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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 October, 2003, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Worldpay's eight week wonder
Computer key
The procedure surprised Chris
Waiting for money to clear into your bank account can be frustrating, but for a small business it can be crippling.

Money Box speaks to one man, who was told he would have to wait up to eight weeks to receive payments.

Earlier this year, Chris Berry launched a business selling security cameras for companies and homes.

For a monthly fee he enables customers to view their property online from anywhere in the world.

What exactly was it going to do with the money during that eight week period? And what interest rate would it be paying me for holding onto - effectively - my own cash?"
Chris Berry

Keen to tap into the growing trend for online shopping, Chris wanted to find a way to sell his goods and services on the internet.

In order to do so, he needed a secure system in place to process customer payments. So he contacted his bank for advice, and was told about Worldpay.

Owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, Worldpay is a leading payment service provider giving people like Chris the technology to trade over the web.

After spending several weeks checking that his computers were compatible with the Worldpay system, Chris was told by Worldpay he would have to wait eight weeks before receiving his money.

This is known in the industry as the settlement period. But for Chris, it was very frustrating news. He told the programme:

"With cash flow being of vital importance to us that wound me up.

"What exactly was it going to do with the money during that eight week period? And what interest rate would it be paying me for holding on to - effectively - my own cash?"

Chris is not alone in thinking eight weeks is a long time to wait for money.

David Bishop from the Federation of Small Businesses estimates that one in four business failures are due to delayed payments.

And he said: "If there is a delay in money leaving one account and arriving in another account, then that is a large company making money on the back of its small business customers."

Risk assessment

Worldpay told Money Box that one of its most successful services is enabling small businesses to begin trading on the internet.

However, it says the risks it faces taking on these businesses are significant, and the settlement period has to account for this.

Typically, the settlement time is four weeks, but it can differ, depending on the risk assessment.

Worldpay also told Money Box that it earns interest on customers' money during the time it keeps hold of it. But it said this enables it to offer a keenly priced service.

Chris Berry feels that it was asking these questions of Worldpay which led to his account being closed.

He has now secured a new contract with HSBC, which offered him a three day service. It may end up costing him a bit more in charges, but it will help him maintain his cash flow.

Nat West, Abbey National and Alliance and Leicester also put small business customers in touch with Worldpay.

Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds meanwhile, offer their own web trading accounts, so there are various options available.

It is important to remember that all companies offer different charging structures which will suit different business needs.

There is a government website which can help work out which service is right for individual businesses, but it is important to check how long the settlement period will be.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 25 October, 2003 at 1204 BST.

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