21 May 2019

South Africa: Out With the Secure Solution - Banks Phasing Out Safety Deposit Boxes

Photo: Tim Evans/Unsplash
(file photo)

While movies like An Inside Man glamourise safe deposit boxes, the ongoing battle by FNB customers who suffered losses after the theft of their boxes in 2016, the costs involved in securing these boxes and the increasing digitisation of assets has caused SA's big banks to rethink their position: Safe deposit boxes are on their way out.

Any discussion on bank security boxes brings to mind underground vaults in grand Zurich banks where heroes and villains head, possibly to find clues as to their identity, like Jason Bourne, or to stash wads of cash, as Robert de Niro's character Ace did in Casino, or to find priceless Van Gogh paintings, as Spanish tax inspectors did in 2014.

The reality is possibly less exotic, but no less precious. Thousands of ordinary South Africans use safe deposit boxes to store items such as birth certificates, title deeds, contracts and sentimental photographs. They also entrust Krugerrands, watches, jewellery and cash -- both rands and foreign currency -- to the banks for safe-keeping.

But the banks are no longer willing to be the custodians of these treasures. Last week Nedbank told its clients that it was phasing out the provision of safe deposit boxes...

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