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Metro Bank queues after social media 'rumours' - are your savings safe?

Metro Bank had queues of customers inquiring about their safe deposit boxes in some London branches over the weekend, which it says was due to "false rumours" on social media and messaging apps. Customers have been told there is "no reason to be concerned" – here's the latest info and your rights...

Safe deposit boxes can be used to store valuables within a bank – although the items still need to be insured, and you don't get the usual up-to-£85,000 savings protection that applies to cash deposited in UK-regulated bank accounts. 

The queues at some Metro Bank branches appear to have been prompted by the sharing of a WhatsApp message advising people to take possessions out of their safe deposit boxes due to concerns about the bank's financial health. Metro Bank says there is no truth to these rumours.

Metro Bank's profits fell from £10 million to £6.9 million in the first quarter of this year, and it's currently in discussions with stakeholders to raise £350 million of equity. But the bank, which has 67 branches mostly in London and the south east, has assured customers it remains a profitable bank.

For full help on how to protect your cash, see our Are Your Savings Safe? guide. 

'Long queue outside my branch – is everything OK?'

Metro Bank customers reported long queues at several London locations over the weekend, particularly on Saturday, although the bank says branches have now largely returned to normal. Here are a few of the comments we saw on social media:

What does Metro Bank say?

The queues were mainly seen in branches in west London, according to Metro Bank, which also insisted that customers have no reason to be alarmed.

A spokesperson said: "We're aware there were increased queries in some stores about safe deposit boxes following false rumours about Metro Bank on social media and messaging apps.

"There is no truth to these rumours and we want to reassure our customers that there is no reason to be concerned. We're a profitable bank, rated no.1 for personal current account service by the CMA [Competition and Markets Authority] and committed to serving our 1.7 million customer accounts."

Are my savings safe?

Cash held in any UK-regulated bank account is protected up to £85,000 per financial institution by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) – and this applies to Metro Bank.

That means in the unlikely event that the worst were to happen, the FSCS would return any money held in the account, in most cases within seven working days. For more info see Are Your Savings Safe?

Is my safe deposit box also protected?

FSCS protection doesn't apply to valuables stored within safe deposit boxes – so your rights with those are more complicated.

Metro Bank has told us that items in a safe deposit box always remain yours, and are never the bank's property. So this should mean that in the unlikely event that the bank were to go into administration or be taken over, your possessions can't be seized by an administrator or buyer.

In theory, in this scenario you would get the contents of your safe deposit box back – but there remains a question over how you would actually access your possessions.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) told us it didn't have any official rules for this situation, but that it would expect an administrator to recognise its duty of care to customers with safe deposit boxes. However, it said an administrator would be able to charge a "reasonable fee" for bank staff to help customers access their possessions. 

You should also make sure that any items stored in a safe deposit box are insured, for example under your home insurance policy. This is most likely to protect you if items are stolen or damaged though – it's unlikely a home insurance policy would cover you in the event of a financial institution going bust. 

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