Deutsche Bank's trade finance heads gathered in Hong Kong last week to launch InfoTrack, a system that allows importers and exporters to track information on their trade activities.
The system has been on trial in Singapore since November last year and is now being rolled out to the general client base. The trial involved at least two of the bank's multinational clients in the chemical and retail sectors – companies which process more than a couple of hundred trade transactions per month.
InfoTrack will track the activities of both buyers and sellers and those using letters of credit or trading on open account, giving them information on LC presentment and fulfilment, account transactions and documentation movements.
The system is the information component of Deutsche Bank's db-direct internet platform through which customers have been initiating trade transactions since the late 1990s.
Head of product management for Deutsche Bank's Asia trade team, Kah-Chye Tan, says one of the most common problems that sellers have in the trade process is tracking the issuance of letters of credit. "Our customer will say that they have not received the LC but the issuer is saying that they have issued it. There is often a big information gap between buyer and seller."
Tan says this information gap exists because buyers and sellers are using different banks. And he says InfoTrack helps to address these problems by not only making information available to Deutsche Bank customers but by allowing their suppliers to tap into the system too.
"As far as we know we are the first bank to expand our internet application beyond our customer base and bring the rest of the supply chain into the equation."
Tan explains that access to this sensitive trade data through InfoTrack has to be approved by the customer first. "Our customers have to give their suppliers permission to tap into the system, and they can customize what each particular customer sees so that they are not sharing everything with everybody. They can also specify whether they want the customer to see the bank charges, because this information can be particularly sensitive."
Andrea Chen, head of trade and risk services for Greater China at Deutsche Bank, says the difference between the old reporting capabilities of db-direct and the new InfoTrack is that the old system used to provide information in preformatted reports.
"InfoTrack allows customers to create their own report formats depending on what they want to track," said Chen. "We give them up to 100 possible column headings that they can select and mould into something that makes sense for them. This means people working in different departments such as accounts, credit or sales, can have their own spreadsheets. Customers can have access to these customized reports without having to log-on to InfoTrack."
Deutsche Bank claims that InfoTrack is 95% complete in its current format and covers nearly all of the information requirements of importers and exporters. Minor updates to the system will be conducted over time.