Bangkok Bank is expanding its relationship with blockchain vendor R3 as demand among the bank’s customers grow for using the tech, going from one-off transactions to a more complete integration into its trade, payments, and supply-chain business.
Bangkok Bank is a shareholder in R3, having taken part in its Series A financing. Ian Guy Gillard, senior executive vice president at Bangkok Bank and its head of technology, sits on R3’s board of directors.
R3 launched as a consortium, and Bangkok Bank was an early dues-paying member. It has been present as R3 launched projects such as Marco Polo for trade finance and Project Voltron for letters of credit. Voltron has spun out as a separate company, Contour, and Bangkok Bank is a founding client.
“We’ve done transactions on Contour as well as invested in R3,” Gillard told DigFin. “We’re learning a lot.”
Gillard says the relationship goes back to 2016 when Bangkok Bank’s CEO, Chartsiri Sophonpanich, met R3 founder David Rutter on a trip to Silicon Valley. “Everything just clicked,” he said.
Amit Ghosh, R3’s head of Asia Pacific, says the vendor is adding staff on the ground in Thailand as a result of the deepening relationship. It is hiring for domestic marketing and pre-sales roles.
“We’re excited to continue our partnership with Bangkok Bank and to support their ongoing commitment to improving their service offering through the use of emerging technologies,” Ghosh said in a press statement.
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Gillard says Bangkok Bank is an early adopter because of its large international business. He says more than 25 percent of corporate business is overseas. The bank is present in 15 regional markets, and not just to support Thai corporates but often to service local clients or do purely domestic banking.
“We view DLT as a way to deal with untrusted parties,” Gillard said. For example, it interacts with suppliers or the likes of freight forwarders when extending credit or facilitating trade-related transactions, such as foreign exchange.
“These are parties that are not our customer,” Gillard said. “We can issue them temporary I.D.s on Corda so they can participate.”
He is also working with various licensed entities partly or majority owned by the bank to help them access Corda. These include asset managers, securities brokers, and specialist banks in Thailand. “Because a lot of Corda’s apps run on the cloud, you don’t need an esoteric tech stack to participate,” Gillard said.
And he is encouraged by R3’s ability to bring in many other banks. “David Rutter’s relationships on Wall Street have been critical,” Gillard said, referring to R3’s founder.
“This is a long-term relationship,” Gillard said, noting the bank is still exploring new use cases for DLT in trade, payments, and supply chains. “We know more about Corda than the consultants.”
In September 2020, Bangkok Bank used Contour to facilitate an L/C transaction between a subsidiary of PTT and a Vietnam-based trading partner, reducing L/C issuance time by over 95%. It has also collaborated with SCG Chemicals, a manufacturer of petrochemical products, and GC Marketing Solutions Limited, the chemical flagship of PTT Group, to facilitate their L/C transactions with their partners via leading local banks in Vietnam.
The bank also joined with Pacific Containerbag to facilitate the company’s transactions with corporate partners in Oman, opening and receiving L/C, supporting both import and export customers.
In turn, Bangkok Bank has introduced R3 to the Bank of Thailand’s Project Inthanon-Lionrock, an ongoing experiment in real-time payment systems for the interbank market that has extended to cooperation with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.