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Major bank project aims to automate trade

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Reporter 5 minute read

A big four bank has unveiled a proof of concept combining artificial intelligence, blockchain, data analytics and the internet of things to automate business processes.

A proof of concept developed by the Westpac Institutional Bank Trade Finance team combines technologies such as AI, blockchain, data analytics and IoT to “digitise key areas of inventory management, procurement and trade”.

Specifically, the bank said that the proof of concept addresses pain points around “demand and price prediction, inventory management, forecasting and tracking”, with IoT used to track stock levels in real time, data analytics and AI to predict demand and pricing, and blockchain to create smart contracts and execute orders.

“Westpac has offered a glimpse into the future where a business can accurately predict the demand for products, optimise stock levels, identify the best time and place to buy, and fulfill the procurement and settlement in a completely digital way,” the major bank said.

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The proof of concept was built in collaboration with steel supplier Ausreo and IT services provider Infosys, with the purchase system created on R3’s blockchain platform, Corda.

Westpac customers IVE Group and Illuka Resources also provided insights during the development stage on how the technology could apply to different industries.

Speaking of the project, Ausreo chief financial officer Leon Valenti said: “Demand forecasting and inventory management are key processes for us, and we are always looking for the next innovation to improve the way we do business.

“The project highlighted how linking the four technologies was applicable to us, improving decision making and building better business practices. It shows us that ‘blue sky’ is closer than we thought.”

Didier Van Not, general manager and head of Westpac Corporate and Institutional Bank, said that the proof of concept provides “a glimpse into a world where mundane manual tasks will be automated and machines will support better decision making”.

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He added: “Providing our customers with the ability to maximise their working capital cycles and ensure the optimal levels of funding unleashes huge potential. The benefits extend to banking by providing insight into the entire value chain.”

However, Mr Van Not noted that the proof of concept is just that, with no market launch scheduled.

Westpac last year joined forces with ANZ Bank, IBM and shopping centre operator Scentre Group to trial a solution aimed at digitising the bank guarantee process for commercial property leasing. Through the use of blockchain technology, the major bank said in July last year that the solution eliminated the need for physical document management while alleviating pain points around the tracking and reporting of a guarantee’s status.

[Related: What the broker of the future could look like]

Major bank project aims to automate trade
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