Leading professional services company Accenture formed a strategic alliance with Marco Polo Network (formerly TradeIX) in late 2019, having identified it as a multiparty system making significant strides in transforming the trade and supply chain finance space. Since then, the two have been collaborating and leveraging one another’s strengths to scale the Network’s capability to the benefit of both companies’ clients. In this next instalment of Marco Polo Network’s ‘The Innovator’ series, Melanie Cutlan, Managing Director & Co-Lead of Accenture Blockchain & Multiparty Systems, whose role it is to empower business ecosystems to come together in multiparty systems, shares an overview of the journey thus far.

Q: Accenture invested and formed a strategic alliance with Marco Polo Network back in 2019: can you provide an overview of how the partnership has progressed, and where you are today?

Cutlan: In the wake of global disruption this past year, numerous industries formed multiparty systems to co-innovate on solutions like contact tracing and frictionless payments. As businesses forge their post-pandemic strategies, multiparty systems technologies like distributed ledger will become the heart of a new kind of strategic ecosystem partnership – one that not only enables companies to address disruptions, but also creates new ways to approach a market and establish a leadership advantage in which enterprise success is inextricably tied to ecosystem success.

So how do you infuse innovative thinking into your ecosystem? How can you foster an environment in which participants can adapt to constant change with agility?

These are some of the questions that we are working with Marco Polo Network’s community to address in the global trade space.

Together, we’re working hard to scale Marco Polo Network’s capability to help our corporate clients achieve touchless payable and receivable processes within a secure and trusted environment – to ultimately transform how organisations conduct business with each other by applying the best thinking so the entire ecosystem can thrive long-term.

In this journey together in the past year, we’ve been exploring how Accenture’s core capability of managing finance and accounting processes, combined with the capabilities of Marco Polo Network, can help our clients unlock trapped value in data silos across key operational processes, including supply chain, procurement and treasury. We have also begun expanding our reach across other industry verticals such as banking, industrial and mobility.

Q: What drove Accenture’s decision to partner with Marco Polo Network specifically?

Cutlan: The World Economic Forum estimates that applying blockchain, the most common type of distributed ledger technology, could result in more than US$1tn of new trade in the next decade. Marko Polo Network´s solid grasp of blockchain architectures and momentum in building out these networks is what first attracted us. We also have several clients in common who share our excitement about its promise.

Working at the forefront of the global trade digitisation effort, we recognised the incredible impact Marco Polo Network was making in pioneering the ‘internet of trade’ by creating one of the world’s first open platforms for trade finance.

The Marco Polo platform for Working Capital Finance  and Payment Risk Management (formerly Payment Commitment) lets partners install and integrate the Network into ERP systems and gain access to an interoperable and collaborative environment where they can move capital and conduct business operations seamlessly with partners across the Network. The platform can help improve trade processing speeds by three to four times, increase working capital and liquidity by 20%, and decrease data entry and reconciliation by 80%.

In this particular case, efficiency stands out as a key benefit – and a valuable one. But these systems can be pushed even further. By guaranteeing a trusted and secure common environment, they generate equitable relationships amongst partners and lines of sight into previously masked areas of the value chain. This trust can immensely improve customer confidence – a pressing need in light of the anxieties created by the pandemic – and establish an environment that catalyses innovation for all participants.

“Working at the forefront of the global trade digitisation effort, we recognised the incredible impact Marco Polo Network was making in pioneering the ‘internet of trade’ by creating one of the world’s first open platforms for trade finance.”

Melanie Cutlan

Q: What’s Accenture’s role in the partnership, and more broadly in terms of helping to digitise global trade?

Cutlan: As part of the agreement, we are working with Marco Polo Network to bring to market new use cases, beyond trade finance in banking, and address the needs of buyers and sellers in finance and accounting supply chains. Together, we are developing touchless finance processes, such as procure-to-pay and order-to-cash.

Additionally, we are supporting Marco Polo Network as an implementation and business operations partner for the fast-growing platform.

We see the potential for Marco Polo Network to explore new use cases in global trade digitisation beyond banking and felt confident that by working together in this collaborative effort we could help our clients and their stakeholders to significantly increase productivity and decrease risk across their trade value chain.

This strategic relationship is helping Accenture to extend our capabilities for trade finance, finance, and accounting solutions in the effort to digitise global trade with distributed ledger technologies.

Q: What are some of the practical advantages of network approaches, or multiparty systems, for companies that engage in cross-border trade? Where do we want to get to?

Cutlan: Current trade relies on time-consuming, manual transaction processes that can be costly and hard to reconcile. Distributed ledger technology enables new ways to share data and the full automation of finance and accounting processes, increasing productivity and working capital while reducing overall risk for banking parties.

Marco Polo’s secure and connected application programming interface (API) connects with existing trade platforms to make trade transparent, faster and more efficient.

Marco Polo Network is facilitating interactions and creating value for all its participants, including financial institutions, their corporate clients, and the broader trade ecosystem.

In this new digital era, Accenture is all about pioneering the delivery and measurement of shared success with what we call ‘360-degree value’. That means delivering and measuring value for all stakeholders. Collaborative ecosystems have the potential to transform industries and make a real, positive impact on business and the world. Marco Polo Network is one of those ecosystems that is transforming their industry with the ecosystem methodology of shared success for all stakeholders involved.

Building on its solid foundation across the banking community, we see such a massive opportunity for Marco Polo Network to unlock trapped value in the global trade ecosystem and make shared success real and tangible for its Network participants.

Q: As Accenture’s blockchain lead, what future implementations of blockchain technology are you most excited about?

Cutlan: 90% of executives are now saying that multiparty systems will enable their ecosystems to forge a more resilient and adaptable foundation to create new value with their organisations’ partners (Accenture Technology Vision 2021). I’m incredibly excited to see this shift in the market from focusing solely on what distributed ledger technology can do and how it works, towards the business model mindset changes that can and must occur to enable us to work in collaborative ecosystems.

Multiparty systems are effecting deeply rooted transformation in the way business partners and industries operate. It’s so much more than a technology solution. Multiparty systems rebalance cooperation and benefits among participants, forge lines of transparency, and establish trust in ways that other systems are incapable of.

“Building on its solid foundation across the banking community, we see such a massive opportunity for Marco Polo Network to unlock trapped value in the global trade ecosystem and make shared success real and tangible for its Network participants.”

Melanie Cutlan

Melanie Cutlan is a managing director and global co-lead of Accenture’s Blockchain and Multiparty Systems practice. As part of the Tech Innovation leadership team, she is also responsible for exploring and developing technologies, advising on investments and acquisitions, and convening ecosystems to drive industry wide transformation. Throughout her 21-year career at Accenture, she has led large-scale transformations for Fortune 500 companies across a range of industries, including products, health, financial services and has deep expertise in the supply chain domain. Melanie also built and ran Accenture’s Tech Garage, advising Operations executives on the strategies by which to bring the next generation of emerging technologies and innovation.

Melanie has board assignments with Hyperledger, a Linux Foundation project and Marco Polo Network, a leading provider of technology for global trade and supply chains. She has been quoted in publications including the Silicon Republic, CoinDesk, Irish Independent, PYMNTS.com, BrandLab, and LedgerInsights. Melanie is a gifted and sought-after speaker, helping to bring complex topics to life at events including Consensus, Hyperledger Global Forum, SIBOS, Global Blockchain Summit, International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, International Women’s Day, and Women in Technology.