ITFA, a leading trade finance industry body, has released an in-depth guide to Structured Letters of  Credit. These are instruments which provide substantial funding to trade in emerging markets, but  have often attracted controversy because of a lack of understanding of what they are and what they  are seeking to achieve.  

ITFA’s guide – an industry first – aims to provide clarity, whilst also pointing out the risks. 

Based on input from market participants (banks, commodity traders and lawyers), the document  seeks to enhance understanding of Structured Letters of Credit and the issues surrounding their use  in the market. 

It looks at the history and development of Structured Letters of Credit and investigates: ∙ Typical characteristics to help identify Structured Letters of Credit, 

  • Comparison with traditional Letters of Credit, 
  • Commercial purposes of Structured Letters of Credit and their role in the market, ∙
  • Issues specific to the transaction participants: the trader, issuing bank and the  confirming/discounting bank(s), 
  • Legal issues, and 
  • Anti-money laundering and risk issues. 

According to ITFA, the document ensures that a proper light is shone on these instruments, and says that it “is confident that a wider audience will now be able to understand and use them safely and effectively”. 

The publication was produced by an ITFA Working Group, comprising representatives from Absa,  Commerzbank, Lloyds Bank, Penningtons Manches Cooper, Sullivan & Worcester and Wagner International, amongst others.