We.trade the blockchain trade finance platform has been through a round of layoffs in the last week. Just four weeks ago, IBM announced an investment in the platform. However, when we chatted to we.trade back in April, there was a plan to raise €15 million this year in multiple tranches. This included finance from existing shareholders, IBM, as well as other outsiders such as insurers and credit ratings firms.
General Manager Ciaran McGown confirmed the layoffs to Ledger Insights. “Our resourcing requirements change over time and we have recently reduced a number of roles in the technical and product areas,” said McGowan via email.
“Our ability to remain agile ensures that we’re managing the company’s resources as effectively as possible. Interest in we.trade, from banks and their clients, remains strong and we’re confident that the digitisation of trade and trade finance is more relevant today than ever before.”
Our information was that existing shareholders were scheduled to invest in May and external investors, including insurers in September. The landscape has changed somewhat, and the trade finance insurance sector has tightened.
Global Trade Review first reported the job cuts, citing some existing banks’ failure to reinvest or only commit to lower amounts. It also stated that we.trade had expected to raise €2-3 million from major trade finance insurer Euler Hermes which had fallen through.
In late April, the Financial Times noted that Euler Hermes was looking to significantly reduce the amount of trade finance insurance cover in the UK unless the government provided a backstop. It cited excerpts from a letter by the insurer that highlighted a likely 20-25% increase in global insolvencies and its intention to review credit limit decisions in some areas.
On a more positive note, we previously noted that we.trade has reached the point where it has satisfied the banks’ security and compliance requirements, which has been an obstacle to full roll out. Hence only two banks, Nordea and Société Générale, had fully deployed the solution so far with the others restricted in terms of volume.
One of the reasons for bringing IBM on board as a shareholder is to help banks to integrate with the platform, especially outside Europe. IBM built the initial platform, but we.trade subsequently took the development in-house.
Currently all 12 we.trade shareholder banks are European: CaixaBank, Deutsche Bank, Erste Bank and its subsidiary Česká spořitelna, HSBC, KBC, Natixis, Nordea, Rabobank, Santander, Société Générale and its subsidiary KB, UBS, and UniCredit Italy. Eurobank, CSOB and UniCredit Germany are non-shareholder licensees.