In brief

  • Blockchain platform Contour has gone live after a period of beta testing.
  • It aims to optimize and speed up traditional trade finance processes by digitizing them.
  • Contour is backed by eight banks such as HSBC, ING, Citi and others.

Contour, a trade finance platform that uses blockchain technology to significantly speed up various traditionally slow and bureaucratic processes, has finished its beta-testing period and went live, Global Trade Review reported today.

First conceived as Voltron back in 2017 and built on R3’s Corda platform, Contour is owned by eight shareholder banks—Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, CTBC, HSBC, ING, Standard Chartered, SEB and Citi. The platform allows institutions and companies to securely transact and view information via a global blockchain-based network.

However, the platform is a private blockchain—akin to a database shared among several members. So it isn’t decentralized, like Bitcoin.

At launch, Contour’s main goal is to optimize the letter of credit (LC) processes between parties. Currently, it can take an average of 10 days to process the LC using traditional methods. This is because many jurisdictions are still only recognizing documents that are printed on paper and signed, which requires a lot of slow manual processing.

To remedy this, Contour’s members created a special rulebook and membership agreement that is “robust, but as simple as possible,” noted the platform’s CEO Carl Wegner. With its help, the developers managed to reduce the LC processing time by up to 90%—24 hours instead of 10 days.

“The rulebook is really important. Rather than having to string together four or five different legal agreements between buyer, seller, buyer’s banks and seller’s banks, which was very onerous, we now have a rulebook which makes it very easy for everybody to sign up and know what their roles and responsibilities are,” added Vinay Mendonca, head of global product at HSBC.

Apart from the eight shareholder banks, it is currently unknown how many members have already joined Contour. According to the outlet’s sources, this figure hovers around 20, including banks such as SMBC, DBS and Standard Bank.

“I am struggling to think of another platform that has got so many banks onboard across different corridors and clients that have already undertaken live transactions and seen the value from it. So, for us, there is the necessary catchment and foundation to drive scale,” added Mendonca.

Following the official release, Contour’s new and existing members will now migrate to the live network environment which will be launched this week.