Thoughts On Safe Deposit Box Article By The Straits Times

Yesterday I came across an article on The Straits Times (Singapore) website entitled “Time to part ways with safe deposit boxes.” Business editor Lee Su Shyan wrote Sunday:

Growing up, having a safe deposit box symbolised financial adulthood, even more than scoring that exclusive credit card.

But that’s not a view shared by many nowadays. I did a casual check among friends and colleagues whom I met over the Chinese New Year period and only a couple owned up to having a box. Others said: “I don’t, but my mother has one.”

It’s probably the hassle that has contributed to the decline in popularity. Access is only at limited times, although the hours are certainly longer at non-bank locations such as that of Certis Cisco.

Then there is the issue of the rental rate. Even if it’s not a large sum, it’s still a few hundred dollars annually.

Banks, too, are apparently none too keen on encouraging customers to have one. They take up precious space and offer a poor return on capital.

A couple of years ago, a report by the Swiss authorities highlighted the growth of non-bank safe deposit box companies, with some quarters questioning their rapid expansion. Apparently, many customers were using them for stashing gold and valuables. Since the contents are known only to their owners, these boxes could pose a money-laundering risk…

Some thoughts about the piece:

1. Longer operating hours are indeed often found at private safe deposit box facilities. Certis Cisco in Singapore, for example, is open 365 days a year and up to 12 hours a day according to their website.

2. “Banks, too, are apparently none too keen on encouraging customers to have one.” The Times’ Rachel Boon reported on April 22, 2015, that “banks cut back on safe deposit box services in land-scarce Singapore,” with HSBC and DBS Bank closing a number of safety deposit boxes on the island nation.

3. The article stated:

A couple of years ago, a report by the Swiss authorities highlighted the growth of non-bank safe deposit box companies, with some quarters questioning their rapid expansion. Apparently, many customers were using them for stashing gold and valuables. Since the contents are known only to their owners, these boxes could pose a money-laundering risk

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I believe the report being referred to here was produced by Switzerland’s Federal Department of Finance (FDF) and released to the public on December 14, 2015 (blogged about here). From the accompanying media release:

The report also explains the money laundering and terrorist financing statutory framework in terms of safe-deposit box rental and the relevant rules of professional conduct. Moreover, it sheds light on the potential risks and actual abuses.

Although a potential risk of abuse does exist for certain categories of safe-deposit box, there is little evidence of actual abuse and thus of a real danger according to the report

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

4. The Times’ business editor concluded the piece with:

At this rate, it looks like I will have to part ways with that box. The money I save from the rental of the box won’t get me a fancy piece of jewellery – but it will go some way to buying a sturdy safe.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I don’t know how it is for Singapore, but the Spartanburg Journal-Herald (South Carolina) just noted in a February 11 article on their website:

A residence is almost 20 times more likely to be robbed than a safe deposit box in a bank.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I believe the source of this U.S. statistic is Elgin, Illinois-based Safe Deposit Box Insurance Coverage (SDBIC), a provider of safe deposit box insurance.

You can read that entire Straits Times article on the paper’s website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Offshore Safe Deposit Boxes (www.offshoresafedepositboxes.com)

Source:

“Money Talk: Security for a safe deposit box in an insecure world.” Spartanburg Herald-Journal. 11 Feb. 2017. (http://www.goupstate.com/news/20170211/money-talk-security-for-safe-deposit-box-in-insecure-world). 13 Feb. 2017.

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