Are there still completely anonymous safe deposit boxes?
Especially during a crisis, many people invest capital in precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum or palladium. These ‘crisis currencies’ offering stable values represent a proven hedge against inflation. However, these and other similar assets still require a safe storage solution, and rental safes are recommended for this purpose. But are completely anonymous safe deposit boxes still available?
This is an absolutely valid question, because the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing is a key issue almost everywhere in Europe, as in many other countries around the world. Transparency and traceability have become indispensable for containment purposes. A not insignificant contribution to this problem is the issue of so-called dormant assets. These invariably occur when a customer loses contact with a bank – for example due to a move to another country, the closure of a company, or upon the death of the account holder. The task of sending a notification to the appropriate financial institution is often overlooked, the bank account continues to run for many years without transactions, and is also in danger of being forgotten.
In Switzerland, the first guidelines for handling such contactless assets came into force as early as 1995. Since 2015, there has also been a legal regulation according to which banks are obliged to publish assets on the Internet where the last customer contact was more than 60 years ago. After another twelve months without a communication, the funds must be paid into the Federal Finance Administration. This rule applies where the assets exceed CHF 500. It also applies if the value is unknown – as is usually the case with bank safe deposit boxes.
Anonymous over-the-counter limits
According to current knowledge, investment products consisting of precious metals are rarely used for money laundering, but the reduction in the amount exempted is part of the current anti-money laundering law. The anonymous cash purchase of gold, also known as over-the-counter business, has been increasingly restricted in recent years. In 2020, the anonymity limit was reduced from CHF 25,000 down to CHF 15,000. Developments in many European countries have been even more drastic. For example, investors in Germany can only buy gold or silver anonymously in cash over the counter for a maximum amount of 2,000 euros (as of 2022).
Reasons against anonymous safe deposit boxes
However, when larger quantities or high-value densities (gold or precious stones) are involved, adequate storage becomes essential, which is usually when safe deposit boxes come into the picture. They are offered by banks, by precious metal dealers, or by private companies. Even though, with each of these providers, the actual content stored is usually only known to the safe deposit box owner, complete anonymity is now almost impossible. In each storage context, customer data at least is lodged with the operator.
There are many understandable reasons for this. And even if Switzerland generally has less restrictive interpretations of the legal situation than the rest of Europe, e.g. the so-called safe deposit box register in Germany, client protection remains the top priority in our Swiss jurisdiction too. Because in the event of any incident – such as flood damage or a building fire – all providers must be able to inform their customers. It is therefore essential that storage companies retain customer data.
The advantages of private security companies in Switzerland
But absolute safe deposit box anonymity is no longer a decisive factor in the decision to open a safe deposit box. Private security companies in particular, like Swiss Gold Safe, offer their customers attractive storage solutions for their valuables, where discretion, privacy and service are the paramount considerations. For many investors, bank-independent storage of precious metals and other valuables offers a decisive advantage as regards maximising the possible level of anonymity. This is reflected in the individual payment processing of fees, so no bank account is required – unlike the classic bank safe deposit box arrangement, or the usual practice of many precious metal dealers.
The discretion that is openly practised in Switzerland is also reflected in the fact that no customer data is ever passed on to third parties or government agencies. This independent state does not belong to either the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA). Therefore, private safe deposit box providers are not subject to any regulations, and there is no obligation to transmit safe deposit box data via banking API. This is where Switzerland’s historically founded, uncompromising protection of property rights comes into play. Furthermore, all stored values are protected by modern high-security safes. In addition, they are insurable via existing contracts between the insurer and Swiss Gold Safe Ltd. The insurers do not receive any client data.
As a pure storage company, Swiss Gold Safe acts independently. The company is not a retailer, and thus does not sell any goods. This means clients are under no obligation to purchase, nor are they subject to minimum sale amounts. Clients are free to purchase their precious metals, pieces of jewellery or artworks from the dealer of their choice. Furthermore, safe deposit box clients also have the option of authorising other people for their safe deposit box, so there is a high degree of operational flexibility.
Private safe deposit boxes of all sizes, and for every purpose
Swiss Gold Safe offers customers from Switzerland and all over the world on-demand safe deposit boxes and small safes in various sizes. Basic insurance is already included and comprehensive insurance can be arranged at any time. These safe deposit boxes are suitable for storing precious metal coins or bars, cash and cryptocurrencies, jewellery, important documents or objects d’art. Only safe deposit box clients and persons authorised to act on their behalf are granted access to the vaults. All available keys are handed over to the client. This makes it possible to deposit one key with a notary or lawyer. Making arrangements to rent a safe deposit box is a very straightforward process – which is, of course, a further advantage.