ISBP 821 review


In our blog dated 25 October 2023 we highlighted that a small Working Group would review ISBP 821 in order to assess content in line with current market practice.


Work commenced 1st November 2023 and the Working Group will provide their report during the April 2024 Global Banking Commission Plenary session. 


Such a review will prove to be very useful to the industry but, provided the Banking Commission approve an update to content in April 2024, there are many other steps that must be taken into consideration at that stage. Merely updating the content of the publication is far from sufficient. 


In order to enhance ISBP 821, it is important to identify gaps and recommend improvements. Furthermore, it must be ensured that users globally have access to the publication, not least in markets where the financial cost of the publication can prove prohibitive. 


With this in mind, we have a number of suggestions which may be useful. It may well be that some of these be better catered for by a future review of UCP 700* or even a separate publication altogether. However, we take the opportunity to highlight them within this blog.


Gaps in ISBP 821

1. Clarity:
  - Identify and clarify ambiguous language or provisions that may lead to different interpretations.
  - Address areas where discrepancies or conflicts with UCP may arise.

2. Digitalisation:
  - Update ISBP 821 to include guidance on emerging trade practices and technologies.
  - Address issues related to electronic documents and digitalisation of trade.

3. Fraud:
  - Provide guidance on preventing fraud in documentary credit transactions.
  - Include best practices for document examination to identify potential fraudulent activities.

4. Expand to non-bankers:
  - Expand guidance to cater to non-bankers involved in document preparation and examination.
  - Provide clearer instructions for parties such as buyers, sellers, shippers, carriers, insurance agents, etc. 



Improvements for ISBP enhancement

1. Regular revisions and/or updates:
  - Establish a periodic review and revision process to keep ISBP aligned with ICC Opinions and changes in international trade practices.
  - Ensure that the publication is regularly updated to address evolving challenges and opportunities.

2. Incorporate digitalisation guidelines:
  - Integrate guidelines for the examination of electronic documents and the use of digital platforms in trade finance.
  - Clarify the treatment of electronic signatures and electronic records.

3. Enhanced guidance on compliance:
  - Strengthen guidance on compliance with international regulations.
  - Provide a framework for due diligence in document examination to ensure regulatory compliance.

4. Clarify treatment of non-documentary conditions:
  - Offer clearer guidance on the treatment of non-documentary conditions in documentary credits.
  - Address issues related to discrepancies in non-documentary conditions and their impact on the examination process.

5. Incorporate Case Studies and examples:
  - Include practical case studies and examples to illustrate the application of ISBP principles.
  - Provide real-world scenarios that can help users understand the nuances of document examination.

6. Expand coverage for Standby Letters of Credit:
  - Include specific guidelines for the examination of documents under Standby Credits.
  - Clarify any differences in the application of ISBP principles to Standby Credits.

7. User-Friendly Format:
  - Present the guidelines in a more user-friendly format, perhaps with flowcharts or visual aids to enhance comprehension.
  - Ensure that the language used is accessible to a wide audience, including those with varying levels of experience in trade finance.

8. By addressing these gaps and implementing these improvements, ISBP can become an even more valuable tool for practitioners involved in the examination of documents under documentary credits, providing clarity, guidance, and adaptability to the evolving landscape of international trade.



Practicalities for global users

Online accessibility

Provide digital access to ISBP 821 through an online platform or website. 

Translation services

Translate ISBP materials into local languages. This facilitates better understanding and adoption of the standards by a broader audience.

Collaboration with local institutions:

Partner with local banks, financial institutions, or regulatory bodies to promote and distribute ISBP. This can include joint training sessions, workshops, or awareness campaigns to educate users about the importance of ISBP in international trade.

Training Programs:

Conduct training programs or workshops in collaboration with local business associations, chambers of commerce, or industry groups. This helps in educating professionals and businesses about the significance of adhering to ISBP.


Consider cost-effective distribution methods to make ISBP materials affordable for users in emerging markets. This may involve subsidising costs, offering discounts, or exploring alternative distribution channels.

Mobile accessibility:

Recognise the prevalence of mobile devices. Ensure that ISBP materials are accessible through mobile-friendly platforms or apps to reach a broader audience.

Government support:

Engage with government bodies to integrate ISBP into relevant regulations or guidelines. This can enhance the official recognition and adoption of ISBP within the country's trade practices.

Awareness campaigns:

Run targeted awareness campaigns through various media channels, including social media, to reach a diverse audience and highlight the benefits of implementing ISBP standards.

Customised training materials:

Develop training materials that address the specific needs and challenges faced by businesses in emerging markets. Tailor the content to resonate with local practices and contexts.

Community engagement:

Foster a sense of community engagement by establishing forums or discussion groups where users can share experiences, ask questions, and learn from each other regarding the application of ISBP.

Combination of above strategies:

Combining all the above will enhance the accessibility of ISBP in all markets, ensuring that users have the knowledge and resources to apply such practices effectively.

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