Security For Roving Tellers: Whose Responsibility?
BY: Nick Torre III • Jun 10, 2019
For a bank employee, especially a roving teller, even at your best mood, this question will come across as senseless because the answer is pretty obvious—and at worst, you may scream in my face “IDIOT!” if I personally ask you this. But really, I insist: Give this question a second thought.
In the NLEX-Shell robbery hold-up in 2008, the roving teller carrying the money bag was left to fend for himself when robbers surprised them with a frontal ambush during a cash pick up INSIDE SHELL-NLEX. The two security escorts armed with M16 rifles ran one way, and the teller ran the other way! But that teller was among the more fortunate ones. In the Veterans Bank-UP Diliman Branch robbery in 2007, the roving teller was the first person shot by the robbers. Two other security guards were also killed in that incident.
Examining these two cases and the many other cases of robbery targeting armored cars, it is disheartening to note that roving teller appear to have no chance at all against robbers despite the presence of security escorts. Three factors that stand out as the reason for this and ironically, one of these is borne out by bank procedures that were designed to secure them in the first place!
First and foremost is the bank strategy to rotate tellers and security teams. Usually, tellers only meet the security escorts at jump off time or minutes before it. This is designed to prevent familiarity between them, anchored on the belief that it will preclude collusion between them. This is not totally incorrect but obviously, this practice does not help in building TEAM COHESION either. In a team such as the roving team, cohesion or chemistry is paramount. The job of the team is similar to the job of VIP security escorts. Just substitute the VIP with the money duffle bag and the similarities are quite obvious. However, unlike the bank roving team, the composition of the VIP team remains fairly constant in most cases, allowing time the team to build rapport and chemistry and ultimately, cohesion among its members. This familiarity, along with the regular training that each member receives, allow VIP security teams to execute emergency procedures automatically where each member accurately predict the next moves of the other members. The rotation requirement of the bank prevents the development such rapport and that was clearly illustrated in the Shell-NLEX robbery. There were only three bank personnel in that incident and when the ambush happened, they went into three separate directions!
The second factor that I see is the training of the employees itself. After the basic training, I rarely hear banks conducting periodic training to update the knowledge of personnel about security. Moreover, many trainings are conducted inside classrooms, discussing subjects while sitting down. Dry runs and practical exercises, if ever done, are not that emphasized. There is always that assumption that because a procedure is already discussed and rehearsed once, all members are already well versed and are expected to act in accordance to the discussion. Obviously, this was not the case in the NLEX-Shell robbery, the Walter Mart-Congressional robbery in 2008, and in the many other cases where team members went their own separate ways based on instinctive survival mode when surprised by an attack. Because of this, I cannot emphasize practice enough. I like to cite the PBA as a correlation. In a professional basketball league like the PBA, players are undoubtedly the best in the game. Many of them had been playing since their elementary days, perfecting their craft until they qualified in the professional league. But why is it that teams never stop practicing and doing drills over and over again? And many of the drills are basically just the same! Muscle memory, that’s why. The main goal of doing such drills over and over again is to ingrain muscle memory in each player so that when called to action, the team can execute the plan without even consciously thinking about it. And that is just about a game. In the bank team where the lives of the members are at stake, is the same emphasis given to practice and drills just as the PBA? After the teller meets the security escorts before they board the armored car, does he/she takes time to ask for a rehearsal of procedures especially the emergency evacuation?
The third factor is illustrated by the story I found in the internet about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody and it goes something like this: “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.” In initial trainings conducted by banks to their employees, it is emphasized that security is everybody’s concern. But how many personnel retain this information and actually actively look for ways to contribute to it? For roving tellers and their security escorts, no doubt, every one of them is cognizant of the risks attached to the job. This is actually the reason why they get extra pay and insurance! But how about the other employees of the bank? Are they aware that every time an armored car pulls up the driveway, their risk correspondingly increases because a large amount of cash is about to pass their way? Sadly, many of the bank employees that I talked to do not give this situation a second look!
Again, my question is whose responsibility is it?