The trusted network for global trade

Founded: January 2020

Products: Network built on R3’s Corda blockchain 

Overview: Contour is a global network of banks, corporates and ecosystem partners working together to transform trade finance. It started out as Voltron in 2018, being launched at that year’s SIBOS event in Sydney with a digital Letter of Credit (LC) solution.

Its blockchain-based platform was initially tested by around 80 banks and corporates, with trials in 17 countries, across sectors including commodities, petrochemicals, energy, metals, retail goods and textiles. It went into a commercial beta phase as a standalone legal entity in January 2020. 

Contour is built on R3’s Corda distributed ledger technology. This allows the development of a network where all participants keep their own data while transacting and sharing information securely with other participants on the network in real-time.

Negotiable instruments such as LCs that are registered on blockchain are acceptable in certain jurisdictions only; in others, documentation needs to be printed on paper and signed. A new legal framework therefore had to be created to enable the use of digital documentation. To counter this, Contour’s members and pilot testers worked collaboratively to develop a specific rulebook and membership agreement. The rulebook works alongside existing ICC Uniform Customs and Practices (UCP) for documentary credits.

Contour’s interoperability with shipping networks (eBL/port/customs) and trading networks gives corporate clients an end-to-end experience across trade, finance, execution and delivery elements. Active testing and live transactions with its LC launch product have been completed successfully in 17 countries. Testing of the network showed processing times falling by as much as 90% (from an average of 10 days to under 24 hours end-to-end). Other documentary trade products are planned.

The Contour network is accessible to the full spectrum of banks, corporates and integrator fintechs for trade finance. Having grown beyond its initial investor bank base, there is no differentiation on its platform between any investor and user. Network membership attracts a fee for banks, and then a per-transaction fee is levied for both corporates and banks.

A number of partners have since joined the platform inlculding Bolero and essDocs.

In March 2021, Contour expanded its footprint in China, announcing a partnership with locally-based international software consultancy, ThoughtWorks. The aim is to help domestic companies and their global trade partners integrate with the Contour Network, and extend their business reach abroad, by providing technical services.

In August 2021 Contour announced its partnership with the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) to offer an end-to-end digital solution for all participants involved in trading, financing and shipping goods around the world. GSBN’s blockchain-enabled operating system and its product Cargo Release enables digital sharing of verified logistics and cargo data.

Clients: Over 80 clients including Bangkok Bank, BNP Paribas, DBS, CTBC, HSBC, HDBank, ING, Standard Chartered, SEB, Alfa Bank, Standard Bank, Bank ABC, SMBC, Rio Tinto, Baosteel, 

Active region(s): Africa, Asia, Europe, North America

Partners: Partners including R3, Bolero, intellectEU, essDOCS, Chinsay, TradeCloud, Mphasis, CargoX, ThoughtWorks, Global Shipping Business Network

Employees: 22

Funding: Confidential

Ownership: Bangkok Bank, BNP, Citi Ventures, CTBC, HSBC, ING, SEB, Standard Chartered, Bain & Co, CryptoBLK, and R3 

Elevator pitch: “Paper-based processes need to be eradicated. Not only are they extremely outdated but they now pose a significant security risk – both to public health through transmission and privacy concerns as more people work remotely and utilise less secure servers. Our solution is accessible; it can work for a local bank or corporate in emerging markets, as well as a global trade finance bank or a multinational corporate in more developed markets. As an industry, we can fail alone or succeed together. The rising tide raises all boats, and through innovating as a collective, we can improve the overall process of trade finance.”

“Paper-based processes need to be eradicated…As an industry, we can fail alone or succeed together. The rising tide raises all boats, and through innovating as a collective, we can improve the overall process of trade finance.”


TMI View: Given that trade finance remains in the dark ages as far as paper usage is concerned, this platform and network shows a remarkable appetite from its many banking and corporate members to move forward into the digital age. In its short life to date, it has made some very interesting inroads into the trade space, especially in gathering support from some of the long-standing players such as Bolereo and essDocs. 

Verdict: Expect to see a lot more of this network.