StarHub and Prudential Singapore have jointly announced a partnership to launch Fasttrack Trade (FTT) – billed as Singapore’s first digital trade platform for SMEs using blockchain technology.
FTT would allow SMEs to seek business partners and distributors, buy and sell goods, track shipments, receive and make payments, access financing and buy insurance via a single platform. The platform is being developed by FinTech startup Cites Gestion with funding from Prudential.
FTT is powered by distributed ledger technology which establishes trust among SMEs through the sharing of a common audit trail between counterparties on the platform.
Every transaction on FTT is recorded and traceable, making it not only safer but also faster and cheaper for SMEs to conduct trade transactions and access financing, StarHub says. For instance, for transaction values of between S$3,000 and S$20,000, an SME can get access to financing within 24 hours and insurance cover for its outstanding loan for premiums as low as S$20.
Under the partnership, StarHub will offer its enterprise customers access to FTT’s services while Prudential will offer insurance to help them mitigate business risks. The platform also provides alternative financing options to SMEs through Funding Societies, a peer-to-peer lender. More service providers in areas ranging from financing, business intelligence, payments and logistics are expected to join the FTT by the time it is commercially launched in the first quarter of 2018, StarHub says.
The partnership between Prudential and StarHub is also the beginning of a broader plan to create a digital B2B marketplace powered by StarHub that aims to bring together a network of service providers across multiple industries to support the business expansion of SMEs.
Stephanie Simonnet, chief partnerships distribution officer at Prudential Singapore, said that the insurer-telco-FinTech collaboration opens up opportunities for all parties to reach a wider customer base with innovative business solutions, and to share expertise.
“We are creating a digital ecosystem based on cross-industry collaboration that will transform commerce and drive the growth of enterprises. Convenient and affordable access to non-traditional sources of funding and to protection will help smaller businesses fulfil their growth ambitions and manage risk,” said Simonnet. “For Prudential, FTT will help drive engagement with a new group of enterprise customers.”
“In recent years, the role of telcos has evolved into much more than facilitating communications between people or businesses, said Dr Chong Yoke Sin, chief of StarHub’s Enterprise Business Group. “We ease adoption of digital solutions for enterprises by integrating partner solutions into our digital platform of offerings, to propel businesses in the digital economy.”
Agnes Hugot, CEO and co-founder of Cites Gestion, said the plan is to open up FTT to SMEs beyond Singapore. “We want to test the platform in Singapore and then bring it to emerging markets across Southeast Asia to enhance financial inclusion.”
Hugot said that there is currently a huge trade financing gap in Southeast Asia because of a lack of financing and access to business services, especially for smaller businesses. “A digital platform such as FTT could help boost the trade corridors in Southeast Asia, strengthen business communities and bring about significant economic benefits to everyone.”