BPO/TSU versus Bolero

It seems my latest blog post (Why the BPO/TSU should be a big “YES THANK YOU”) created quite a number of comments.


Some related directly to the BPO/TSU. You may find those in the LinkedIn group “Supply Chain on SWIFT.”


Some however are related to the comparison I made between Bolero and the TSU/BPO.


The latter is the topic of this blog. First of all – it seems there is a need for some clarifications regarding Bolero – and secondly it occurs to me that the Bolero TSU/BPO comparison is far more relevant than I think anyone would like to admit.


Anyway – first things first: In the blog post I stated that:


“… Today there is an impression in the market that Bolero is yesterday’s news …”


This may well be “an impression” – and frankly it was my impression. However in order to balance things I share with you the following “actual up-to-date Bolero information” that has been shared with me:


1. Bolero has by far the largest community of banks transacting traditional trade finance corporate-bank with all but one of the top trade finance banks live on the platform.

2. The Bolero live system now processes over 400,000 transactions per month

3. There have been 30 new go-lives in Q2, and Q3 2012 (a go-live is a new/existing bank going live for the first time with a new/existing corporate customer).


As for Bolero SURF – it is so that the “SURF” brand name is no longer used. Rather it is regarded as a compliance and matching engine. Bolero have just reached the one millionth automated match on this engine for one of their large corporate customers.


So it seems that Bolero is still out there. I would be happy to hear further comments of course ….


So with that settled; I will share some weekend thoughts regarding the TSU/BPO – Bolero comparison: Many years back I argued that Bolero’s strategic approach to the market was wrong (for example in the article “Will the eUCP help electronic trade grow up?” in DCInsight Vol. 9 No.1 January-March 2003). Since then Bolero changed strategic approach completely. What is interesting is that it looks like SWIFT is making the same mistakes, which limited Bolero back in 2003, and which forced them to change approach … here is a few examples:


Just like Bolero anno 2003 the TSU is NOT a total solution; rather it provides the infrastructure, and relies on third parties to build the necessary applications to deliver value. This may be okay given that the “ecosystem” required to deliver value to the end-user is well defined, and has specifications of the components required to be built or integrated to make it work. It seems that for the TSU (as was the case with Bolero) this has been pushed “up-stream:” The banks must define the  “solutions” to meet the requirements of their corporate customers. These solutions must be according to the “standards” – and in a way so that it supports the need of their corporate customers. In general the banks are more focused on their own internal efficiencies than trying to understand how to solve their customers' problems. Sad but true … :-(


The solution assumes all participants will adopt immediately – i.e. all parties must be “on the same page,” just as it assumes mass adoption as a “standard” rather than being commercialised through early market adoption.


Just like Bolero anno 2003 the TSU looks like a theoretically elegant solution. But it must of course interface/interoperate with the real world – like real documents and other counterparty processes. For the TSU this is “handled” by simply defining it as “bank to bank space” thereby pushing the problem back to the corporate to work out how to deal with this. E.g. what to do about the original paper bill of lading?


It seems also – and I may be wrong – that for both Bolero anno 2003 and the TSU there has not been any real “buy-in” from the banks. Banks have been “afraid to miss the train” i.e. afraid that they missed the solution that later proved to become the standard; or they have simply been pushed by their corporate customers who scream for an electronic alternative to traditional trade finance.


I really hope that SWIFT knows what they are doing … that they have read the market right – and have an approach that will make the TSU/BPO successful. At this point in time It seems there are many “lessons-not-learned” from Bolero ..


I really really hope that I am wrong ….


Take care of each other – and the LC!



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