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Fraser Mackay from Barclays Bank answers some questions

Unlike big businesses, most small firms don't have departments dedicated to managing their finances. As a result, owner-managers might have to make frequent visits to the bank, taking up valuable time that could be spent doing other things.

Internet banking, however, allows you to save time and manage your finances 24-hours a day, seven days a week. So, how easy is it to do?

Fraser Mackay is head of marketing to small businesses at Barclays Bank. Here he talks to Tom Whitney about why small firms should be managing their bank accounts online.

What can internet banking offer small firms?
Fraser Mackay (FM): "It's flexible and convenient. It allows you to manage your banking activities remotely from anywhere that has internet access, giving you the time to focus on your key business activities.

"On average, owner-managers of small firms work more than 60 hours a week. They don't always have the time to go to their local branch. Internet banking cuts out much of the need to do this."

What services are available?
FM: "You can open new accounts, check balance and transaction information, as well as set up direct debits and standing orders. You can also send and receive online payments.

"By encouraging your customers to pay you online you can improve your cashflow. Online payments take just three working days to clear, whereas cheques can take up to five. Online payments can increase the efficiency of paying bills and transferring money to your suppliers and employees."

What customer support is available?
FM: "We provide a free dedicated telephone support team to small business customers that bank online from 7am to 11pm, five days a week. There's also a telephone helpdesk for any technical queries."

How secure is online banking?
FM: "Small firms shouldn't be deterred from banking online by security concerns. The risk is very small. Accounts are protected with usernames and passwords.

"And as long as customers take reasonable steps to protect themselves - by keeping their passwords secret - they would be reimbursed in the event of fraud."

bCentral tip: The security risks involved in online banking are generally quite low, as long as you take some precautions. Make sure you regularly check the computer you access your account from for viruses and spyware, and use a firewall. Online criminals might try and catch you out in other ways too, so make sure you use strong passwords. Keylogging software is another way people can find out your passwords - be particularly wary of this on public computers.

How much does it cost?
FM: "We used to charge both an up-front registration fee and an annual subscription, but now it's all free. In addition you can save money by paying your bills online, instead of sending cheques. As a business customer you get charged to process cheques - 25p per cheque you pay in and 54p per cheque you send. By making online payments you pay nothing."

What next?

Get more information on internet banking from our guide.

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