Credit Management: Knowledge Is Power - and Money
Bibby, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
IF INFORMATION is power, business information may also be money: generated by identifying new trading opportunities, or saved by better credit control.
Commercial information providers have developed on-line databases which hold data and financial analysis on trading companies. The technology is not necessarily only for large players; a small user who has linked up their PC to the telephone network through a modem can also gain access to details about their competitors, customers or suppliers.
The market for this type of information provision is crowded and competitive, but the need for their services is considerable. Neill MacKinnon, ICC sales director, runs through the list of potential clients: "People like management consultants, merchant banks, firms of accountants and their consultancy arms, the big firms of solicitors and so on," he says.
Information providers vary in their services and pricing structures, but in each case the core of their data comes from the records limited companies have to file at Companies House. Companies House has slowly been extending the methods of public access to its information, and for the past three years has offered an on-line service, Companies House Direct.
On-line users can check a company's name and registered office, its trading status, accounting date and date of last filed returns. A separate Directors' Register offers information on over four million company directors and secretaries.
However, Companies House Direct only has about 1,000 users. It suffers, perhaps, from being only available to subscribers of Mercury 5000's Business Information Services, who pay a one-off pounds 40, a pounds 40 annual subscription and a further 40p a minute when accessing Companies House information. …