Mark Cudden is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of we.trade Innovation DAC, a secure digital platform that helps buyers and sellers trade goods and services across Europe. In this first instalment of we.trade’s ‘Leading the Way’ series, Mark shares we.trade’s commercialisation journey, their European and Global roadmap and how we.trade can help banks in Europe benefit from using digital trade solutions.
There are many considerations and complexities within banks when considering digital trade platforms within their organisation, to better sell and serve their clients. Included in this edition, Mark gives an overview of how we.trade can help banks with business case development, security, legal & compliance and how they can introduce new revenue opportunities not only for their bank but also their clients.
Q: What is we.trade’s ‘Leading the Way’ series
The ‘Leading the Way’ series is an online news article supplement that will be published in parallel to we.trade’s upcoming monthly virtual podcast series where leading industry professionals will come together, over a virtual coffee, to talk about a variety of global trade industry topics.
In our first edition we took the opportunity to check in directly with Mark Cudden, we.trade's CTO, to understand we.trade’s journey from beta to being live in production for over two years. Furthermore, Mark explains we.trade’s value proposition and current commercialisation status, their plans for the next 6-12 months and how we.trade can help banks and their clients generate new revenue streams.
Q: Get to know the interviewee: Tell us about yourself Mark, your background, personal interests, why you took the job in we.trade?
I am the CTO of we.trade Innovation DAC, the Joint Venture company owned by some of Europe’s largest banks.
I am responsible for we.trade’s technology strategy, design operating model and lead our Product Delivery and Technology teams here at we.trade.
I have held multiple leadership roles within small to large organisations in Europe, Asia, and the United States supporting multi-disciplinary teams in transformation, cost optimisation and operational improvement initiatives. I enjoy coaching organisations towards sustainable growth and instilling a high-performance and inclusive culture.
I am currently an active member of the Hyperledger community and a member of the Hyperledger Trade Finance Special Interest Group (SIG).
I have worked on numerous projects over the last 20+ years gaining a wealth of experience in engineering, architecture transitioning into leadership roles across a multitude of vertical sectors like Finance, Education, Government and Telecommunications. I have a master’s degree in web technologies, and I have been a keynote international speaker at industry events in Dublin, Paris, Tokyo, New York and virtually.
An avid whiskey collector: I have a whiskey collection of over 100 bottles. I also like to go hiking with my family and like to keep fit by jogging. I am also passionate about woodworking.
Mark Cudden — CTO we.trade
Q: Mark, could you give us an overview of we.trade in your own words and tell us about we.trade’s journey from beta to now being in live production for more than two years?
I have been with we.trade since the initial design and build phase. At that time, we were focussing on completing quality assurance (QA) of the initial product then transitioning to a pilot program with family and friends before moving into soft launch and finally into production. As you can imagine it was a remarkably interesting time to get involved with we.trade. We were building the world’s first blockchain-enabled trade finance platform and doing so in a heavily regulated environment.
There were so many things happening in parallel, ensuring our products, Auto-Settlement, Bank Payment Undertaking (BPU), BPU Financing and Invoice Financing) were working and fully tested. Ensuring the platform was stable, scalable and able to handle many transactions.
we.trade offers these services on a public cloud platform and for us to move from beta into the live production environment we achieved significant technical milestones on delivering high availability, disaster recovery, security, legal, regulatory and compliance adherence. We were also putting the final additions to our rulebook (a legal and regulatory framework under which transactions, bank guarantees and trade finance are executed on the platform).
Also, time to market was of the essence and a lot of work from many dedicated people helped us get into production. Today, we continue to evolve our platform, products, value-added services and value proposition to deliver on the requirements and needs of our direct (member banks) and indirect (member bank clients) customers.
Watch this space! We are not yet finished as we evaluate the market for opportunities to further scale and grow, whether that be with new customers in Europe or further afield in Asia, The Americas, or anywhere else in the world. Soon we.trade will offer further value-added services on the we.trade platform via additional 3rd party integrations. The world is our oyster!
Q: It seems the market is not clear on the different digital trade value propositions in the marketplace?
A lot of MSMEs, SMEs and Corporates transact on an open account basis. Open account trading of goods and services lends itself to more favourable outcomes to the buyer versus a substantial risk of default for the seller.
we.trade is a digital alternative to open account trading for MSMEs, SMEs and Corporates offering products that secures payment and finance in a straightforward way.
Our core products are;
Auto-Settlement: automatic payment-based transactions on pre-agreed conditions via smart digital contracts.
Bank Payment Undertaking (BPU): a credit guarantee of the buyer’s bank to make a payment to the seller.
BPU Financing: a financing option for the seller based on a confirmed guarantee of payment from the buyer’s bank.
Invoice Financing: a financing option for the seller based on a single sales invoice.
CRIF SkyMinder Solutions: global commercial credit and business information.
All governed through our Rulebook, a regulatory and legal framework under which trades are executed on the platform. This means more trust and more trade for everyone.
Mark Cudden — CTO we.trade
Q: The word ‘commercialisation’ has been a buzz word in the industry for some time now, what does it mean, and can you provide some key insights and challenges we.trade have experienced along the way?
Commercialisation can have a different meaning depending on who you speak with within any organisation! we.trade is a network and with a network, we have participants who operate at different speeds, some can operate at the speed of a locomotive whilst others at the speed of a scooter. From a platform perspective, we need to ensure the network is ready and capable of serving all who join at whatever speed they are comfortable with.
With all the hype, blockchain is still a relatively recent technology and given that we work in a heavily regulated environment where risks may come with financial penalties; we need to ensure the platform satisfies all our customers and their customer's needs.
There are synergies when working with banks, in that security, legal and compliance requirements are common and shared across all members. At times there are local regulations that require additional interpretation and understanding, but these necessary hurdles can be overcome by linking our existing pool of experts from we.trade’s member banks and helping banks looking to move away from the traditional way of trade finance operations to digitizing it. Think of it! Less paperwork, more time selling and serving your clients!
A great example from one of our many live customer success stories has seen many clients conduct their business with more than one bank account in the same country. As a new revenue stream for new banks joining the we.trade network with other banks in the same country will increase domestic market share. A super example of co-opetition and collaboration.
See below some of the key milestones we have achieved along our journey so far!
Q: Europe versus Global expansion: What is we.trade’s roadmap for the next 6-12 months?
we.trade’s initial focus has been solidifying our position in Europe by increasing the number of banks in each country where we are present to grow international and domestic trade of goods and services. For example, we.trade’s presence within the Czech Republic is now at circa 80% market share. It is important to say that we are not an elite club of the top banks in each country. We see the value and need in bringing as many banks as possible to the we.trade network to facilitate trading and help MSMEs, SME’s and Corporate grow their business!
Today, we.trade is a SaaS (Software as a Service) public cloud service. We run and host our services from a multitude of European data centres.
We understand that not everyone can sign up for services hosted in European data centres. So, to mitigate this, we have built a ‘Full Stack Solution’ that enables us to meet any local country regulatory requirements if this is a blocking item for your bank joining the we.trade network. This solution can be deployed in a data centre of your choosing in any location which can be later connected to the we.trade network. This will allow us to serve all banks and their specific needs. This brings to life our vision of implementing ‘the networks of networks effect.’
How can banks start their journey to trade digitalistion?
I would say to any bank that is looking to offer new digital trade solutions to their clients, to reach out to us here in we.trade and we can set up an introductory meeting with a demonstration of the platform. We will be more than happy to share our experience, based on real-life banking customer success stories and share key insights on how banks can generate new revenues lines and provide a better service for their clients.
During this introductory meeting, we can assess where you are in your digital trade journey and how we.trade can best cater to your needs. Follow up sessions regarding business case development, security, legal & compliance, pave the way to commercialise and realise new revenue opportunities on the we.trade platform.
Of course, we understand that all banks do not operate in the same way so at we.trade we have different programs on offer to make your we.trade journey as smooth as possible.