The $9 trillion business of financing global trade needs to go digital, according to southeast Asia's second-biggest lender. Forgers have become so adept at faking documents used by banks that going paperless has become a necessity for the industry, said Ng Chuey Peng, managing director and head of global commodities finance at Singapore's Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd. (OCBC), the region's second-biggest bank by assets. Digitalization will also make the financing process more efficient, she said.

“Trade finance is due for a transformation,” Ng, who has over 20 years' experience in commodities, said in an interview in Singapore. “Going paperless has to happen.”

In the high-tech world of financial markets, the continued use of paper receipts in trade finance looks arcane. While some processes are already being digitalized, and banks and commodity traders are experimenting with blockchain technology, paper documentation remains widespread and the risk of fraud elevated.

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