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Currency trading comes online

Thomas Cook and Netscape are teaming up to offer a "virtual trading desk" that lets users manage international payments and buy foreign currency.

Currency trading is coming to the Net.

Thomas Cook and Netscape Communications (NSCP) said today they are teaming up to offer a "virtual trading desk" that lets Cook's enterprise customers manage international payments and buy foreign currency.

The system relies on Netscape software. Netscape also said today it also is the first corporate customer to use the service, but more than 20 corporate customers are following suit.

The virtual currency trading site is another example of the Net's growing role in financial transactions. A myriad of stock-trading services are now available online. The Net is seen as a low-cost distribution network to compete with traditional trading outlets, yet some potential users still worry about the security of their transactions. Companies maintain the networks are secure.

The first phase of the new service is being offered to Cook's corporate customers in North America. Customers receive a special password, and once logging onto the site, they can order money wires, drafts, and obtain currency quotes online.

The service also has a help center to assist would-be users in the process.

"Our customers need real-time online convenience for their transactions because it saves critical time and lets employees focus on other aspects of their jobs," said Yasser El-Riffaey, senior vice president and general manager of corporate financial services at Thomas Cook.