Bristol’s first privately-owned safe deposit box facility has opened on Colston Avenue in central Bristol, alongside a new business selling gold bullion.
The Vaults Group, Europe’s largest private safe deposit box provider, has invested almost £1 million into the purpose-built premises.
Built from scratch in the basement of an office building, the vaults are protected by cutting edge security and state-of-the-art technology, outstripping the standards set by banks.
The Bristol vault has hundreds of safety deposit boxes of various sizes and capacity to expand to several thousand boxes. These can be rented on an annual basis from as little as £170 per year.
Sophisticated security systems, including seismic shock sensors, round-the-clock monitoring and biometric identification technology ensure that access to any box is limited to the authorised person only.
Bristol Vaults offer complimentary insurance of £10,000 on all boxes rented, with additional insurance available up to £500,000 per box.
Bristol was chosen as the next location for the Vaults Group to open a facility, after receiving over 400 advance enquiries.
It is already attracting customers from a 30-mile radius around the city, given the lack of safe deposit boxes for hire in the region, with dozens of boxes snapped up by private customers and businesses since the vault opened to its advance list a few weeks ago.
Set to employ up to ten employees when at full capacity, the Bristol Vaults team has already seen a surge in sales of gold bullion, with particular interest in sovereigns featuring the head of Queen Elizabeth II.
The rapidly-expanding Vaults Group business, headquartered in Dublin, was started when the owners spotted a gap in the market left by the closure of most bank safety deposit businesses.
Made popular in public consciousness through films like James Bond and more recently the Bourne and Harry Potter franchises, the resurgence of safe deposit boxes has been spurred by rising rates of burglary, increasing home insurance premiums, fears about the rate of inflation, world-wide economic volatility and most recently, the falling value of the pound.
As well as cash and family heirlooms like jewellery, the boxes are often used to store important documents such as title deeds, leases and wills, or items of sentimental value which are difficult or expensive to replace.
Interest is also being driven by the rise of portable assets such as luxury watches and to store crypto-currency. They are increasingly being used by businesses concerned about the risk of hacking, to store back-up data on memory sticks and computer hard drives.
Séamus Fahy, co-founder and chief executive of the Vaults Group which owns and runs Bristol Vaults, said: “We’re looking forward to providing a much-needed service that will ultimately give peace of mind to people who require a safe haven for their valuable and irreplaceable possessions.
“Cost-cutting measures at high street banks means that secure storage has largely been phased out and so customers are left with nowhere to store their treasured items.”
Police forces frequently recommend that valuables are stored outside the home, with criminals targeting individual households where they anticipate rich pickings and can breach home security systems.
For example, earlier this year in Bristol, a safe containing a collection of gold coins and sovereigns worth thousands was ripped out of an internal wall in a pensioners’ home in Sneyd Park in a high value heist.
In the UK, British Asian communities are often the target for thieves as they commonly give gold jewellery as gifts on landmark birthday and for weddings and as a result they provide the core market for safe deposit boxes.
Economic downturns also tend to be accompanied by a rise in unemployment and burglaries.
In 2021/22 there were 4,290 burglaries across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, according to hyper-local police neighbourhood crime figures.
This represents a rise of 5.7 per cent from the previous year, with only four per cent of offenders prosecuted for burglaries at residential property.
“Burglars have become much more sophisticated. They know about the use of ‘dummy’ safes, storage compartments behind false electric sockets and in false tinned food containers and these days they turn up with blockers to cut the signal on phone-linked alarms” said Séamus.
“But it’s not just fear of crime that’s driving interest. Uncertainties in the worldwide economy, currency volatility, inflation and loss of trust in the banking system all play a part.
“We’re seeing a large number of customers buy gold and then rent a box to store it in and very recently, we’ve had a run on gold sovereigns from people who want a souvenir of the formers Queen’s reign and believe they will appreciate in value over time.”
“Our customer base is extremely varied – it’s not just high net worth individuals. We have younger people wanting to store their crypto-currency and regularly converting their savings into gold, older people safeguarding their family heirlooms and increasingly, businesses choosing to store irreplaceable data.”
Image courtesy of Jon Craig Photos