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At Trade Finance Global’s annual Women in Trade, Treasury, and Payments (WITPP) event in London, Neha Noronha (NN), Unit Head, South Asia spoke with Carmen Maria Ramirez Ortiz (CR), Relationship Manager, both from the Trade and Supply Chain Finance Program at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), to discuss how to inspire inclusion and make trade an equitable place to work for everyone.

Promoting financial inclusion at the ADB

NN: Can you give us a quick introduction as to what you do at the ADB?

CR: I’m responsible for scaling the supply chain finance (SCF) business in Asia and the Pacific. This means I work on deploying risk-sharing arrangements and developing new supply chain finance products to address the trade finance gap.

Financial innovation is crucial for addressing the trade finance gap, especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the backbone of most economies, but unfortunately, they are also the most affected by the trade finance gap. 

To address this challenge, ADB has brought together an amazing working group, and we are seeking to develop a framework for deep-tier supply chain finance. This product will be an innovative solution to support those SMEs that are deeper down in the global supply chain. 

We are very excited about this space because we believe it will have great potential to drive liquidity to those underserved segments of the economy and enhance transparency. 

If you are interested in learning more about this, the ADB will be publishing an industry guideline very shortly, so stay tuned.

Trade digitalisation at the multilateral level

NN: The digitalisation of trade has been deemed an essential step for making trade cheaper, faster and easier. What initiatives have you been working on to drive trade digitalisation at the multilateral level?

CR: The digitalisation of global trade will be transformative, but it will never happen unless governments step forward and adopt legislation that recognises electronic versions of key documents in trade, such as electronic bills of lading (eBL).

We have already seen some countries – such as the United Kingdom and Singapore – take the lead on this and adopt enabling legislation. 

As part of my role in ADB, we actively promote this type of legislation – the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records (MLETR) – through capacity building and technical assistance. 

Our objective is to ensure that developing Asia is not left behind. 

We are trying to gather an array of stakeholders – from multilateral development banks to other regional organisations – to join efforts and incentivise the private sector and governments to move forward with this agenda.

Inspiring the next generation of trade finance professionals

NN: As a young professional coming into the space, what advice would you give to new people joining trade finance to inspire them to join trade finance?

CR: Trade finance is the engine behind the global economy. It is what fuels growth, prosperity, and job creation. 

We need to highlight a developmental angle, which is natural from trade, to foster more young professionals to join the industry. 

Reflecting on my previous work in treasury and seeing the impact in day-to-day business, I’m very happy to be on this side of the coin because trade finance is about supporting businesses to cross borders to empower themselves. 

It’s beautiful that trade finance not only provides a career prospect but also gives you an opportunity to make an impact in your day-to-day job. It is a great deal.

Inspire inclusion

NN: Inspire inclusion is this year’s International Women’s Day theme. What does that mean for you?

CR: To me, inspire inclusion means empowerment. 

It’s about granting yourself and others the freedom to grow, to learn, to stumble, and to make mistakes without the fear that you will be judged, irrespective of your gender, your origin, or even your professional background. 

To me, it entails the power and the confidence that when you think about transitioning not only professional careers but also maybe countries or personal choice, you will be received with an open mind. 

That’s the most powerful gift anyone can give to you, or you can give to others: the fact that you will be unbiased in welcoming that person.