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The ship has sailed for traditional banking

Efficiency, savings and simplicity enjoyed in personal finance are long overdue in maritime. Smarter banking will translate into commercial advantage

TAKE yourself back in time 10 years. You live in the UK and you’ve bought something from an eBay seller in Japan. How do you pay? Simple. You use PayPal. The platform allows you to send money quickly, with minimal cost and at an optimal rate of foreign exchange. Job done.

Now, back to the present day, and reality for the maritime industry.

You’re a UK shipowner paying for services related to a port call in Japan. So, how do you do it?

If it’s a one-off payment you contact your bank and arrange an international transaction, for which you typically have to pay a fee of anywhere between $10 at the low end, up to $30-$60. There’s then the issue of foreign exchange rates and costs, which are dictated by your bank. And usually the more exotic the currency, the more exotic the fees.

If your company has ongoing dealings with Japan, you may have already set up a Yen bank account, for which you have to pay fees, and deposited enough dollars to cover expected outgoings. Those regular deposits tie up funds, impacting business liquidity, while also carrying risk associated with fluctuating exchange rates.

In short, it is over-complicated, over-expensive and beyond the boundaries of belief that you still have an arcane system of payment in a digitally connected, globalised industry — an industry in which efficiency and cost control are key to unlocking competitive advantage.

Maritime banking services have failed to keep pace with consumer developments, driven largely by a new breed of financial firms and fintech solutions tailored to deliver ease of use, transparency and low cost. There is competition, innovation, and a desire to ‘democratise’ financial services, driving continual improvement.

Why can’t we learn from that arena? Shipping is already playing digital catch-up, with increased automation, big data analysis and greater connectivity, so maybe it’s time to address finance.

Many of the best consumer solutions empower single users by aligning them with others – giving them the advantage of trading as a group, rather than individuals, and thus unlocking economies of scale.

Huge companies such as Microsoft or GM can negotiate preferable rates with banks because of their volume of transactions. Your average shipping company cannot. However, if there was a single platform where companies traded as a unified ‘block’ they could enable these benefits, accessing optimal foreign exchange rates and driving down transaction costs to a mere fraction of what they pay now.

What’s more, by pushing all international payments onto a single secure digital platform, traditional banking channels could be side-stepped, and huge business efficiencies achieved. Users could enjoy greater transparency, less human error, new insights, and better corporate and data governance, with a standardised global approach. One they control.

Historically complex and difficult to track transactions would be streamlined and simplified: one channel, full visibility, and a way to instantly move money across borders, accounts and currencies. All at your fingertips, without traditional administration, and without traditional fees. This isn’t finance-science-fiction. It’s what we do as consumers today. And we can do the same in maritime.

Inchcape launched Smart Pay, in partnership with MoneyCorp, to empower this new reality. Shipping businesses shouldn’t have to live in the past. With digital solutions like Smart Pay we believe the industry can look to a more efficient, profitable and brighter payment future.

To find out more, click here.

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