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FNB heists call bank safety deposit box services into question

By Angelique Ruzicka

Hundreds of FNB customers had their valuables stolen in an elaborate bank heist at FNB’s Parktown branch on New Year’s Eve and the bank’s Randburg branch in early December). The Hawks are currently investigating both incidences but FNB insists that the cases aren’t related.

Reports have highlighted how customers have lost valuables, some worth hundreds of thousands of rands that are irreplaceable. Some thought their items were safe as they were locked away in a bank and may not have thought it was necessary to insure the items as well.

How safety deposit boxes work

Banks typically state on their terms and conditions that the bank would not be held liable for any theft, breakages or destruction of the items unless there is proof of negligence or fraud on the bank’s part. Banks can’t insure items that are given to them it for safekeeping because they are stored under a ‘contents unknown’, meaning that the bank won’t know what items are being stored. It’s not possible to insure items in such circumstances as insurers will want to know the risks and value of an item before offering cover.

It’s not clear if FNB will reimburse customers for their loss but the bank refused comment on it, adding that the police investigation prevented them from providing further details. “At this stage, there is no indication that the Parktown branch burglary is related to the Randburg one; however we are working closely with the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Organised Crime Unit to thoroughly investigate the incidents,” said Lee-Anne van Zyl, CEO of FNB Points of Presence.

Van Zyl 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’s safekeeping costs for 2017

FNB’s online price guide explains: “FNB offers to customers Safe Custody, a service whereby articles are lodged in sealed envelopes, deed boxes or safe deposit lockers for safe‑keeping in the branch.” The service is offered to FNB customers who have an active FNB transactional account but the Safe Custody services are only available at selected branches.

Below is FNB’s prices for 2017:

Source: FNB, correct as at 4 January 2017.


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