The adoption of distributed ledger technology in trade and export finance operations of Swedish banks

University essay from KTH/Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.); KTH/Industriell ekonomi och organisation (Inst.)

Abstract: Centralized data storage and reconciliation by trusted intermediaries has historically put financial systems in the hands of a single central parties. The emergence of bitcoin and blockchain, combined with the 2008 financial crisis, has shifted the Swedish financial sector’s traditional perspectives on democratization, centralization, transparency and automation. Trade and export finance is one of many sectors investigating how blockchain and distributed ledger technology can be used other than as a digital currency system. Swedish trade and export finance connects importers, exporters, banks, credit providers, customs, and transporters into a fragmented and complex process with many stakeholders. Sweden further has a history of quickly adopting technological innovations. Banks therefore face a dynamic environment and an inconsistent, manual operative process that removes profitability incentives in providing small enterprises with credit. The adoption of DLT could provide efficiency gains and cost savings in administration, communication, reconciliation and accounting. In this thesis, the costs, benefits, and remaining barriers of implementing distributed ledger technology in Swedish trade finance are identified. Further, Swedish contextual factors’ effect on the rate of adoption is addressed. The chosen methodology of deep interviews and thorough studying of literature provides an assessment of the potential transition dynamics, forming a foundation for future investment decisions. The conclusions drawn suggest that the main costs related to adoption lie in research and development and implementation. R&D costs for distributed ledgers in the Swedish financial sector during 2019 were approximated to USD 40 million. The main benefits of automation, efficiency and reduced level of complexity were concluded to likely outweigh the costs within approximately ten to twenty years. Experience will allow companies to optimize governance structures and consensus mechanisms, while learning to expose parts of networks into public space. The innovative, adaptive Swedish market environment presumably enables faster than average diffusion of innovation, while remaining barriers in cooperation, trust, interoperability and regulation may extend the adoption process

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