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The current macroeconomic outlook for the trade finance industry is hazy. 

With so much market uncertainty it can be difficult for businesses and banks to gauge how to proceed.  

In light of the current landscape, Trade Finance Global (TFG) were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Liliana Fratini Passi, Managing Director, CBI, about how innovating and collaborating may be the way forward. 

The enormous wave of innovation and competition arising from new rules, upon which open banking is based and that are profoundly transforming financial markets, require that traditional operators adopt innovative business models to remain competitive internationally. 

CBI’s greatest accomplishment lies not only in the development of innovative platforms and services but also in its capacity to aggregate various actors in the financial ecosystem. 

Emerging technology is paving the way for disruptive innovation in the area of payments; therefore, CBI believes that a flexible, modern, and clear approach is needed to respond to market demands. 

As a consequence of open banking and the PSD2 effects on the market, there has been a transition towards open finance. 

The open finance ecosystem can be defined as the extension of open banking which translates into a wider sharing of financial data among players in financial services, enabling third parties’ access to and increased range of services/products, in addition to an enrichment of more complex services tailored to customers’ needs/demands. 

In this scenario, CBI is committed to accelerating the transition of banks into true transaction operators by investing in integrated and sustainable technological innovation and digital skills, which will contribute to a range of new VAS, such as: 

  • Check IBAN cross-border: due to the partnership with SurePay and their best-in-class solution to provide secure payments, CBI is now able to support banks and fintechs by offering the Check IBAN service to customers outside of Italy, starting with the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. 

The Check IBAN service will then be gradually extended to other European countries, including, for instance, France and the United Kingdom. This partnership is the first step for future joint innovative cross-border services developments. 

  • Name check: similarly to Check IBAN, this service validates the ownership of an IBAN in relation to a specific end-user through a search function based on the name/denomination of the account holder/company. 

The service could be adopted to avoid misdirection, increasing the payment market stability and efficiency. It is useful in cases where VAT and fiscal codes are not available and in case of instant payments. 

  • Smart onboarding: this service aims to facilitate the onboarding procedures that a final user may face to fulfil an online form. 

The service allows a final user to automatically retrieve their own personal data thanks to the telematic dialogue between the corporate itself and the final user bank. 

The service is based on an application programming interface (API) able to ensure online flows and a real-time retrieve of the user data.

  • CBI invoice control database: the project defined by CBI has been admitted to the Regulatory Sandbox established by the Ministry of Finance and managed in coordination with the Bank of Italy, the Italian national commission for listed companies, the stock exchange (Consob), and the Institute for the Supervision of Insurance (IVASS).

The project allows Payment Service Providers to obtain information on invoices submitted by their corporate customers in order to obtain funding whilst easing the process in a multi-bank and multi-channel scenario. This service not only reduces the risk of fraud in financing operations, but it also enhances the stability of the financial market. 

As the famous racing driver and entrepreneur Enzo Ferrari once said, “The future is always in the hands of those who know how to preempt it.”

It is essential to foresee and deliver future needs through constant research and innovation. 

2. How important is collaboration for innovating in the space and how do you encourage collaboration among competitors? 

CBI believes that successful collaborations are based on aligned goals, positive attitude, the ability to deliver novelty, diversity and value. These, in turn, create loyalty and trust. 

CBI’s greatest accomplishment lies not only in the development of innovative platforms and services, but moreover in its capacity to aggregate various actors in the ecosystem. 

Therefore, collaborative innovation brings success if it is supported by the adhesion of the subjects of the ecosystem. 

It is for this reason the effort is not only to create innovative use cases based on interoperable standards, but also to ensure that these are adopted at scale by a large number of subjects, so that the service can be used by the community, benefiting from the advantages of the so-called “network economy.”      

In light of the open banking scenario and thanks to the implementation of a strategic plan outlined in 2017, CBI stepped in, supporting the financial institutions (FIs) to meet all the PSD2 requirements, by strengthening its role as an industry utility. 

Moreover, two years ago CBI officially launched the new functionality of the CBI Globe service––the so-called: active functionality––that enables payments service providers (PSPs) to play an active role as third-party providers, using a single access point to reach the entire Italian banking market and main international API platforms.

Furthermore, CBI actively participates in the technical standardisation activities carried out by several national and international bodies to guarantee compliance and monitoring of the major market trends on a European and global level. 

In the past year, for instance, CBI experts contributed to the drafting of the white paper on open finance to support trade facilitation released within the UNECE-UN/CEFACT official publications. 

This white paper investigates the economic paradigms of open banking and open finance in order to understand how they can back trade worldwide. 

The paper describes open finance use cases for trade facilitation and suggests ways forward for policy and decision-makers. 

UN/CEFACT and its International Supply Chain Programme Development Area are committed to the development of projects based on the dematerialisation of commercial documents, the facilitation of the electronic tracking of traded products and goods. 

Additional areas of interest include; as well as digitalisation and trust of cross-border trade based on verifiable credentials, linked data, and decentralised identifiers.

3. Lastly, how has CBI helped to amplify women’s voices in the trade finance ecosystem

CBI’s commitment towards equal opportunities for all is another characteristic that makes its ecosystem inclusive and innovative. 

The importance that CBI gives towards gender diversity, more specifically women in leadership roles, is particularly evident in its division structure. 

Therefore, it can be stated that CBI is in line with the goals of the UN Agenda 2030, since gender equality is an important denominator of its culture, in addition to guaranteeing a well-structured work-life balance. 

Looking at a global level, it is paramount that more women join the workforce, particularly in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Doing so will improve diversification in strategic thinking in the workplace, thereby helping the overall market. 

It’s also a great pleasure for me to share with you my personal and professional commitment to the promotion of gender equality. In UNECE (Economic Commission for Europe) I have been involved in the first meeting for the creation of a Declaration for Gender Responsive Standards and Standards Development

Research has shown that the failure to account for women in standards development can have dire consequences. 

International studies show that companies with a board of directors (with three or more women) are more likely to experience the positive effects of powerful governance than those with fewer women. 

I personally was awarded for the ‘Women in Finance Italy Awards’ under the category of Woman in Fintech of the Year’ in 2021. I was additionally included as a STEM role model in ‘Inspiring Fifty Italy’. 

Furthermore, as the CEO of the company for many years now, I have been managing resources, promoting an inclusive and diverse working environment