Let’s talk about digital identity with Chris Southworth, Secretary General at the ICC United Kingdom and Oswald Kuyler, Global Head of Strategy at MonetaGo.

Join Oscar as he explores the Electronic Trade Documents Bill with Chris Southworth and Oscar Kuyler – including what the electronic trade documents bill is, its aims, benefits and how this is expected to be adopted globally to improve trade processes.

[Transcript below]

“The reality is that if you don’t solve identity, a lot of the inefficiencies generally won’t go away.”

Chris SouthworthChris Southworth is Secretary General at the ICC United Kingdom. Prior to joining ICC he was Executive Director for Global Partnerships, at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), Head of the International Chambers of Commerce Unit at UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and a Senior Policy Advisor to Lord Heseltine for his independent review of UK competitiveness. In 2011 he helped set up the mid-size business export programme at UKTI and was a Senior Policy Advisor for the 2011 Government Review of Mid-Size Businesses. Former roles have encompassed deregulatory policy at Better Regulation Executive, social enterprise policy at the Department for Business and stints in a local strategic partnership and the charity sector.

Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

Oswald KuylerOswald Kuyler is currently the Global Head of Strategy for MonetaGo, a fintech focused on global fraud prevention. Oswald is also a Digital standards advisor to the international chamber of commerce UK and is also the former Managing Director of the DSI. Oswald is the former Global Head of Data Strategy of BHP, the world’s largest diversified mining company. He has worked on initiatives covering blockchain, electronic documentation in trade, data and analytics, and automation.

Connect with Oswald on LinkedIn.

We’ll be continuing this conversation on Twitter using #LTADI – join us @ubisecure!

Go to our YouTube to watch the video transcript for this episode.

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Podcast transcript

Let’s Talk About Digital Identity, the podcast connecting identity and business. I am your host, Oscar Santolalla.

Oscar Santolalla: Hello, and thank you for joining this new episode. We often talk about digital transformation in this podcast. Actually one aspect that still needs to become more digital is commercial trade documents, in which there’s still a lot of paper. Today, our guests will tell us more about a game changing piece of legislation. So let’s welcome our guests, we have two guests today.

First of all, Chris Southworth, he is Secretary General at the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC, in the United Kingdom. Prior to joining ICC he was Executive Director for Global Partnerships at the British Chambers of Commerce, BCC, Head of the International Chamber of Commerce unit at the UK Trade and Investment, UKTI, and a Senior Policy Advisor to Lord Heseltine for his independent review of UK Competitiveness. Hello, Chris.

Chris Southworth: Good morning.

Oscar: Good morning. And our second guest is Oswald Kuyler. He’s currently the Global Head of Strategy for MonetaGo, a FinTech focused on global fraud prevention. Oswald is also a Digital Standards Adviser to the International Chamber of Commerce, UK. And he’s also the former Management Director of the ICC Digital Standards Initiative, DSI. He has worked on initiatives covering blockchain, electronic documentation in trade, data and analytics, and automation. Hello, Oswald.

Oswald Kuyler: Hi, how are you?

Oscar: Very good, happy to have you both in this conversation.

Oswald: Thank you for the invite. I really appreciate it.

Oscar: My pleasure. So, Chris and Oswald, let’s talk about digital identity. I would like to hear first from you, from both of you, tell us about yourself and your journey to this world of identity.

Chris: Sure, I mean, I should say that in the class of this conversation, I’m the co-chair of the Legal Reform Advisory Board and part of the leadership group at the ICC Digital Standards Initiative, and also the ICC representative to the Commonwealth, which is super relevant when we start talking about legislation and English law.

I mean, my background in digital trade really goes back to when I started getting really active around 2016-17, where we helped put together the ICC digital trade roadmap to get a framework in which we could be very clear with the actors of which there are many in the trading system of what needed to be done, by who, by when. And that was the beginning of, I think, a more structured conversation about how we go about the big task of digitalising world trade and ultimately contributed to the creation of the ICC Digital Standards Initiative, amongst other things, but also the Electronic Trade Documents Bill. So, it was quite a seminal piece of work.

And then since then, been very focused on our responsibility in the UK, because every jurisdiction needs to tackle this legal barrier in the document, trade documentation space, which is where national laws stipulate that commercial trade documents, that’s bills of lading, bills of exchange, promissory notes, those sorts of documents, there are eight actually in total, have to be handled on paper. And that’s largely because the laws in which we operate in trade go back a long time. In our case, in English law, it goes back to 1882 in the bills of exchange act.

So, it’s not surprising that that bill, which is a great piece of law, and we’re not proposing changing the law actually. All we’re doing with Electronic Trade Documents Bill is putting digital documentation or documents handled in digital form, I should say, on the same legal footing as paper documents. So, it’s actually quite a minor amendment in that, but there’s a lot more complexity behind that from a legal point of view, which is why it has taken, you know, nearly four or five years to come to fruition. So, we’re absolutely delighted that the bill has come into place.

And then alongside that, really working with the global community in the ICC Digital Standards Initiative, Oswald, and then in the UK case, with the creation of the UK Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation. You know, and the big questions there is how do we help drive a global campaign to every single government now asking them to very clearly to say that we need to remove the legal barrier to the handling of commercial trade documents. And then we need to align our national legal frameworks to what’s called the UNCITRAL Model or Electronic Transferable Records or MLETR in abbreviation terms. That’s really, really important. And unfortunately, you can’t do that at global level. Or, if you do, it have to be through the World Trade Organisation. And in the current political environment, that’s not realistic. So, it is a big task.

What I am really pleased to see now sort of forward tracking, you know, two or three years is we’re seeing real momentum, the G7 are really driving forward, the UK is obviously part of that, but the US have legislation, the Germans have legislation, the Chinese actually outside of the G7, are actively working on legislation. So, we’re starting to see the big economies now, really grasp the issue that we need to not just digitalise customs and trade facilitation where a lot of the focus has been. We need to allow the private sector, which is actually the largest share of trade, of course, because it is ultimately businesses that trade, to digitalise those documents. And that means we can get scale, we can start to really get interoperable systems into place where information can move in standard formats across platforms, systems, and processes across borders.

For anyone who’s not a sort of trade aficionado, it’s very easy to miss the sort of the reality of trade. You know, in our consumer lives, we all operate on mobile phones these days, life is pretty easy, you can tap your phone, you can get your bank details, you can do everything off your phone. And that’s simply because the systems are interoperable. It’s all standardised, doesn’t matter who your provider is, what network you’re on, the hardware and software all connects. Well, in the trade environment, none of it connects. It’s like, you know, the consumer world was 30, 40 years ago. And so, I call it the sort of Apple-Microsoft moment in trade where those two companies, and for anyone old enough to remember what it was like when those two didn’t talk to each other, it was – you had to choose one or the other.

You know, we’re at that moment when those two companies sat down, standardise their systems, and then our Word documents and all these other sort of practical pieces of information could just move across our hardware, software. Well, that’s the cusp we’re at so its super exciting. It’s, you know, effectively, we’re in the biggest transformational stage in world trade that I think we’ve ever seen in terms of the way we go about trade. It’s not just about digitalising eight documents, it’s about fundamentally changing the way we trade so it’s more efficient, you know, it’s click of a button money, goods, services, all move at the same time. And then ultimately, it’ll be about things like atomic settlement, digital currencies, you know, the transactions will happen in real time as the goods ship across the borders, rather than having to wait for two to three months at extraordinary cost and bureaucracy, because we’re all operating on paper.

And then I should just finalise, you know, just say how important this is to sustainability, because that also sometimes gets a bit missed. We can’t deliver a sustainable global economy until we get off paper. Because you can’t get transparent systems into place, you can’t aggregate the data, you can’t get a sense of real time what’s going on, where it’s going on in the trade corridors and supply chains until we get higher volume, accurate data, in digital systems. So, it’s a really important enabler to allow us then to kind of support the shift and transition towards ultimately a net zero economy but certainly more sustainable global value chains.

Oswald: Yeah, and maybe to build off of what Chris has just said, like, if I reflect a little bit on my journey on getting to the point where we are today, I used to work at a really big mining firm. And one of the key things we were actively trying to do is figure out how do we actually digitise whether it is our creative processes, with our customers, or with our suppliers and kind of what’s required to actually get that done. And we realise that if one of the largest miners in the world can’t achieve this, how are smaller companies actually going to enable the digitisation of these processes?

And to Chris’s point, there are many business cases and reasons why you actually want to do that. You know, whether it is for working capital reduction, whether it’s for ESG, and transparency, the list goes on and on and on. And a lot of these things just can’t be done using traditional paper mechanisms. And so, as a part of the journey, one of the things that Chris and I worked on a few months ago, was to try and put a lot of these things in context. And when you think about global trade, you know, 80%, and it sounds like a funny statistic, but I promise you it’s on the internet, 80% percent of global trade is actually supported by what we call trade finance. And if you have a look at trade finance, and it’s super important because it helps the world businesses actually execute business which is again foundational to having societies operate.

Now, when you think about trade finance. So how do banks really enable that? And it really comes down to really two core kind of buckets of things. The first is really, do I trust, or can I trust and identify the company or the companies that are involved in a trade transaction? And so, this is where identity and specifically the evolution of identity towards digital identity will play an absolutely key role.

The reality is that if you don’t solve identity, a lot of the inefficiencies generally won’t go away. And so, it’s fantastic seeing, even after the big global financial crash a few years ago, one of the first things that happened was GLEIF was formed, the LEI was established, you know, a lot of investments went into that. There are some additional standards that have matured and come out on the identity space, things like the W3Cs, DID specification. So, one of the things that motivated me quite a bit is this recognition that it’s not that we, as a society, need to spend another 10 years figuring out how do we solve identity. There’s a lot of great things out there. It’s more how do we actually mobilise people and businesses to actually adopt what’s out there and actually leverage it.

And the second bucket, which is just as important when you think about trade finance is the actual documents that are involved in trade. And Chris hit the nail on the head, the reality is, it’s very difficult to digitise trade documents if you don’t actually have some form of legal foundation, where you can actually transfer the possession of the documents in a way that is safe, a way that you can go into a court of law and dispute it, et cetera, et cetera. So, these two key areas are fundamentally critical. And it’s been a part of the journey that we’ve gone on, at least as a part of trying to figure out how do we contribute into the space.

Now, for your listeners, one of the key things I would highlight that Chris also touched on, because I think it’s so important, is the ICC produced a digital roadmap about four years ago. And I’ll never forget, when I left the mining company and I joined the International Chamber of Commerce, basically, it was such a fantastic foundational piece, because it highlighted all the key areas that required work, that required solving for, that industry, and government, public and private sector can actually focus on and say, “This is what we all need to do to solve the challenges so that not just the big companies can digitise trade but the smaller ones.”

Most importantly, who don’t have big innovation teams, who don’t have huge technology functions, who don’t have millions of dollars that they can allocate towards digital transformation agendas can actually digitise too as a part of this journey. And that’s been refreshed. I’m not sure Chris, if it’s yet released or not, but there’s a new roadmap, that is just brilliant. Again, it helps us all focus our efforts.

So that’s a little bit, at least at the macro level view from my side. You know, we need global trade to work. Businesses need that. Trade finance is foundational to enabling the world to trade. And digital identity and documents are the core pillars that enable global trade globally.

Chris: Yeah, this is touching on some really important points. I mean, and it links to what I was saying as well around antiquated systems. So, the role of the banks here is really important. I don’t think this is fully appreciated, actually, outside of the banking community. But in 9/11, that’s 20 years ago, at 9/11, I mean 2001, in came, you know, a huge wave of anti-terrorist financing regulation and legislation. We all understand why.

And then in 2008, financial crisis, in came another wave, anti-money laundering legislation, amongst other things. And again, capital requirements, you know, market stabilisation mechanisms. Again, we all understand why. But it came at an enormous cost. And ever since then, this particularly the financial crisis, we’ve been running at a 1.5 trillion trade finance gap. And what’s happened is the regulations have effectively tied the banks up in knots, in bureaucracy, having to verify, identify, and that’s all for legitimate reasons. The difference is, is the world’s moved on in terms of technology. All of those processes that the banks have to undertake, which nobody’s arguing with, can just be done so much more intelligently, with smarter use of technology, and it all hinges on identity.

If you can identify a company at the click of a button on a transparent register, you’re saving yourselves days, weeks, hours in time in checking, rechecking, verifications, duplication, every bank, there’s no central registry, outside of – well, I’m sure we’re going to talk about the GLEIF LEI register amongst other things.

So, you have to just – everybody has to check the same company in their own systems. And nobody gets transparency, what the other banks and other financial institutions do. None of that is necessary if we just use the Legal Entity Identifier model, which is digital identities. That’s absolutely crucial. And then it allows you, of course, to then start tackling other wider issues like fraud, VAT gaps, you know, governments are running huge VAT gaps in many areas, even in the UK, it’s 9 billion pounds. You know, in a world where government is short on public finance, like all governments, you’re looking for ways to generate more growth, economic growth and trade growth.

You know, we have a wonderful opportunity here by simply adopting, you know, the digital identity system and getting ourselves fit for purpose for the modern way of working in the trading system. And the digital identity is the absolute foundational core of that system. Without the identity, you can’t tackle the bureaucracy on verifications and anti-money laundering and KYC, all of this kind of stuff. You can’t tackle the fraud question well enough; you can’t tackle the VAT gap issue. It ticks multiple boxes in one go, and it’s not expensive.

The issue actually, that we get most feedback on in the corporate community is companies just don’t know they exist. And so, the first job is really to raise awareness, what is a digital identity? How can it help your business? And then importantly, how can you use it in your global supply chains? How do you work with your suppliers? So, you get total transparency, you can strip out all of that inefficiency, you can still meet all your regulatory requirements, but you’re just doing it in so much more efficient ways. And it’s just about using those technologies, enabling technology to help you run a more efficient, faster, quicker, simpler operation.

Oscar: Yeah, I can see definitely a lot of benefits and why we’re talking about this. So, it’s so important. Let’s go to the details. So, what is this bill? What is the Electronic Trade Documents Bill?

Chris: Well, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill is really an amendment of the two pieces of law, the Bills of Exchange Act in 1882, in English law, I should say, and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act in 1992. Now, clearly, those are out of date in the modern world of using technology.

So, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill is really quite simple. It’s putting commercial trade documents in digital form. And it’s important, it’s not digital documents, we’re not talking about PDFs here. We’re talking about getting the information off the paper and into the IT system. That’s basically what we’re talking about. But what the bill does is it puts commercial trade information in digital form on the same legal footing as paper. So, if there’s a dispute or companies are in a disagreement in a court, if you’re working on a blockchain platform, or a technology platform or system, that will stand up in court. That’s not the case at the moment. It has to be on paper. It has to be written, signed, and so on, and so forth.

And then it also stipulates which is important, the need for secure technology platforms to handle that information. And of course, that’s where solutions like blockchain come in. I don’t think actually blockchain is the only solution. But it is clearly a major part of the solution in the current trading system. But that’s obviously very, very important in terms of data security.

So, the law really doesn’t do much more than that. It’s only a page and a half, actually. People are surprised when they see it, because it looks deceptively small. It looks like really, almost a non-piece of legislation. But, you know, what’s important here is the disproportionate positive impact that will have, because it allows us to digitise the whole transactional space. So, at the moment, you can deal with digital certificates of origin, customs declarations, all of that kind of thing can pretty much be handled in digital form, that you can’t do the commercial trade transaction, which is actually the bigger more important aspect because that’s the actual handling of the goods, the finance, and the ownership when goods are crossing over borders.

So once those that legal barriers removed, it allows industry and government to start to really standardise the whole ecosystem. And that’s where we get paperless borders, frictionless borders. We still have to undergo the processes, you still have to do a transaction but you can do it in a radically shorter periods of time. You can do it without any of the process that you currently have to do. You know, there are 27 documents, 30 documents in total that companies are having to handle. It can take up to two to three months. It can cost in total, easily $80,000 or more plus, when you add it all up. It’s an extremely expensive business. And obviously, it’s hugely bureaucratic.

There was one example in the pandemic that really just highlighted all of this in one situation. And that was when the first wave of the pandemic was hitting the global economy. We were all going into lockdown, but our ships had left the ports. So, in the UK context, you know, our ships have left the southern ports, and we’re heading out to the east, to the Chinese ports through Singapore. And then three weeks later, we all got bombarded across the media with, you know, this huge logjam, traffic jam of ships sitting in Singapore. None of them could dock in, none of the goods could get in to port. And that was because all the documents were sitting in brown envelopes at Heathrow Airport, because all the airplanes had been grounded.

Well, that was completely unnecessary. Really, all of those documents, that information should have been in the system, the digital system, and then the transactions could have actually happened in real time. And that delay, and all the disruption which we’re still feeling today for consumers, businesses, and everybody should really have never happened at that scale. That’s the kind of impact we’re talking about by the Electronic Trade Documents Bill.

And then in the English context, English law context, obviously, this is going to be – have a dramatic effects and positive effects on the UK trading system. But actually, the more exciting aspect of this for me is the Commonwealth. Because we have 53 countries who all share almost word for word the same pieces of English law. And so, the Electronic Trade Documents Bill suddenly opens up the opportunities to accelerate that legal reform process across 53 countries. I think faster than any other global network can achieve it. Because we simply share the same legal basis. That’s one of the huge advantages of the Commonwealth.

So, then it starts to get really exciting because it starts to happen at scale across big economies like India, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, obviously, and then actually huge swathes of Africa as well, don’t forget. So that’s the big opportunity come mid next year, once we’ve got the law in place in the UK, certainly my mind is absolutely switching on to that global environment. And by the way, even the Chinese, the Thais, we’re working with the Thai government at the moment on helping them with their legislation. You know, they’re also interested in the Electronic Trade Documents Bill. There are translatable aspects of that bill, that can be not necessarily copied and pasted but certainly the principles can be drawn across into other legal systems.

So, you know, to put this in context of documents, 80% of bills of lading worldwide are all operating on English law. So English law, and that’s a part of our heritage, our history, our legacy in the world. English was a disproportionately larger impact on trade than any other law in the world. So, the English law piece is crucially important. And that’s why we’ve put so much energy into it.

So, it’s really exciting in terms of stage, we’re at the second, what they call, the second reading it’s the second, you know, the sort of series of committees and forums that you have to go through in Parliament. It’s on a fast-track procedure through Parliament, which is good. We don’t have to have a whole year in Parliament discussing it. We’ve had two readings, we’re into the third, but by the middle of next year, we’re expecting it to come into force. And that means no more requirements for paper on any documentation in the UK. The whole UK system can go digital, and then we can really switch on to work with our trading partners.

By the way, the UK Government is wiring all of this into our trade corridors. So, every single trade negotiation at the moment with UK has commitments in the negotiations to go digital to adopt, align our legal systems, I should say to the MLETR framework. So, you know, it’s pushing out digital corridor, just like the Singaporeans have been doing for quite some time. You know, the UK is now starting to do that in the western hemisphere. And then obviously, in due course, the Germans, the US and everyone else will start doing it too. And then the world system will start changing at a rapid, more rapid pace.

Oscar: Yeah, that’s something that clearly, I was thinking of asking you, OK, this is in the UK, it’s going to be in place next year in the UK, thinking first one single country, but now that you explain that already spills to many countries, and with the influence that you mentioned, that has the English law in even more jurisdiction is quite impressive.

Chris: Yeah, it’s not just jurisdictions actually because like, say sort of bills of lading, 80% of those operate in English law. But a lot of international contract law is actually using English law. So, there’s a lot of private sector transactional work in all parts of the world that is actually operating on English law. I mean it’s a bit deceptive in a way because you naturally think English law is England, or even Wales, I should say. It doesn’t operate like that. English law kind of has this enormous global reach into sectors, industries, jurisdictions. That’s the really exciting aspect of this Electronic Trade Documents Bill is the scale, the scale of opportunity that it opens up.

Oswald: And maybe Oscar, to double click on what Chris was just said and to build on that is today, there’s a bunch of form platforms that enables people to try to digitise, you know, trade processes. And fundamentally, what they all are based on are these private law agreements, where the two of us sign a contract and say, sure, you know, if I email you this document, or if my system says you possess it, based on the private contract you have some form of recourse. But the problem with that at the top end, so if you imagine you’re a big multinational companies, you have to go convince your entire ecosystem. So, all your suppliers, all of your banks, all of your customers, everyone to sign up to the exact same legal agreement to say this is how we’re all going to operate. And what we’ve seen is really two or three consequences of that.

Firstly, the banks are sitting in a position where they are almost forced to sign up to every single one, because they fundamentally enable trade, and it’s exceptionally difficult to navigate that complexity. The second challenge is, when you think about it in practical terms, if you have, let’s say, two of the largest mining companies in the world, one deciding to use Platform A and another one deciding to use Platform B. You end up in a situation where suppliers and especially the smaller companies are put in a position where if they wanted to engage with those mining companies, now all of a sudden, they have to be onboarded onto multiple platforms, pay more money, teach a smaller workforce how to deal with more systems, and it just doesn’t scale. And the reality is, if you don’t sign up to all of the agreements, you have no legal recourse. And that’s why we’ve been stuck at about 1-2% of trade digitisation globally for the last two decades.

The second portion, and again, this is where identity really comes in. It blows my mind when you think about it. Every single one is the existing digital trade platforms, whether its internal supplier relationship management systems, customer relationship management systems, ERP, identity is done in completely different ways today. It’s not standards based. And some of these systems were designed 20 years ago. So, a lot of the cases identity was designed by some architect that just went and said, “OK, it’s going to be a string 256 field, and people can type in whatever they want to.”

And so, what ends up happening is as you go through a supply chain, to Chris’s point, every single part of that supply chain has to recheck identity, there’s no sharing of it, because there’s no, you know, there’s no alignment, agreement, governance, et cetera, on how that needs to be done. And by using digital identity and all the promises that it entails, again, you can remove a lot of that inefficiencies. And it’s not just that we want to remove that just purely for the banks, who I firmly believe are desperate for servicing more customers. It’s not like bankers wake up in the morning and saying, “I don’t want to serve more businesses.” But this is important for those SMEs who are just so small that when a bank looks at them, and goes, “I really want to finance this, but if it’s going to cost me that much just to verify the identity of a company, it’s very difficult to extend financing into that space.”

So, my closing thoughts on what Chris also said is, when it comes to English law, let’s also not forget that, and I would argue the vast majority of trade digitisation systems are either UK-based or leveraging English law too, which is another component of this. So [A] for all of those companies who have already invested in trying to digitise trade, once English law moves, they’ll get that benefit because it would be baked in. But then more importantly, those smaller companies who go, “You know what? I don’t necessarily potentially want to use a FinTech to digitise my trade. Maybe I just want to use email, WhatsApp, SharePoint, whatever it might be.” English law will give them the freedom to make those decisions with their supply chains, which I think is desperately needed.

Chris: Yeah, we’re not the only ones of course here. So, there’s a couple of important points here. The France is important. So, France is actively now moving to working on legislation. They’ve already identified the legal barriers. That’s the first stage. The second stage is now to draft a legislation. But of course, you know, surprise, surprise many of the Francophone countries around the world like West Africa, they’re following the same laws as France. So, and then Hispanic, huge parts of Latin America following the same basis in law.

So English law obviously operates in a slightly disproportionate impact beyond just the legal jurisdictions as Oswald has just said. But other parts, other country and other countries and their legal systems playing a crucially important role here. If we’re going to have changed in Latin America at scale, legally, then we really need to kind of have that model like the Electronic Trade Documents Bill equivalent, you could almost replicate or at least use that as a reference point.

It’s a very, very good point that Oswald just referenced. And this is a core, really for corporates so if there’s anyone who’s listening to this, as a corporate, from my perspective, I’m very much looking at this whole digital identity in the UK context, because I think it’s a great case study. And it helps us understand what’s going on and other markets. So, we know every listed company has a digital identity, because the regulation says they have to, in order to trade on the market. So, we know the corporate is gone.

So, the first question is, who registered for that digital identity? That’s a board director. So that’s upstairs, somebody has done the process and put their signature and got an LEI. The person who manages that, is the company secretary, also upstairs in the boardroom environment somewhere. And then we also know, they’re not using it in the supply chain. So, they’re fulfilling a regulatory requirement. Absolutely right. But they’re not utilising it to its full benefit. And that’s because that digital identity hasn’t travelled downstairs to the procurement managers, the supply chain managers, the buyers, and so on, and so forth, who can then deploy this at scale through their global supply chain to Oswald’s point, really. And then really encouraging all that supply chain to adopt an LEI. And then you’ve got full transparency, you know, exactly who is who in that system at the click of a button on one transparent register. It’s that simple.

By the way, it’s 30 pounds a year. Cost, it’s not a cost issue. This is not expensive at all. It’s just understanding what a digital identity is, how you get one, and importantly, how you utilise it. But if you imagine 30% of the major listed companies in the FTSE 100, for instance, big international trading companies all use the digital identity through their global value chain, that would be the equivalent of what half a million up to a million businesses, all using LEIs and digital identities. That’s the sort of transformational impact that we’re talking about. And that’s the kind of strategic thinking that we need to apply in order to really get momentum around the use of these digital identities. And then with all the growth benefits that come with it, which Oswald has already set out.

Oscar: Yeah, it’s really impressive. And thanks a lot for enlightening us about this very influential bill that it’s already almost flying, right? So, I will ask a final question for both of you, for all business leaders listening to us now, what is the one actionable idea that they should write on their agendas today?

Oswald: So in practical terms, what I would say is, have a look at your five-year plan, one-year plan, whatever your projects are for the next five years that you’re going to do, especially for at a big company, look at them, and recognise that quite a few of the opportunities in front of you are ecosystem-based opportunities where you need to work with whether it’s customers, banks, your carriers, your, you know, governments or whatever. You need to work with a broader group to actually get to that value.

And so, my view would be is go into, tell your teams say, “Hey, there’s an ICC standards toolkit. And this toolkit, it highlights all the standards, whether it’s identity of objects, identity of subjects, whether it’s title documents, whether it’s non-title documents. Build off that. Whatever we’re building because it means that we can engage an ecosystem way more efficiently.”

And then the second item is if I am a smaller company, and I don’t necessarily have these innovation budgets and projects, et cetera, et cetera, to Chris’s earlier point, there is something like an LEI, for example, which is digital identity, leveraging that and baking that into either getting it today, or putting it in your budget for next year so you can get it next year. These things will become increasingly more important for banks because it will help them shorten the amount of time required to do KYC on you so you will get the value benefit. Just make sure you’ve budgeted for it, make sure you understand it, and you’ll get the value from that.

Chris: Yeah, I completely agree with that. You know, in terms of a call to action, you’re a CEO, a CFO, a supply chain manager, in the legal department, General Counsel, you’ve got a massive opportunity here to really improve the way that you’re trading across your supply chain. And that means doing things cheaper, faster, simpler in the main but ultimately also about moving to a more sustainable system where you get more transparency and security through your value chain.

The answer is simply if you’re a listed company, go find your LEI, sit down with your supply chain manager and your bank and finances, and then really talk, have that utilisation conversation. How can I use this number to better effect to drive those sorts of benefits through the business? If you’re not a listed company, go get an LEI, you can do that through the Centre for Digital Trade and Innovation, that’s www.c4dti.co.uk. It’s 30 pounds to register. You can do it through the centre very, very easy. We’ve tried to strip away that ease.

If you’re in another jurisdiction, you can go to the Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation, GLEIF as it’s called. There’s a global register, there’s a list of all the issuers in the world, there are 35 of those. So, you can find the issuer of digital identities in your jurisdiction or region. About eight of those are global issuers. It’s very, very easy. Go get your LEI. It’s cheap, it drives massive benefit to your system. And most importantly, all trade will require in due course, digital identities. So that is 100% the future, the quicker we start to adopt them and use them, the faster we can get to that end outcome, which I think we all want.

Oscar: Yes, thank you. And if someone would like to get in touch with you or learn more about the work you’re doing, what are the best ways?

Chris: Well, for me, it’s as simple you know, just get in contact, I think in the context of this conversation, the Centre for Digital Trade Innovation, you can do that through [email protected]. We’re easily findable on the websites, on social media, just get in touch, LinkedIn, happy to help. We’re here to support industry. Ultimately, our job is to try and accelerate that digital transformation over the coming years. Users, we’re set up here to help you, come ask and let’s do it and we’ll help make that happen.

Oswald: So, fully aligned to Chris, the Centre for Future Trade and Innovation, reach out. If you can’t find the website, find us on LinkedIn, both Chris and I are there. We can kind of move you towards that. That should be your go-to.

Oscar: Perfect. Again, thank you for this very interesting conversation and all the best.

Oswald: Thank you.

Chris: Thank you, thanks.

Thanks for listening to this episode of Let’s Talk About Digital Identity produced by Ubisecure. Stay up-to-date with episode at ubisecure.com/podcast or join us on Twitter @ubisecure and use the #LTADI. Until next time.