Russian Alfa-Bank joins HSBC-backed blockchain trade finance network

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Alfa-Bank, one of the largest private commercial banks in Russia, has joined a blockchain trade finance network backed by HSBC.

According to an official announcement on Nov. 3, Alfa-Bank is the first Russian bank to become a member of Contour — a blockchain platform connecting the world’s major financial institutions like HSBC, ING and Citi. The network allows bank customers to track the processing and modification of trade finance transactions and cut operational costs.

Evgenia Fomina, head of the Alfa-Bank lending directorate, said that Contour-based pilots in the Russian market intend to improve the quality of cross-border transactions, stating:

“The accession to the Contour platform and launch of the pilot projects on the Russian market will fine-tune the strategy of development of products for transborder transactions. Customer requests become more complex, and we are always seeking to offer the best solutions.”

Formerly known as “Voltron,” Contour is focused on the process of drafting and issuing letters of credit using R3’s Corda blockchain. The initiative was launched in 2018 by R3 and eight global banks, including HSBC, ING, Citi, Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered, SEB and CTBC.

Despite the project being initiated two years ago, the Contour network finally went live just last month. According to Global Trade Review, Contour left beta in early October 2020 after a commercial beta launch at the beginning of 2020. On Nov. 1, the Bangladesh branch of global banking firm HSBC announced the completion of the country’s first blockchain-based letter of credit transaction on Contour.

Contour CEO Carl Wegner said that Alfa-Bank’s entrance to the network marks another milestone for the project. “Their involvement will continue to build an inclusive network that will improve trade across the globe,” Wegner said.

Headquartered in Moscow, Alfa-Bank is no stranger to blockchain technology. The bank has also been a member of major blockchain consortium R3 since 2018. In October 2019, Alfa-Bank launched a pilot via R3’s Marco Polo Network to test cross-border payments between Russia and Germany. Previously, Alfa-Bank jointly launched a liquidity management service based on the enterprise blockchain Waves.

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