The Silent Cost of Hidden Bank Accounts

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In a widely circulated social media post, a Ugandan banker sheds light on a revelation that, despite being known or heard by many, continues to be disregarded in our collective behavior. Each year, we witness banks announcing substantial profits, and one contributing factor to this financial success is the utilization of unclaimed funds from the accounts of the deceased.

“In April 2023, PostBank Uganda unveiled its financial results, revealing a noteworthy 19% increase in net profit for the fiscal year concluding on December 31, 2022. The state-owned bank disclosed a net profit of UGX 15.1 billion, demonstrating a robust year-over-year growth of 19.3%, surpassing the UGX 12.2 billion net profit recorded in 2021,” shared Julius Kakeeto, the Managing Director of PostBank Uganda.

Similarly, Stanbic Bank Uganda reported a substantial 37.5% surge in pretax profit for the preceding year, buoyed by an upswing in customer deposits and credit activities throughout 2022.

Behind the imposing vault doors, she shines the light on unsuspecting widows and orphans left in financial turmoil, all while banks and bankers grow richer on the silence of the departed.

It seems that a clandestine culture of secret bank accounts has taken root among the departed businessmen and women of the nation. The banker shared a disheartening truth – it is against banking ethics to disclose the details of a deceased customer’s account without explicit permission, a permission that is impossible to obtain afterward.

Numerous instances were recounted, each more emotional than the last. Families mourning the loss of a loved one while blissfully unaware of the financial abundance hidden away in secret accounts. One particularly heart-wrenching scenario unfolded when a grieving widow desperately looked for funds to bury her husband, oblivious to the fact that he had left behind a staggering 60 million in the bank.

In a rare display of compassion, the banker defied protocol and reached out to the widow, revealing the hidden fortune. This act of kindness, however, is a rarity, as many families continue to suffer in silence, unaware of the wealth their departed kin had amassed.

The stories don’t solely revolve around the affluent. Even those with modest means have fallen prey to the consequences of financial secrecy. A man, who narrowly escaped death but faced paralysis in his right hand, was unable to sign essential documents. A simple stroke of misfortune could have left his family destitute, prompting him to immediately rectify the situation by making his wife a co-signatory to all his accounts.

The folly of secrecy is not limited to men alone; it infiltrates through society. A man withholding his ATM pin from his wife during an emergency and the sad plight of orphans and widows left clueless about hidden properties and assets are testaments to the widespread prevalence of this issue.

Behind the scenes, banks and bankers thrive on the silence of the departed. With no obligation to report unclaimed money, even the Bank of Uganda remains unaware of these dormant fortunes. The result: orphans suffering due to the neglect of their deceased parents.

As a former banker, she attested to the stark reality that banks often do not divulge details of these hidden treasures, turning a blind eye to the suffering of those left behind. The responsibility, therefore, falls on the living. Fathers, mothers, do not be foolish – involve your next of kin, spouses, and children. Draft a will, document your accounts, and ensure your loved ones are aware of your financial legacy.

The cost of silence is too high, and the weight of regret too heavy. Today, as you draw breath, take the necessary steps to empower those you leave behind. Tomorrow is pregnant with uncertainties, and only through open communication and responsible planning can we ensure a brighter future for our loved ones. A word is indeed enough for the wise.

 

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