Insight Associates provide outsourced accounting and Finance Director services to ambitious and growing businesses. We work as your only resource or with existing staff to give you complete financial support including monthly management accounts, high level financial advice, robust controls and financial systems, funding and business planning, payroll & compliance, VAT returns and statutory compliance.

Successful business leaders have all the information they need to make good decisions…Do You?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Is Online Banking Safe For Your Business?

Wherever the president of America goes, he (or soon, possibly, she) is accompanied by a military aide carrying the “nuclear football”. This is a metal briefcase in a black leather “jacket” with the launch codes for nuclear weapons.

I carry my briefcase myself – no military aide – and admittedly it’s not quite nuclear weapons, but I also never, ever leave the office without my own set of codes.
To be precise, I carry a bag full of different security devices to access each of the major banks’ online banking facilities, such as Barclay’s PINsentry and HSBC’s SecureKey. This means that if our clients need me to access their accounts for any reason, I can do so even on the go.

It’s actually so rare for one person to constantly use all the different banks’ online security systems, that we were contacted by HSBC in Canary Wharf, who wanted insight into our experience.

Without going into the details, I had a fair amount to tell them – because there are wide variations between the systems.

And that’s true for almost every aspect of Internet banking.

As you’ve probably noticed, banks are working hard to get their customers online as much as possible. They are closing hundreds of branches all over the country, a process that is likely to accelerate over the next decade.

It makes sense for them as it’s a much cheaper way of doing business.
It can also work for you because it’s quicker, more convenient and flexible.

But – and it’s a big but. Not all internet banking services are the same. In fact, there are lots of major differences. And they will not all equally suit your business.

Here are some things to consider:
  • What kind of payments can you make? Are there any restrictions on transaction sizes and do these fit your needs? What about foreign payments, if you do business with companies abroad?
  • Security: How secure is their system and what guards does the bank have in place against fraud?
  • For example, how easy is it to log onto your online account? Think about how you control access. Do they use a dongle, PIN sentry or another system which has to be physically plugged into a USB port?
  • Connected to that…..
  • ...Authorisation: How easy is it to authorise payments? Do you need dual authorisation or does the bank require just one person to allow a transaction to take place online? This can be important because you could unwittingly be giving a huge amount of authority to a relatively junior member of staff.
  • How much control do you have over your online users? If multiple users need to access your online account, can you give them different levels of access? Some banks, for example, will allow certain users to look at statements but not make payments. Others are an-all-or nothing proposition.
There is no right or wrong answer to any of this – it all depends on the nature of your business and your specific requirements.

What’s important is that, unlike most businesses, you think carefully about your bank’s online services, and whether they really do fulfil your needs. If not, it’s time to go shopping for a new bank.

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