FNB to close its safe custody box facilities

An FNB branch in Rosebank, Johannesburg. Image by: SUNDAY TIMES
First National Bank has decided to stop providing “safe custody” storage in its branches.

“The decision follows the bank’s regular review of service offerings to align with its business strategy‚ as well as the assessment of the product’s sustainability‚” the bank’s Lee-Anne van Zyl said on Monday.

There was no mention of the three highly publicised heists in three different FNB branches in the past 18 months‚ which saw thieves collectively making off with hundreds of safe custody boxes or their contents‚ sparking widespread distrust in the bank’s ability to safeguard its customers’ most precious possessions‚ and raising questions about the level of security provided at their facilities.

With immediate effect‚ Van Zyl said‚ FNB will not accept any new safe custody applications from existing or new customers‚ and will be notifying its private and business customers to collect their safe custody valuables by June 1‚ or June 30 at the very latest.

She refused to say how many safe custody boxes are currently being rented‚ compared with the number in mid-December‚ when news broke of the theft of 360 boxes being stolen from the Randburg branch.

Many people are said to have responded by collecting their valuables from safe custody boxes in branches of FNB and other banks‚ and closing their accounts.

Kelly Fraser‚ who spearheads the heist victims’ lobby group‚ said: “We support FNB’s recent decision to close down their safe custody box services.”

“It is regrettable that this review of their product offering‚ and what we assume was a post-heist product risk assessment‚ was not done at an earlier stage.”

Another victim was less measured in his comments on the group’s WhatsApp group.

“By doing this FNB is acknowledging they cannot shift the risk onto their customers using dodgy waivers any longer.

“This is not a viable product for banks – only vault specialists.”

Immediately after the December bank heists‚ the bank relied on its contractual small print‚ stating that it would not be legally responsible “for any loss or damage that may occur to the contents”‚ but facing massive pressure from some 200 victims who formed a lobby group‚ the bank’s stance softened.

FNB is now helping the victims apply and pay for replacement identity documents‚ paying the insurance excess for the few who had insured the contents of their boxes‚ and having “settlement discussions” with uninsured victims of the heists at its Randburg‚ Parktown and Sunnypark branches.

Wendy Knowler/TimesLIVE


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