19 November 1999

E-banking eases the paperwork burden

By Louise Impey

ELECTRONIC banking is saving farmers time and money, while also allowing them to make better use of their funds and keep a tighter control of cash flow.

Nigel Parsons of farm computer specialists Landmark Systems, estimates that about 10% of his farmer clients already use a facility within the program to link to their banks computer to pay and receive money electronically.

"Taking the paperwork out of the system has huge benefits, both for the farmer and the bank," he says.

By contrast electronic banking allows the farmer to instruct the bank which bills to pay and when, via the farm office PC. Those instructions are picked up by the banks computer and the transactions completed.

"It costs about £10 a month to subscribe to the service and there is a transaction fee of about 28p a transaction. These figures may vary according to the bank used, but they compare very favourably with the charges of 60-70p made for paper transactions."

David Neal-Smith of Barclays Agricultural Banking agrees that electronic banking is gaining momentum. "Provided a PC and modem exist in the farm office, it is possible to both pay and receive money electronically, as well as keep up to date with balances.

Ken Jackson of HSBC says the growth in electronic banking reflects farmers and growers need for more control and information. "They can use it simply for cash management, or make it work harder and send and receive electronic payments." &#42

E-BANKING

&#8226 Offered by most banks.

&#8226 PC-based transactions.

&#8226 Improves cashflow.

&#8226 More convenient.

&#8226 Costs can be lower.

What do the users say about the system?

Oxon farm management consultant John Elliot has used electronic banking for 12 months. With a number of different farming agreements, including contract and share farming, all the accounts are co-ordinated through the office at Steeple Aston. Farm secretary, Sue Austin (right), keeps the computerised books up to date on Landmarks Key Accounts software and links into electronic banking for business payments, including wages.

"Once the system is set up, it offers considerable time savings."

Her initial research suggested electronic banking was cost-effective when more than 50 cheques are being issued each month. "And that was just for bank charges, it did not include the time saving factor."

North Kent grower and contractor Fred French used electronic banking with Landmarks Key Accounts last year, finding it saved him hours in the office and was much more convenient. "Provided your farm accounts software can be linked up to the bank, it is a much easier way of paying suppliers," he says. "And it lets me manage my own bank accounts when I want to."

Mr French attended a Barclays Bank seminar to see the system work before proceeding. "Barclays then supplied the disks needed and have given me good support when I needed it.

"I now have immediate access to my accounts, can transfer funds as they are required, and feel more in control of the financial situation."