Thomas Cook trials foreign exchange over the Internet

Thomas Cook Foreign Exchange is piloting a system for making foreign currency payments via the Internet. Thomas Cook customers in New Zealand and Australia are trialling the system, dubbed the virtual trading desk (VTD), with a launch planned for next year. A spokesman says it is not designed to compete with the major trading banks' forthcoming online system.

Thomas Cook Foreign Exchange is piloting a system for making foreign currency payments via the Internet.

Thomas Cook customers in New Zealand and Australia are trialling the system, dubbed the virtual trading desk (VTD), with a launch planned for next year.

Nathan McCracken, Thomas Cook product manager for commercial foreign exchange, says the VTD system was designed as an additional delivery channel to make international foreign currency payments — not as a service replacement. He says it is not designed to compete with the major trading banks' forthcoming online system.

"It's a new way of delivering foreign exchange to small and medium[-sized] enterprises. It's aimed at our niche market of clients, which is small to medium-sized importers and exporters."

McCracken says when the system laun-ches, there will also be the ability to buy using foreign currency and Thomas Cook is working on compliance with the euro mone-tary unit.

Thomas Cook claims VTD, which is currently offered in the US, UK and Canada, is the world's first online foreign exchange trading system. Authorised customers will be able to make international payments by either foreign currency draft or telegraphic transfer (wire). They will logon with a password, select a transaction and enter payment details. The transaction is confirmed and then processed. All transactions can be viewed and reports of previous transactions can be generated.

McCracken says using the system, as opposed to current methods of phoning and faxing, will also encourage good business practice. Customers can take reports and management information off the system, there is added security not only in terms of encryption (40-bit until the US government allows exportation of 128-bit encryption) but also in terms of password protection and ease of use.

"People who have to send hundreds of drafts and telegraphic transfers will be able to use templates.

"Because it uses email, payments are confirmed within two minutes. Usually this takes about an hour."

A further benefit is that VTD is available 24 hours a day online from any computer. "So if the financial controller is travelling or away on business they can still make payments as long as they have access to a PC," he says.

Meanwhile, ANZ New Zealand with ANZ Australia and the BNZ — through its owner National Australia Bank — are also piloting Internet-based foreign exchange dealing. The banks are using a service based on the global foreign exchange network Reuters DealWeb.

A demo of the Virtual Trading Desk is available at www.fx4business.com/vtddemo

/vtd.html.

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