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Microsoft Partners Bank of America on Blockchain to “Transform” Trade Finance

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:51 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:51 PM

Technology giant Microsoft and financial institution Bank of America Merill Lynch have announced a collaboration with the aim to “fuel transformation of trade finance transacting”, with blockchain technology.

In an announcement at the annual SWIFT-organized Sibos conference, Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch underlined their collaborative aim to usher in blockchain technology to transform the trade finance sector.

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The collaboration is only the latest in an increasing number of endeavors between the financial and technology industries to explore and develop blockchain solutions.

Microsoft and BOA will, according to a press release, build and develop distributed ledger solutions, create frameworks while establishing best practices for businesses, clients and banks that subscribe to blockchain solutions.

Microsoft is already – and notably –  a big player in the blockchain-for-enterprise space with its blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) offering over its Azure cloud platform for customers. With Microsoft Treasury experts weighing in as advisors and primary test clients, the Redmond-based computing behemoth claims the collaboration  will be the first blockchain transaction between a major corporate treasury and a financial institution, on the Azure platform.

Chief financial officer and executive vice president at Microsoft, Amy Hood, sees the collaboration delivering dividends for the company’s in-house operations.

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.

Pointing to the “digital transformation” enveloping businesses globally to help them “grow, compete and be[come] more agile”, she picked blockchain as the innovation with “significant potential” to bring about the change.

Case #84 of the Blockchain Binge: Trade Finance

Trade Finance is only the latest financial sector or instrument to be bowled over by transformative potential of blockchain. Current trade finance processes are expensive, inefficient due to the high manual oversight and time-consuming. Blockchain would bring about a systemic change, going by Microsoft’s claims. The biggest changes would mean reduced transaction settlement time and manual processes turned automated.

Businesses and financial institutions at the two ends of the transaction would see reduced counterparty risk, improved operational efficiency and enhanced transparency for audits, among other benefits.

Since the launch of its Azure BaaS offering in November 2015, Microsoft has engaged in a number of endeavors to develop blockchain solutions for core industry implementation across a number of sectors. While some have questioned Microsoft’s license agreement for Azure blockchain adopters, the software-maker steadily increased its blockchain-centric projects, including its position as a ‘strategic partner’ for arguably the biggest private financial blockchain endeavor of them all, the R3-led banking consortium.

Starting as a software-only powerhouse before the turn of the century, the technology giant has diversified its portfolio in recent decades, with hardware offerings and forays into other industries.

Interestingly, Microsoft underlines that over 80% of the world’s largest banks are customers and users of its Azure cloud platform. Over 75% of the “systemically important financial institutions” are also using Azure, the company adds

Blockchain, as the biggest and most-talked about Fintech innovation around, was always going to be considered by Microsoft as a potentially core technology for its popular cloud platform.

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