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IBM, Now Takes A More Active Role in We.Trade, As They Take ...
NEWS

IBM, Now Takes A More Active Role in We.Trade, As They Take 7% Stake in the Trade Finance Blockchain Network

Ciaran McGowan, we.trade’s CEO, said the deepening relationship with Big Blue will help the platform in its next phase of global expansion.

We.trade has the distinction of being the first enterprise blockchain consortium to go live, which happened back in early 2018. The platform was formed by a group of banks to help European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get better access to trade finance. IBM has been the project’s technology partner from inception.

“Now we’ve got a very strong partnership with IBM for scaling globally, and we are working closely together on Asia, Africa and Latin America,” McGowan said.

The move also raises the question of intellectual property (IP) ownership, something that has caused problems for IBM in the past with blockchain consortia.

However, the plan at we.trade was always to take its technology in-house and rely less on IBM, as stated by McGowan at last October’s Sibos event in London.

“It’s all about getting the right balance,” McGowan said this week regarding IBM’s new role as part-owner of the platform as well as the sole technology provider. “Back then [in 2019], we had seven staff at the company and it wasn’t realistic for seven staff to make all the decisions, to collate all the different requirements, to prioritize and manage everything.”

Part of we.trade’s success was down to the fact no single entity had more say than another. The platform’s previous CEO, Roberto Mancone, pointed to a “clear distinction” between IBM’s IP, which was the components used to build the platform, and the IP of the platform itself.

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IBM joins we.trade’s existing 12 shareholder banks: CaixaBank, Deutsche Bank, Erste Group, HSBC, KBC, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale, UBS and UniCredit.

McGowan said some European banks are “playing wait and see” with enterprise blockchain, especially in the busy trade finance space.

“I think that because there are quite a number of players in the space, and quite a number of banks on those platforms, the European banks have been kind of sitting back and are maybe afraid to join one platform in case another does better.”

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