Singapore – AS BANKS cut back on safe deposit box services in land-scarce Singapore, private operators are stepping in to fill the void.
The newest kid on the block, launched yesterday, is Vault@268, a private fully-automated safe deposit box facility at 268 Orchard Road, formerly the Yen San Building.
The 2,000-box, 1,500 sq ft facility was modelled after those in Europe and similar to the ATM concept.
Vault@268's executive director Charlene Kang was inspired by her own negative experiences with safe deposit boxes at banks, including long waiting times.
The biggest frustration she had was not being able to access her possessions when she needed them most.
Ms Kang said: "When I was 13, my mum passed away and she put her will in a safe deposit box in a bank, but everything was frozen. My aunt had to apply for a Grant of Letters of Administration, but that would take another year."
She recalled her aunt having to go to great lengths to help retrieve her mother's will, a process she found cumbersome.
With Vault@268, the plan is to free the customer from restricted banking hours and guidelines, and to cut out the middleman, such as institutions or bank staff.
Customers have direct access to the facility through a security card and biometric identification. Once they are in the premises, they enter a secure room with only a kiosk and a safe deposit box dispenser.
The safe deposit box, locked with a personal key, is dispensed by robots after the customer keys in his PIN number. The facility is monitored round the clock.
The boxes, by Swedish security systems firm Gunnebo, come in small and large sizes. The small box costs $888 a year to rent, while the large box costs $1,388. The aim is to serve the needs of customers living in upscale districts.
Ms Kang said the facility involved an initial sum of at least $3 million to set up, and she is seeing a growing demand for such services as banks cut down on them.
In 2007, for instance, HSBC closed its safe deposit boxes at the Ocean Building branch. The closure of several buildings in the mid-2000s also led to DBS Bank cutting down the number of its safe deposit boxes, which totalled 30,000 in 2007. Current figures are not available
A DBS spokesman said there is sustained demand from customers, and those facilities have high utilisation rates. "We even had to place some customers on a waiting list in some of the more popular locations," he added.
UOB has over 32,000 safe deposit boxes, while OCBC Bank has about 20,000 safe deposit boxes now. The banks did not say how many they had before.
The annual rental fee for a box at OCBC ranges from $182 to $561. OCBC's head of deposits, Mr Ling Seng Chuan, welcomed more facilities, saying they offer customers "more options to safekeep their valuables in a secured location".
By Rachael Boon, email@example.com | Tuesday, 21 April, 2015
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.