“Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness”. — James Thurber
Last week, we examined various issues that make banks vulnerable to the outside world through various lapses. This is a continuation of various reminders:
Gone are the days when branch managers preferred to keep large sums of cash in the vault, in anticipation of huge cash withdrawal requests from their customers. The need to make maximum use of cash has necessitated Treasurers of banks to keep close eyes on vault cash holdings of branches to ensure regular evacuation to the central bank and to enable overnight placements for maximum gains. The insurable cash limits of branches need to be adhered to, while customers should be counselled to patronize other cashless products and reduce their reliance on cash.
It is a banking industry standard practice for banks to provide adequate security at banking facilities. This is also the case with general requirements for any other type of cash handling business. Bank customers take their money to a bank because they perceive it as the safest place possible, and it naturally follows that bank customers feel safe themselves in a bank. Banking regulations require that a bank’s security program should be codified in a bank’s policies and procedures manual. Regulations do not specifically require the presence of a security guard, but they do require that banks provide a safe and secure place of business for the preservation of the bank’s assets and the safety of the bank’s customers and employees. In many cases, that means that a security guard should be present. One thing to note is that physical security is not only meant for branches. There is a need to create awareness among all staff, but before then let us look at some procedures in the branches.
Custody of Keys
As part of the general security precautions at the branch, each branch shall keep a Key Register in which shall be recorded the description of every key and the name and signature of the holder thereof.
The Operations Officer of the branch shall be responsible for keeping the records up-to-date. All duplicate keys (except vault keys) shall be greased, suitably labelled and kept offsite at the nearest designated place. Duplicate strong room/vault keys shall be similarly preserved but shall be also be kept in the appropriate designated place as a safe custody item. Do not forget the keyholding policy of the bank and the appropriate documentation.
It is important to note that joint vault key-holders must be relieved off, by a separate team of officials and under no circumstance should one person provide relief for both joint key-holders.
Basic Branch Opening Procedures
All Branches must have both day and night security services in place. All staff must take note of the following procedures when entering the branch premises in the morning:
Staff members must check for the signal, any signs of damage or break-in and any persons acting suspiciously before attempting to enter the branch. If there is any other cause for concern, staff must not attempt to enter the branch. They should alert the police and the branch manager and warn others who may attempt to enter the branch.
If a guard or staff member is attacked or taken hostage when in or attempting to enter the branch, he/she should follow the procedures for hostage incidents and wait for assistance to arrive.
Basic Branch Closing Procedures
It is important that the following procedures must be adopted for offices that are closed overnight and at weekends. Designated officers must be made responsible for checking that:
- All windows and external doors have been closed and locked.
- No unauthorised persons remained in the office.
- All fire-proof safes, filing cabinets and other storage containers have been locked by the users/key-holders.
- All non-essential electrical power has been switched off.
- All highly confidential documents have been locked away and staff complied with the clear desk policy.
- There are no fire hazards, such as partly live electrical gadgets.
- When the last member of staff leaves the office, he/she should set the office alarm system (if fitted) and depart using the staff exit.
Technology is always making banking easier for every generation but it is important that replacement of paper documents should not be just a mere convenience. Are your bank’s documents being electronically archived? In case of fires, floods and other damages, can you retrieve your data? Is the service provider, an outsourced company? Did your bank conduct the requisite due diligence on the service provider? Documents can fall into wrong hands resulting in breach of confidentiality, alterations to documents before archiving and fraud. Moreover, these processes should be regularly audited to ensure consistency and reliability.
Although record-keeping is a must across all departments, historical events have shown that data can be lost, documents get missing especially in the following sensitive areas:
- Human Resources (fraudulent pull-outs of sensitive correspondence on staff files)
- Credits (customers’ loan files)
- Procurement (Agreements and contract information)
- Legal (mortgages, Agreements, contracts, MOUs, guarantees, court cases, etc)
how are you observing the access policy and instructions. The signs are there, yet managers allow colleagues, visitors and friends to enter these no-go areas. Examples are:
- Data center and Server rooms
- Data processing centers
- Branch back offices
- Some cash areas
- CCTV monitoring areas
- Teller enclosures
- Safes and Vaults
- Cabinets containing ATM/VISA cards, pin-mailers, cheque books. Bank drafts, Fixed Deposit certificates, and other security documents.
The Final Rundown
The end of day security procedures for banks are critical to ensure the safety of employees, customers, and assets. Let’s take a final rundown:
- Consider your surroundings: Walk through your opening and closing procedures periodically to ensure that they take the building’s layout into consideration, including the location of entrances and exits, the positioning of surveillance cameras, and your exterior lighting.
- Review your end of day procedures periodically with staff to ensure they thoroughly understand what to do if they encounter suspicious or unusual activity while opening or closing.
- Physical vulnerability: Ensure that all office windows permit an unobstructed view of the bank’s interior. If the office is located in a mall or a multi-tenant office building, is the ceiling crawl space separated from the crawl space over the adjacent stores offices? Entrances from the basement, corridors, and upper floors should be secured.
- Lighting systems: Ensure that all lights illuminate all areas surrounding the building including ATM’s, walkways, and parking lots. The branch should have an independent power source (battery or generator power) for emergency lighting.
- Vaults: Ensure that the vault is equipped with a ventilator to provide air to an employee in the event of a lock-in. The vault should also be equipped with an alarm or a telephone so an employee can signal for help if locked in. All employees should be trained in procedures to follow if locked in the vault.
I hope these issues are taken in good faith. A stich in time saves nine. There is more to add on, but let me pause here. For more insights on this topic, please book a copy of my new book, “THE MODERN BRANCH MANAGER’S COMPANION” which involves the adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach in the practice of today’s branch management. It also shares invaluable insights on the mindset needed to navigate and make a difference in the changing dynamics of the banking industry. Call 0244333051 for your copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of Three books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story” and “The Modern Branch Manager’s Companion”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.