Five Takeaways Banks Need to Consider for Their Trade Finance Platforms

Five Takeaways Banks Need to Consider for Their Trade Finance Platforms

by November 8, 2022

Asia Pacific accounts for 55% of the global trade finance’s volume. As the region’s trade grows, so does the financing gap. The high cost-to-serve, perceived risks, legacy systems and processes has left US$700 billion worth of unmet demand in emerging Asian economies.

As the industry races to close the trade finance gap, digitisation is seen as a crucial enabler; but where do corporates in Asia stand? Which segments have the propensity to adopt a bank’s digital trade platform? What features are most valuable? And what challenges do they face?

PSYKHE, a strategic design consultancy that helps organisations in Asia Pacific unlock growth through human-centric innovation, recently did a qualitative research among SMEs and corporates in Asia.

The study revealed that customers are willing to explore digital solutions – echoing quantitative research findings by Greenwich that quality of digital platform is amongst the top 5 considerations for selecting a trade finance provider.

PSYKHE‘s research yielded five key takeaways for banks to consider.

1. Be clear on benefits

Banks will have to segment customers by need and design a compelling value proposition for them. No two companies are alike, and financial institutions need to keep in mind that their platform will not appeal to everyone.

Larger MNCs may already be utilising third-party software to manage their multi-bank relationships and networks of suppliers.

But companies growing their regional presence who are yet to settle on a digital platform may be ripe for adopting a platform by their banking partner.

Banks need to clearly communicate the value of their platform in a way that resonates with these companies.

A recent global study revealed almost half of logistics and supply chain teams are unwilling to adopt documentary trade technology until they know exactly what they were signing up for.

So, it is critical to tailor one’s messaging at a strategic level to treasury decision makers, in tandem with how the platform could help the day-to-day operational team.

HSBC is a fitting example – succinctly articulating the overall proposition, features and the design thinking behind them. It also makes it easy for operational staff to envision how it helps and fits within their existing processes.

2. Help new users transition to digital



33% of customers say that their main challenge when adopting digital trade platforms was lack of guidance. User guides serve as important tools for new platforms, yet we often hear from customers that these resources are outdated, poorly designed PDFs.

Guides need to be carefully crafted to be a key reference for the organisation’s early adopters onboarding to new platforms. New users will also need continuous, in-situ reminders as they navigate and perform tasks on the platform.

Banks should consider introducing guided tours, supplementing them with a dose of helpful ‘coachmarks’ – notifications that appear when a user interacts with the interface – to aid in nitty-gritty tasks like tracking transactions or forecasting cashflow.

Tooltips are useful in providing persistent hints for more difficult tasks – and can make all the difference in complex workflows such as generating transactional reports, managing trade facilities or even in understanding industry jargon.

Some customers may need to revert to manual processes during specific tasks – especially processes that are more difficult to digitise – and platforms should allow customers to switch to paper methods as they build trust in digital systems. So, a hybrid approach will hugely help users to adapt usage to their business’ needs.

In the event they need to contact customer support, banks should build in features that allow their customer service staff to view user screens or log in on their behalf to diagnose the root of the problem and provide a timely resolution.

3. Cater for experienced digital users



As customers become more comfortable using new platforms, they will inevitably utilise more advanced features.

This could result in complex workflows and business processes that will require greater transparency around the status of tasks.

Users will need to view which immediate tasks require attention and act on them as easily as possible.

Contour’s documentary trade platform outlines amendment and presentation statuses along with their next steps – simple actions for smaller teams. But for larger teams, visually representing workflows, actors, and actions may streamline the process.

4. Offer simple recommendations and nudges



Customers are constantly on the lookout for flexible financing options and ways to optimise their trade workflows.

Financing extensions, early and partial payments, and batch settlements are some examples – and providing relevant recommendations that will help get customers access to these options will be valuable.

Nudges to vet transactional parties prior to new applications or recommendations to provide settlement instructions upfront can help streamline efficiencies and give reassurance for customers.

Often, customers aren’t aware of these options, so relevant, contextual product recommendations – whether automated or from advisors – enable bank platforms to go from one that documents transactions to a value-added advisory.

5. Remember this platform is going to become their tool


Banks need to be mindful that their platform will be used on a daily, hourly basis by their customers. They need to ensure that customers can customise often-used features to fit their business’ needs.

Dashboards and tables may need customisable widgets, headers, and layouts. Notifications may need to be customised to different stakeholders and channel preferences.

Reporting needs for portfolio utilisation and facility management will vary depending on their internal bookkeeping. More sophisticated teams will require flexible exporting features to manipulate data off-platform on internal tools like spreadsheets, ERPs or treasury platforms.

As banks learn more about customer behaviours through platform analytics, user testing and iterative design, they need to ensure that they continue to shape the experience to adapt to the customers’ needs.

The ultimate goal for any bank platform is to continuously deliver increased value to customers across the trade lifecycle. To do this, customers must be able to count on a platform that offers robust, empathetic design tailored to their needs.

This will help banks to build trust with companies who are seeking a strategic banking partner who will help to develop long term capabilities through uncertain times, not just another transactional institution.

PSYKHE is a strategic design consultancy that helps organisations in APAC unlock growth through human-centric innovation. Learn more about PSYKHE