Safe deposit boxes offer your customers the ability to safely secure a range of items, but you need to ensure you’re running your vault as safely as possible. To protect your customers, the contents of their boxes, and the reputation of your financial institution, keep the following best practices in mind.
Setting Up and Maintaining the Vault
Your safe deposit boxes and valut should be constructed using high quality doors, day gates, and locks, and all components should be performance tested based on independent standards such as the Underwriters’ Laboratories, Inc (UL) or American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards. Make sure that all equipment is kept in working order, and document maintenance work.
Ideally, the alarm system in the safe deposit vault should include door contacts, heat sensors, and sound detectors. A multi-pronged approach to security helps to reduce the risk of physical theft. Work with an expert to ensure you put in the right number of alarms depending on the size, acoustics, and layout of your vault.
Renting Out Safe Deposit Boxes
Before renting out safe deposit boxes, obtain an ID from each renter and provide them with a copy of your financial institution’s rules and regulations for safe deposit box use. In particular, let them know that they cannot store liquid, explosives, or any other property that may become a nuisance or danger to other box renters.
Also, give them an overview of what to expect when they access their box, and do not let renters make alterations or white out any information on the contract or access card. Be clear about your liability and let renters know that you don’t insure the contents of their boxes.
If you’re renting out a box that was previously used by another person, make sure that the locks have been rotated or the tumblers changed.
Verifying Renter Identity and Tracking Box Access
When renters come to access their safe deposit boxes, you should require them to sign an access form and verify their signatures. Additionally, all visitors accompanying renters should sign in and have their signatures verified by the renter.
If two or more renters want access to their safe deposit box at the same time, make sure that you have them all sign the access forms. You want a paper trail of every person who goes into the vault or accesses a box.
Always keep access records outside the vault, and make sure that you perform all the verification activities before letting renters into the vault. Monitor this process with a closed-circuit security camera.
Letting Renters Look at Their Boxes
Renters should not enter or stay in the vault alone. A trained employee should accompany them into the vault and escort them to a private viewing room where they can look at the contents of their box on their own.
Do not let employees help renters remove, find, or place items in their box. Allowing employees to deal with any of the items in the safe deposit box creates a liability risk because box renters may make false claims that the employee stole some of their items.
Ideally, you should prohibit waste baskets inside the viewing room. This forces box holders to either keep the items in their boxes or on their person, and it prevents them from hiding anything in the viewing room. You should also inspect the viewing room after a renter comes out, and if you have a wastebasket in that room, it should be emptied after each renter leaves.
Any items that are left behind in the viewing room should be placed under dual control — in other words, two employees should take responsibility for the items. And you should notify the renter immediately.
Managing Safe Deposit Box Keys
Maintain the guard keys in a secure location during the day and make sure that they are under dual control. A single employee should never have exclusive access to the guard keys. Instead, two employees should be accountable to each other while accessing the keys. During the night when the bank is closed, keep the guard keys locked up.
Between transactions, the vault day gate should remain locked and closed, and you should remove renters’ keps from the door while they are accessing their boxes.
Training Employees on Safe Deposit Box Management
Both your part and full-time employees should be properly trained on all safe deposit boxes procedures, and they should also be trained on how to talk with employees about safe deposit boxes.
For instance, they should avoid making claims about the boxes being fireproof, waterproof, or burglarproof. Additionally, they should not call the guard key a master key or a pss key — those labels could give box renters the idea that their boxes can be accessed without their presence.
Employees should also understand all state laws and regulations related to safe deposit boxes, and you should not allow any exceptions to the rules. In particular, if bank officers or employees have personal safe deposit boxes, they should follow the same security protocols as any other box renters.
Facilitating Non-Renter Access to Vaults and Boxes
In some cases, non-renters will have to enter your vault. For instance, cleaners may need to clean the vault and locksmiths may need to replace locks between renters. Make sure that all entries are tracked and that you verify the entrants’ identities.
In situations where law enforcement or a court-appointed estate administrator needs to enter a safe deposit box based on a legal request or a death, make sure that you follow all state guidelines, and also clearly track access.
Contact SQN for Help Securing Your Safe Deposit Boxes
To ensure you’re managing your financial institution’s safe deposit boxes as safely and efficiently as possible, you should invest in safe deposit box management solutions. SQN: Safe Deposit™ can help you reduce the risk of safe deposit box fraud while also streamlining your management activities.
To learn more about how our solutions can help your financial institution stand up to the risk of fraud, contact us today at SQN Banking Systems.