Bolero seeks more engagement with banks and Swift CEO Arthur Vonchek talks to FinanceAsia

You recently became CEO of, and at Sibos talked about a new direction and developing even closer ties with the banks. What is the thinking behind this?

Vonchek: When Bolero as a vision was first created there was an incorrect view, though I understand why, that this was going to be an all-or-nothing enclosed community, so everyone had to be on Bolero. I think as we developed the vision and the market caught up with us, we are now more focused on an open style solution. This means we are very able to link into, for example, banks' proprietary platforms, as well as external trade hubs, logistics providers and proprietary solutions.

A lot was written about Bolero a few years ago, but things have been quiet recently. Has the service lived up to the hype?

A lot was written about Bolero because the vision was very compelling, and it still is. That's one of the things that attracted me the CEO job in the middle of 2003. Where Bolero has failed is in promoting a vision without promoting the execution needed to get to that vision.

Talking to customers and partners it's obvious that no one has lost faith, but everyone is looking for more help with the journey towards that destination. We haven't had to change anything other than repackaging and refocusing ourselves on delivering the step-by-step means of getting to the Bolero vision, which may take between one and five years.

What kind of steps or execution goals do you have in place over the next 12 months to bring people closer to this vision?

We have five steps in our value roadmap, moving from simple acceleration of processes - making processes faster by using electronic documents - through automation and optimisation to true transformation. This is where we have full-scale vision of everyone dealing with everyone else in a bolero-enabled world.

The way we are now engaging is through the banks and helping banks tailor their trade services offerings to incorporate bolero as an engine to provide the incremental levels of value.

What kind of work is being done by banks to integrate the Bolero engine into their competitive offerings?

We work with many of the big trade banks. Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, ABN AMRO, UFJ Bank - they all have slightly different agendas. For JPMorgan the fundamental priority was to build Bolero connectivity into their comprehensive trade platform. But HSBC for example, has got a different approach, much more targeted at delivering a certain type of new trade services to a few key clients. So they've gone more for a focused delivery of value rather than a broad platform approach. And if you look at other banks you see a different mix of approaches. UFJ Bank is focused a lot on working through Bolero and linking with Korea Exchange Bank, and also some of the key banks in China, to have some reciprocal arrangements to offer multi-bank services in Asia.

What was the situation with the trade services working group formed by Swift?

That ended up being a good thing for us and provided some clarity, but initially it had some negative connotations. The group was set up by Swift on the back of pressure from the corporates to get the banks to be more aggressive in providing common trade services. So Swift put the working group together, which includes 10-12 very senior trade bankers who were picked from a range of banks globally. At first, Bolero wasn't involved.

Their goal was to come to some agreement on what a common trade utility should look like and for Swift to then provide some guidance on how that could be achieved. In August, Swift and Bolero then had an offsite meeting where those ideas were shared and Bolero was invited to comment and look at ways it might support that.

At Sibos the working group endorsed going ahead into a pilot phase with Bolero and Swift building the trade utility. It's still subject to board approval, but it's most likely that this utility will be in a live pilot mode during 2004 and we expect to have some positive reports about what we're doing at the next Sibos in Atlanta.

How does this gel with the competitive differentiation aspect of banks also using Bolero to serve customers in different ways?

The working group differentiated between collaborative space and competitive space. Collaborative space is the inter-bank sharing and matching of documents and base data elements. This is what the utility will provide. The competitive space is really the banks' relationships with their customers. Bolero has an involvement in both areas.

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