Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch to Transform Trade Finance With Azure Blockchain as a Service

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Today at Sibos, an annual conference organized by SWIFT for the financial industry, Microsoft Corp. and Bank of America Merrill Lynch announced a collaboration on Blockchain technology to fuel transformation of trade finance transacting.

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bank_of_america_merrill_lynch_rgb_300As part of this collaboration, the two companies will build and test technology, create frameworks, and establish best practices for Blockchain-powered exchanges between businesses and their customers and banks. Microsoft Treasury experts will serve as advisors and initial test clients, establishing the first Microsoft Azure-powered Blockchain transaction between a major corporate treasury and a financial institution.

“By working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch on cloud-based Blockchain technology, we aim to increase efficiency and reduce risk in our own treasury operations,” said Amy Hood, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Microsoft. “Businesses across the globe — including Microsoft — are undergoing digital transformation to grow, compete and be more agile, and we see significant potential for Blockchain to drive this transformation.”

Currently, underlying trade finance processes are highly manual, time-consuming and costly. With Blockchain, processes can be digitized and automated, transaction settlement times shortened, and business logic applied to related data, creating a host of potential benefits for businesses and financial institutions including more predictable working capital, reduced counterparty risk, improved operational efficiency, and enhanced audit transparency, among other benefits.

“The potential benefits of Blockchain will help drive meaningful supply-chain efficiencies to the clients of both Microsoft and the bank. This project is another example of our continued commitment to introduce financial innovations for the betterment of global commerce,” said Ather Williams, head of Global Transaction Services at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

“We are excited to be working with Microsoft on this groundbreaking Blockchain proof of concept that has the potential to help redefine, digitize and improve how trade finance instruments are executed today,” said Percy Batliwalla, head of Global Trade and Supply Chain Finance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a Service was first introduced in November 2015. The global scale, hybrid cloud capabilities, extensive compliance certification portfolio, and enterprise-proven security of Azure provide businesses with confidence and choice, especially in highly regulated industries such as financial services, healthcare and government. More than 80 percent of the world’s largest banks are Azure customers. Furthermore, more than 75 percent of the global systemically important financial institutions are using Azure, representing the highest bar for legal, compliance, security and acquisitions teams.

Development and testing of the initial application, built to optimize the standby letter of credit process, is currently in progress. The Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch teams will demonstrate the technology at Sibos in Geneva, Switzerland. Following the initial development and testing, the teams will work to refine the technology and evaluate applications to include more complex use cases and additional financial instruments.

More information on Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a Service can be found at www.microsoft.com/Blockchain.

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About Richard Kastelein

Founder and publisher of industry publication Blockchain News (EST 2015), a partner at ICO services collective Token.Agency ($750m+ and 90+ ICOs and STOs), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) – Vancouver native Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of some two dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1500 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat. Irish Tech News put him in the top 10 Token Architects in Europe.

Kastelein has an Ad Honorem - Honorary Ph.D. and is Chair Professor of Blockchain at China's first Blockchain University in Nanchang at the Jiangxi Ahead Institute of Software and Technology. In 2018 he was invited to and attended University of Oxford's Saïd Business School for Business Automation 4.0 programme.  Over a half a decade experience judging and rewarding some 1000+ innovation projects as an EU expert for the European Commission's SME Instrument programme as a startup assessor and as a startup judge for the UK government's Innovate UK division.

Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London (5x), Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, Prague, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara (2x), Shanghai, Singapore (3x), Tel Aviv, Utrecht, Venice, Visakhapatnam, Zwolle and Zurich.

He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com, and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French. A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world. In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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