
  • Kimberley Long, The Banker
  • Joy Macknight, The Banker
  • Didier Vandenhaute, PwC

A technology that had been in use for many years, it has really come into its own during the pandemic, and is surely one that will remain even after office-based working has returned, owing to its convenience and security. 

The use of electronic documentation such as e-letters of credit and e-guarantees have soared, with many banks reporting a double-digit increase in the percentage of digital documents being issued.

The importance of healthy supply chains has also been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic, as the smallest suppliers became essential in meeting demand for medical equipment and personal protective equipment. Several banks have introduced measures to assess the length of a company’s supply chain and extend finance facilities where they are most needed. There have also been partnerships with governments and financial groups to extend funds to companies that are struggling, and offer payments holidays to those struggling to meet loan repayments. 

With the shift away from the office, the importance of cyber security came to the fore, with banks proactively working with their clients to ensure that they understand the main risks and to help them identify any issues within their own operations. These threats ranged from simple computer viruses and the threat of using unsecure home computers, through to developing technology that would enable unusual payment requests to be identified before the transaction was completed. 

Banks are showing increased levels of collaboration, as initiatives are developed to further digitise trade finance documentation

The continued growth of green trade services has also been a strong feature of the past year, as many banks developed their trade product suite to meet their company’s overarching environmental policies and created trade facilities that met the needs of their clients. Banks have extended loans to allow for small companies providing lighting to homes without a power supply to receive financing, and wind turbine projects are being given the funding they need for manufacturers to produce all of their necessary parts. The banks themselves are also laying out their aims to increase their green operations, with many pledging billions of dollars to improve their operations over the coming years. 

Banks are also showing their increased levels of collaboration, as initiatives are developed to further digitise trade finance documentation and progress the use of blockchain for trade finance transactions. Additionally, banks are working together give their clients the best possible experience in cash pooling across institutions, recognising that they may not be the best partner for their most important clients in every jurisdiction. 


Winner: Citi 

Citi has held onto the accolade as the global winner of the Transaction Banking Awards for another year, after it once again demonstrated the insight it has on the many markets the bank operates in, with a range of innovative new services and region-specific products. Citi has shown itself to be an indispensable banking partner for many international clients. 

The bank’s success in cash management has been clearly demonstrated, helping it win that category in this year’s awards. This is thanks to its development of cross-border instant payments for clients in the UK and Singapore that can be sent to third-party banks. Through the Citi Network Instant Payments service, clients in select locations can instantly transfer funds of up to $15m to other Citi clients.

However, this is not the only areas in which the bank has excelled. Its developments in supply chain finance saw Citi operate its Price Pulse function — a proprietary price prediction system whereby suppliers are analysed and grouped based on their estimated cost of capital. Unlike other, similar models, clients are given the opportunity to request a reduced rate. The bank’s existing supplier finance portal underwent several updates, including the addition of the WorldLink Payment Service, which allows suppliers to pay in their local currency, and can provide a competitive edge during trade negotiations. 

In trade finance, Citi has excelled in providing a range of services across the world. The bank worked to improve access to its electronic trade loans platform (e-Loans), allowing clients to easily request a trade loan or manage their working capital. The facility is now available in 71 counties and the global e-Loans volume reached $1bn during the first quarter of 2021. 

Understanding the importance of partnerships within trade, the bank has set up several collaborations. Citi became a founding member of the Trade Information Network (TIN), which aims to build a collaborative solution to tackle the trade finance gap through addressing challenges related to fraud and credit appetite. The bank also worked in partnership with the International Finance Corporation to facilitate trade finance in emerging markets via the Global Trade Liquidity Programme. It is also a member of Contour, the blockchain-based trade finance platform that is currently focusing on digitising letters of credit. 

Citi’s success is not limited to the platforms it develops, but extends to the way in which it can service its international clients on the ground. Although the bank has a huge remit — and indeed is the only bank to send submissions for each of the regional categories — it still manages to work with its clients on a close level, understanding their needs and developing corresponding solutions. 

Citi’s operations in Africa saw it engage in several sustainable transaction banking solutions. These ranged from extending a working capital facility to off-grid solar power solutions provider d.light, bringing light sources to low-income households that do not have a regular energy supply. The bank also provided last-mile financing to Kenyan small and medium-sized enterprise-focused fintech 4G Capital, with the aim of providing support through inventory finance to distributors of fast-moving consumer goods. 

Meanwhile, in central and eastern Europe, Citi sought to advance a digital trade transformation, implementing electronic DocuSign for Trade, removing the need for physical documents that needed to be couriered between signatories. The transformation also saw the creation of TIN to address the trade finance gap. The bank was able to identify and extend support to corporates further down the supply chain, bringing greater stability and improving the financial viability of all partner companies. 

In its home market of North America, Citi introduced sustainable supply chain finance functions to provide financial incentives to help companies improve their sustainability ratings. Using a third-party reviewer to validate sustainability scores, Citi can then offer sustainable suppliers with the opportunity to increase liquidity and cash flow through the discounting of approved client receivables at preferred rates. 

Recognising the risk posed by cyber-attacks during the pandemic, the bank worked with its clients in western Europe on several offerings. These included device security and malware detention that would identify viruses, risk-based authentication that would provide simpler levels of security for low-risk transactions, more complex measures for higher risk transactions, and high-level operations such as payment outlier detection. The latter uses advanced analytics and machine learning to proactively identify payments that do not conform to a corporate’s past payment activities. Clients are given the chance to review and approve or reject the transactions, while the machine-learning processes recalibrate to gain a better understanding of the client’s payment patterns. 

“We are extremely honoured to receive this coveted title for a second consecutive year — a true testament to how the power of our digital services has contributed to our clients’ success during what has been a challenging year for all,” says Shahmir Khaliq, global head of treasury and trade solutions at Citi. “We have seen many of our clients adapt and evolve their business models to continue to meet their business objectives, and we have worked relentlessly to stay alongside our clients, step-for-step along the journey. We remain committed to investing in digital innovation as we continue to provide new and improved ways to support our clients.”


Winner: Société Générale 

Covering a diverse continent and providing each market with usable solutions is a difficult undertaking, but one that Société Générale (SocGen) has demonstrated successfully across Africa. The bank has a sizeable presence here, spanning 14 countries across the continent, but it also has the on-the-ground presence to provide defined solutions to domestic issues.  

“We are delighted to have been recognised as transaction bank of the year for Africa by The Banker,” says Alexandre Maymat, head of SocGen’s global transaction and payment services. “This award demonstrates our ability to support our clients in their digital transformation, in dematerialising their payments and offering them faster execution, secure processes and monitoring services. It also highlights our capability to design environmental, social and governance (ESG) solutions by developing a structured green trade finance programme for our clients.”

The last year saw the bank implement a range of services to tackle the individual pain points being experienced within different jurisdictions. SocGen Algeria launched a business-to-business mobile solution specifically dedicated to suppliers and wholesalers. It allows for account-to-account transfers as wholesale debit and supplier credit, meeting the needs of the bank’s small and medium-sized and large corporate customers alike. In Morocco, the bank introduced new digital services, with bill payments, custom and tax services being added to the service offering. 

Additionally, the bank’s host-to-host solution was launched across seven countries, with three more to follow this year. In addition to bringing higher levels of security through the use of the Swift 3SKey certificate and file encryption, SocGen introduced sophisticated services, such as signature management that has been tailored to meet the specific requirements of individual companies. The service is also available across various formats, including Swift MT and ISO 20022 XML. The implementation has had a measurable impact on the individual operations, with the sub-Saharan entities on course to achieve more than 50% in digital transfers. 

SocGen has expanded its structured green trade finance initiative across Africa, focusing on customers that are active in clean energy or seeking to move their activity towards a sustainable business model. Eligible projects are those in renewable energy, clean transport, water management and waste management. Several trade finance instruments fall under the initiative, such as export and import letters of credit, and trade and payment guarantees. Clients benefit from the support they receive, including improving their ESG rating and market perspective, which can help with attracting investment and serve as an asset in commercial negotiations. 

“Our ambition is to continue to support the long-term growth of our clients in Africa and their involvement in the energy transition by offering them leading solutions and advisory approaches in the green trade finance market and by actively supporting them in their environmental and social strategies,” says Mr Maymat.


Winner: HSBC 

HSBC’s increased focus on the Asian market has paid off with its win in the Asia–Pacific category of the Transaction Banking Awards. The bank has announced plans to invest $6bn in the region by 2025 and, despite being in the early stages, they are already showing good results. 

The beginnings of that regional focus are already evident, with the bank teaming up with regional players to create new and progressive services. HSBC worked on a distributed ledger platform for the issuance and serving of fixed-income securities. The bank worked with the Singapore Exchange and Temasek Holdings on the platform, representing a step towards the end-to-end digitisation of asset life cycles. Since the pilot launch, there have been eight bond issuances with a total asset size of more than S$2bn ($1.48bn). 

The bank’s work in developing the technology continued with the first blockchain trade transaction conducted between New Zealand and China. Working with dairy producer Fonterra Co-operative Group, HSBC helped the company to overcome logistical issues that had arisen due to the pandemic. The bank worked to digitise a bill of lading using the blockchain-based Wave platform as the underlying technology. By moving away from paper documentation, the bank was able to reduce the turnaround time from a maximum of 10 days to just three days, removed the manual processes involved, and reduced the documentation costs. The move to digital also gave Fonterra greater oversight and visibility during the transaction. 

As well as an awareness of the importance of digital processes, HSBC has also increased its focus on green issues. It launched the Green Deposit Scheme in Hong Kong, India and Thailand, following an initial launch in Singapore, which allows clients to include the sustainability agenda in their treasury activities with the use of a simple deposit product. The proposition is available in a range of currencies, including local currencies and the US dollar. 

HSBC Vietnam also stepped up to provide support as the green structuring bank for the installation of solar panels. The bank provided green letters of credit and green trade loans, helping clients to secure long-term funding and meet their working capital needs. 


Winner: Sberbank 

Sberbank entered 2020 with the goal of creating the highest possible standard of customer service. With a focus on the issues arising within foreign exchange (FX), the bank created services to improve the processes for all of its FX clients. 

Sberbank launched its SberCIB Terminal to bring clients’ corporate treasuries to greater levels of digitisation. The terminal already supports a range of functions, including FX conversion, swaps and deposits, but the bank recognised that there was additional scope for development for customers with rouble payments that were linked to a currency benchmark. These customers were offered non-deliverable forwards to address specific business needs. The SberCIB Terminal was developed to increase the set of orders that customers can use to trade FX. A limit order at the central bank’s rate was added, waiting on a predetermined price until a set date or the order is cancelled, and is available on deliverable and non-deliverable forwards. This enables customers to build an FX payment calendar with the best prices set on certain dates. 

“Whether our clients are large corporations, financial institutions or small businesses, we aim to be their strategic partner and provide customised solutions,” says Alexander Zozulya, acting head of global markets at Sberbank CIB. “These can be algorithmic orders for FX transactions through SberCIB Terminal, quick access to FX derivatives through SberBusiness or our trading-as-a-service approach, yet the key goal is to provide Sberbank’s trading solutions and share FX-risk management expertise.”

Meanwhile, SberBusiness, originally launched in 2018, saw improvements during 2020. Key among them was the creation of an algorithm that provided the chance to execute at the central bank rate, plus a fee. Sberbank recognised that smaller corporate customers found currency exchange to be difficult and time consuming, and understood they would need price transparency to be able to explain why decisions had been made. Using the solution, around 60,000 customers accessed a guaranteed rate for a fixed cost, with simplified trade-position accounting. Further, the bank launched the currency exchange with payment deferment, enabling FX rates to be fixed now and settled in future. 

Customers also benefited from a process-mining exercise carried out on ATMs to gauge the most common transactions. The aim was to optimise these operations, and reduce the amount of time a customer spends using the ATM. This was a marked success, with the average time of a transaction and a cash deposit reduced by 30%. 

“Having the largest ATM network throughout Russia, Sber’s sales network department constantly develops new technologies to satisfy our customers’ needs,” says Andrey Zharskiy, executive managing director at Sberbank. “Process mining in ATMs is one of those technologies that you don’t really see, but it makes a tremendous difference in the user experience, as it improves the processes and scenarios of the most popular ATM transactions. We’ve seen a drastic reduction in clients’ complaints due to the changes that were made by reducing steps within operations and time-outs.”

Latin America

Winner: Santander 

Santander’s pan-regional approach to its services saw the development of specific tools within countries to aid customers through the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeing that there were difficulties arising in continuing to conduct transactions, new formats were quickly developed to meet customer needs. 

The bank pushed forward with an innovative agenda in 2020, spurred on by the logistical difficulties created by the pandemic. In recognition of the difficulties that companies were facing, credit facilities were created to assist with liquidity, such as grace periods and payment holidays, along with reduced fees. Support was also rolled out to change branch opening hours, allowing for special business hours and adapting the spaces to help customers access their banking services safely. 

On the digital front, systems were introduced to help countries overcome unexpected challenges. In Argentina, the release of Echeq, an electronically issued cheque, was developed in response to Covid-19 and the move towards new, digital methods of payment. The cheque is completely digital and has helped to encourage a cultural shift in the use of digital payments. Further, it is a more secure payment method than paper cheques thanks to the reduced possibility of theft or loss. There has also been a reduction in the number of rejections, as it is more difficult to fill out the Echeq incorrectly. Over the past six months, the number of Echeqs issued by Santander increased 19-fold, while in July 2021 alone, 58,000 cheques valued at more than 26bn Argentine pesos ($267.8m) were issued. 

Meanwhile, Brazil saw the creation of PIX electronic transfers, after its central bank, Banco Central do Brasil, identified the need to create a new instant payments clearing house. PIX allows for electronic transfers between institutions, with the payment message transmission and the funds payment taking place in real time. The development has several additional benefits, including a reduction in the cost of performing transitions as there is no need to use acquirers, card schemes or issuers to complete a payment. It is interoperable with all wallets and institutions that use QR codes as a payment method, which, in turn, impacts on Santander’s own e-wallet. 

“Banco Santander’s commitment to Latin America is one of the hallmarks of the group, [which was] founded in 1857 to finance the growing trade between Spain and the Americas,” says Jose Luis Calderón, global head of global transaction banking at Santander CIB. “Santander CIB has strengthened those ties by becoming the partner of choice for our clients across the region, helping them access banking services, control their liquidity and fund their working capital needs. As corporate clients centralise transactional processes, they turn to us looking for our best-in-class solutions like Cash Nexus, or our market-leading supply chain finance or receivables solutions. To consolidate our leadership, we will continue investing in digitalisation to develop the best platforms and diversifying our unique product offering.”

Middle East 

Winner: HSBC 

In recent years, HSBC has pushed ahead with its green finance agenda across all its regions of operation, forming a strong backbone for the bank, winning the award for the Middle East. 

The bank broke new ground in the region in 2020 when it became the first bank to launch a sustainable trade finance proposition. The facility combines sustainable commercial elements, such as green trade finance; trade instruments for sustainable unfunded solutions, such as guarantees; and sustainable supply chain finance that offers clients tiered pricing based on supplier sustainability scores on open-account solutions. 

Working with onshore and offshore oil, gas and renewable energy contractor Lamprell, the bank provided a green trade finance facility and green guarantee to the company in June 2020 when Lamprell became a subcontractor to an offshore wind farm project. With the task of producing 30 elements for the generators, the bank’s facility included guarantees, import loans and documentary credits, raising $48m to support the manufacturing work on the project. 

Further, the bank worked to tackle issues its clients were facing in making payments owing to the pandemic. As the crisis increased the use of digital and contactless payments, the bank sought to capitalise on this as the region moves away from its dependence on using cash. In 2020, the bank launched virtual debit cards for corporates in the UAE — a first-of-its-kind product in the Middle East. Using Visa’s Payable Automation platform, the virtual cards generate a unique card number for each transaction, providing greater fraud protection.

The payment method was utilised by Royal Palace Furniture, a furniture maker and retailer in the UAE, that converted one line of its manufacturing capabilities towards addressing the shortage of materials needed for face masks. With demand from both small, cash-based institutions and larger companies that could operate digitally, HSBC helped the company to set up a hybrid approach to its payments. 

HSBC also worked to support Kuwait, following its inclusion on the MSCI Emerging Markets Index, as the country looked at increased interest from foreign investors into its capital markets. 

North America 

Winner: Bank of America 

Bank of America (BofA) took a strong stance on reinforcing its digital offering to ensure its existing platforms were operating to the best possible standard, while also innovating to keep up with client demand. 

“Nearly every industry is going through a significant change or evolution of some sort,” says Kenneth Ullmann, co-head of global commercial banking sales in global transaction services at BofA. “As a leader in transaction banking, we are committed to maintaining our technology investments so that, as our clients emerge in their future form, they’ll have the support of new treasury solutions and payment rails to help them thrive.”

The bank saw the launch of its CompleteAP, a solution that helps companies digitise and automate their cash-payable departments. The platform works by capturing and digitising supplier invoices, and sending them for coding and approval, without the need for manual intervention. It also provides full visibility and control over invoices and payments, with alerts and organised queues to keep the approval process moving smoothly. Once approved, payments are made via a virtual card, account clearing house payment or cheque, depending on the client’s wishes. CompleteAP can be easily integrated into most enterprise technologies without disruption. 

As the sector moved swiftly to adopt digital ways of working due to the pandemic, the bank recognised the associated risks that would come in the form of cyber-attacks. BofA proactively worked with clients to provide information on the latest data and device security, to help them to identify gaps and risks in their systems. Tailored strategies were created depending on the business type, covering everything from healthcare companies to restaurants and car dealerships. 

BofA has continued to bolster its existing technology offerings to ensure it remains at the cutting edge of transaction banking services. The bank has seen big increases in use of its CashPro platform, with payments initiated via its CashPro application programming interface increasing by 117% in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the fourth quarter of 2020. E-signature use increased by 309% in the year to March 2021, and sign-ins to the CashPro app increased by 37% during the same timeframe. CashPro also saw 17 tech upgrades and 18 releases related to the US government’s Paycheck Protection Program during the first three months of 2021 alone. 

“Today, nearly every company — even the very smallest — needs to make cross-border payments,” says Sue Caras, co-head of global commercial banking sales in global transaction services at BofA. “They want to support a greater number of payment options and they want to do so with speed and transparency, while also managing costs. We’re constantly investing in CashPro to provide these capabilities in one fully integrated platform.”

Western Europe 

Winner: UniCredit 

UniCredit took the award for western Europe thanks to the bank’s focused approach on developing services to best suit their individual clients. Whether this is through creating innovative cash-pooling products or implementing receivables finance solutions, the bank demonstrated a strong understanding of its clients’ needs. 

“Our clients are at the centre of everything we do and we are dedicated to finding the best solutions to support them,” says Luca Corsini, UniCredit’s head of global transaction banking. “Across the board, our clients have been looking to maximise liquidity and manage the complexities of the pandemic. We have worked hard to help them, rolling out digital cash management solutions to help them centralise their operations and digital trade finance solutions to lower the barriers to financing and risk mitigation. Our creative working capital solutions, meanwhile, help clients and their supply chains to optimise their balance sheets and liquidity.”

UniCredit worked with its client Tecnica, a sportswear manufacturer, to identify a need for central visibility and control over its international cash positions that had separated over time. To overcome this, the bank implemented a payment factory solution that used just two bank accounts per country, and daily international sweeps from local accounts — including those held with other banks — to the company’s master account in Italy. All of these accounts could be easily accessed via the e-banking portal. Further, UniCredit set up a fully automated, third-bank cash-pooling solution that enables Tecnica to retain local accounts with the best partner bank for their needs, and to benefit from a wholesale liquidity solution. 

The bank also worked with recycling equipment manufacturer Doppstadt to assist with its working capital issues. The company had approached the bank to sell a portfolio of receivables that contained several international debtors — a fact that had made it difficult to finance through traditional factoring techniques, as each debtor would have to be vetted individually for due diligence. UniCredit, however, stepped in with a German variation of receivables finance, known as receivables purchase with recourse. Here, the default risk of the debtor stays with the client. By choosing this approach, Doppstadt was able to get the advance liquidity it needed, but while having to return it if the debtor failed on their side. 

Across the region, UniCredit’s Trade Finance Gate platform continued to digitise the processes of trade finance. The platform helped to promote the use of e-signatures, something that has been indispensable during the pandemic as banks and businesses alike moved their operations to working from home. The bank’s trade finance optical character recognition and artificial intelligence tool helped to enhance compliance checks and a vessel tracking service with the retrieval and screening of key information, such as the flag and owner. 

“Looking ahead, we will continue investing in digital innovation, with our digital division embedding technology, digitalisation and data into the core of our business,” says Mr Corsini. “Beyond the digital sphere, we will also innovate across product lines, risk and compliance in all our geographies, to ensure we’re best placed to support our clients as they look to capitalise on the economic recovery.”

Cash Management  

Winner: Citi 

Citi took the prize for cash management after a year of innovations to support its clients. In particular, the utilisation of real-time processing to give clients greater visibility of their financial positions and settle payments more efficiently stood out as strong developments for the sector. 

“During these uncertain times, our clients have shifted focus towards operational and financial resiliency, combined with a sustainable supply chain,” says Steve Elms, Citi’s global head of corporate, commercial and public sector sales, treasury and trade solutions. “Citi has continued to work tirelessly to minimise disruption to our clients through our global digital solutions as we collectively navigate the current environment.”

The bank’s real-time liquidity sharing system gives treasurers greater oversight of their liquidity positions and the ability to respond to changes in the environment quickly and efficiently. Through one solution, treasurers can share liquidity across countries, increasing working capital efficiency and deploying cash to where it is needed, reducing dependency on credit facilities. The automated nature of the system reduces administrative costs while enabling simplicity in processes, such as intercompany loans, payments and investments. 

Instant payment solutions were given a boost with the development of new capabilities for cross-border and digital payments. Building on existing domestic instant payments, Citi’s clients in the UK and Singapore can now send cross-border instant payments to third-party banks around the clock, with plans to expand the service to more geographies. Payments into digital wallets have been included in response to growing customer demand. The Citi Network Instant Payments service allows clients to make transfers to other Citi clients across the US, Hong Kong and Singapore in real time and supports payments of up to $15m. 

Also notable was the development of banking-as-a-service. Through adopting this approach, Citi has replaced the legacy framework in its CitiDirect banking and cash management platform with a cloud-enabled modular structure. Elements of the modular services can be scaled independently, as needed by the client.  

Building on the existing CitiConnect API connectivity platform, the bank has tailored aspects to suit the needs of specific customers. For example, the bank worked with Royal Dutch Shell to create a self-help service, giving treasurers direct access to payment details to help with query resolutions. 

The bank extended the payment tracker service to launch the Global Beneficiary Services Payment Tracker for Banks. This gives its clients real-time status tracking for payments to other financial institutions, on domestic and cross-border payments, providing full visibility of the status of their payments and give them alerts for any changes in the payment status. 

“For our clients, the rising need now is advanced real-time services to deploy liquidity when and where needed on a 24/7 basis, as their e-commerce businesses grow and instant payment volumes increase,” says Stephen Randall, Citi’s global head of liquidity management services, treasury and trade solutions. “Citi’s innovative solutions directly address treasurers’ growing need to manage intra-day liquidity in real time through our integrated liquidity management, instant payments, and e-commerce solutions around the world.”


Winner: BNY Mellon 

BNY Mellon worked out the pain points being felt by clients to devise payment solutions that are processed instantly, without compromising on security or limiting the available payment options. The environmental impact of providing banking services has also been taken into account, with the bank now offering more modern and environmentally-friendly alternatives.

The bank launched the RTP Bill Pay solution in the US, enabling businesses to instantly provide invoices to customers. As clients increasingly demand transparency and speed when sending or receiving funds, the bank developed the electronic bill and payment solution, allowing clients to instantly present bills to customers, with real-time integrated messaging. Covering multiple payment options, it allows customers to choose their preferred banking channels, whether they are online or through a mobile device. The bank is in the process of collaborating with billers and retail banks to increase the adoption of the capability. 

In response to rising expectations of real-time exchange of information and funds, the Account Validation Service (AVS) was launched in July 2020. The service has enabled real-time prevalidation on the status and the ownerships of accounts, and the system has been made available both through BNY Mellon directly and as a white-label offering. It covers a range of payment rails, including wire transfers, real-time payments and automated clearing house payments. AVS uses the Early Warning National Shared Database resource to validate account ownership, along with social security numbers and contact details to meet compliance demands without increasing requirements to prevalidate payment data. 

BNY Mellon has continued to take into account the environmental impact of the industry and has worked to reduce the use of paper cheques owing to their environmental impact. Noting how detrimental the continued use of cheques is on the environment, ranging from the trees cut down to produce the paper and the impact on carbon dioxide absorption, to the use of plastics and energy needed in running printers and photocopiers, the bank has sought to raise client awareness of the amount of cheques they use. Instead, they are encouraged to use digital service for both environmental and security reasons. 

Securities Services 

Winner: BNP Paribas 

BNP Paribas has made strong improvements in the security services industry with the range of services it has launched.  From expanding global reach to furthering the digital agenda, the bank’s operations have earned it the award for security services this year. 

The bank expanded the reach of its services, launching its local custody services in Chile, and expanding the market and financing services for clients in the Asia-Pacific region with the launch of the agency securities lending desk in Hong Kong. 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, BNP Paribas provided services for the creation of solidarity funds, including providing paying agent services for the issuances and post-issuance of the EU’s debt programme for its social bond issuance.

The bank launched a collaborative agreement with wealth technology company Allfunds to develop fund distribution. The result was the creation of Fund@ccess, an integrated fund-investment platform. With this, the bank aims to increase operational efficiency in the fund buying and selling process for institutional clients. Via the platform, clients have access to more than 1700 fund houses domiciled in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the US. In addition, the process brings a greater degree of digitisation, with advanced fund data analytics available, including the documentation on more than 100,000 funds. 

Furthering the digital aspect of the business, BNP Paribas automated the processing of 500,000 key asset servicing documents, such as tax documentation and fee schedules through artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing. This allows the bank to automatically capture and classify information, even from non-standard forms of documentation. The process is constantly being improved, with higher volumes and good-quality data, in tandem with user feedback, modifying the learning capacity of the system. As a result, the bank has seen more than 80% accuracy to date. 

The systems not only speed up the process, providing faster turnaround times and seeing greater rates of straight-through processing, they also free up staff to focus on the more complex, value-add issues to best support clients. Automation also removes some of the pressure from clients, with faster processing of tax forms and the improved onboarding of new clients. 

“Ongoing transformations in the asset-servicing industry are shaping clients’ expectations for faster on-demand servicing and omnichannel digital client experience,” says Patrick Colle, general manager of BNP Paribas Securities Services. “We are embracing these changes, digitalising our back office with AI technologies and developing strategic partnerships with fintechs and wealthtech platforms, such as Allfunds, to help our clients adapt and take advantage of new opportunities.”

Supply Chain Finance 

Winner: Bank of America 

Bank of America (BofA) has sought to make the complex process of supply chain finance as simple as possible for the client by initiating complex, but accessible banking processes. Utilising new technology to its greatest extent has introduced efficiencies across the supply chain finance spectrum. 

Overall, the bank took big steps to improve processes and fully digitise its services to provide a globally consistent supplier onboarding process, significantly reducing the turnaround time by five weeks. Within this, the bank expanded its e-signature capability to 45 global markets, allowing more than 50 types of trade and treasury documents to be exchanged electronically. 

The Supplier Enablement Portal (SEP) was launched in the US in June 2020 and utilises artificial intelligence to provide insights from analysed datasets, that supports strategic decision-making. Recognising the issues its clients had in the supplier onboarding process, the bank developed the solution to reduce the time and manual intervention needed. The system cross-references data against industry and bank intelligence reports from institutions including FactSet, Hoovers and CapIQ, to create a rounded dataset that prioritises the order in which clients are onboarded. 

“Among the biggest challenges facing supply chain finance today are the mechanical or manual elements of supplier onboarding,” says Geoff Brady, head of global trade and supply chain finance at BofA. “The friction of supplier onboarding has historically impacted onboarding efficiency, protracting implementations and preventing timely recognition of economic value for both buyers and suppliers. That’s what drove us to introduce the SEP.”

As well as creating a comprehensive and digitised workflow, SEP has also increased the speed of suppliers on boarding by up to 35%. Clients are also given greater oversight of their strategic suppliers through a customisable supplier microsite, where they can find details of supply chain financing (SCF) programmes. The bank is aiming to roll out the facility globally this year. 

The impact that the industry has on the environment has been acknowledged, as the bank moves to bring SCF into its central environmental, social and governance (ESG) solutions. Key in this is the announcement in April 2021 that the bank is to deploy $1tn by 2030 to support sustainable finance. This followed on from a $2bn equity progress sustainability bond issued in September 2020, with the aim of advancing racial equality, economic opportunity and environmental sustainability. A portion of the bond’s proceeds will be used to extend SCF loans to minority-owned businesses, expanding the scope of what the bank covers in its ESG programme to include individuals and companies that may not have previously been prioritised for SCF. 

Trade Finance 

Winner: Standard Chartered 

Many banks claim to have clients at the very heart of their business strategy, but it is only when they can develop systems that respond to their clients' needs that this is proven. In winning the Trade Finance category, Standard Chartered demonstrated how it assessed the issues worst impacting its clients and devised workable solutions. 

“We listened and addressed our clients’ most critical items — the resilience and prioritisation within supply chains,” says Kai Fehr, global head of trade and working capital at Standard Chartered. “With our unique footprint, innovative and client co-creation approach, we are delivering tailored digital and platform solutions with deep-tier financing capabilities, ensuring prioritisation within competing supply chains. As a market leader in sustainable trade finance solutions across the working capital spectrum, we are also supporting our clients’ environmental, social and governance goals: accelerating the rapid shift towards sustainable procurement.”

The documentation processes needed for export letters of credit was identified as one that was particularly arduous for clients. It can often take up to 12 days and multiple submissions before the documents meet the exact requirements of the letter of credit (LC). The bank’s Singapore team collaborated with the technology and SC Ventures teams to develop a structured LC checklist. Using machine learning and natural language processing, the bank’s subject experts provided information to the system on how to interpret various clauses. After running a series of pilot documentation processes, the product went live for 45 clients in Singapore, significantly reducing the amount of time taken to submit compliant documents from 10 days to as little as two days and significantly reducing fees — the cost saving was estimated to be approximately $150,000 per annum from a reduction to discrepancy charges. 

Standard Chartered also moved on its plans to support sustainable trade with the closing of $250m in two-year sustainable trade finance transactions to support three renewable wind power projects. The project required collaboration across the bank’s network in China, Singapore and Vietnam, with the issuance of LCs from Vietnam’s Military Bank confirmed by Standard Chartered China. Islamic risk investor Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam also supported the project by purchasing a large portion of the transaction’s risk. 

The bank further pushed forward in its innovation agenda as it participated in the Contour trade network, using blockchain digitisation within the trade finance ecosystem. Through using this technology, Standard Chartered was able to execute Bangladesh’s first blockchain transaction by issuing an LC for garment exporter Viyellatex. The garment industry in Bangladesh sources most of its raw material through inland LCs, which involve large amounts of paperwork. Moving to blockchain makes the process paperless, and has the potential to increase efficiencies and scale up the transactions if all parties within the supply chain are added to the network. 


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