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Can you still trust banks to keep your valuables safe?

Jan 15 2017 06:08
Staff reporter

Some FNB customers had a miserable festive season and start to 2017 after hundreds of safe-deposit boxes containing important documents, family heirlooms and other precious items were stolen following two heists at FNB’s Parktown branch on New Year’s Eve and Randburg branch earlier in December.

While bank clients may be wondering whether they should still trust banks to keep their valuables safe, it is still better to keep them in the bank’s vaults than at your home, says Soul Abraham, head of commercial lines at Mutual & Federal.

“According to crime statistics, it is more likely to lose valuable items in a home invasion or break-in than when they are kept in a safe-deposit box.

“Crime statistics also show that in 2015/16, there were 250 606 incidents of house robbery countrywide, which is an average of 688.6 houses burgled every day.

“In 2015, there were a total of 17 bank robberies and six in 2016 (note these figures are not necessarily theft of safe-deposit boxes). Therefore, in my view, it is still safe to keep precious items in a bank safe-deposit box or vault.”

Abraham has the following tips for those with expensive valuables in need of protection:

1Keep a detailed inventory of the items in the box, as well as photographs of these items.

2Keep valuation certificates and authentic documents in respect of each item separate from the deposit box.

3Compare the facilities that are available from both banks and private companies that supply the same services.

4Ensure that you inform your insurer that the items are kept in a safe-deposit box.

5Double-check the policy wording to determine the terms and conditions when items are kept and/or taken out of a safe-deposit box to ensure full cover is in place.

For peace of mind, you should still have your valuables insured, even if you store them in a bank or private company’s vault. You’re likely to get a fair rate for this too if you tell your insurer about how the items are being protected.

“Customers should insure items that are kept in a bank-security box. In most cases, the bank includes a clause in the contract that they will not be held liable or responsible for any theft, damage or destruction of any items.

“This would, of course, not apply if it is found that the loss or damage occurred as a result of the bank’s own gross negligence or fraud. In the event of a loss or damage, wherein it is found that the bank was not at fault, the policyholder could find themselves out of pocket,” says Abraham.

Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence, has promised to provide clients with answers.

“FNB assures its customers that it is giving the matter utmost priority and will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this criminal act.

“We are deploying additional resources to work hand in hand with law enforcement authorities on the investigation.”

FNB refused to state whether affected customers would be reimbursed in any way, adding that the police investigation prevented them from providing details.

“At this stage, there is no indication that the Parktown branch burglary is related to the one in Randburg.

"However, we are working closely with the SA Police Service and the Organised Crime Unit to thoroughly investigate the incidents.” 

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