Ditch Safety Deposit Box. Digital Vault is the Shiny New Black for Safekeeping Asset Info
In today's digital world, assets left behind by loved ones are increasingly difficult to uncover and access. Most people don’t know what assets their loved ones had or where to start looking, according to Iwan Hartono, director from the company behind vaultbox, a digital vault provider. We discussed with Iwan on how to easily manage your asset information as well as the novel concept of digital sealed envelopes.
Name: Iwan Hartono
Company: Sircured Pte. Ltd.
Base Country: Singapore
Anything interesting: Can build computers and likes organizing
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Q: What is vaultbox and how did you get involved with vaultbox?
Hartono: vaultbox is a digital safety deposit box. You can store, organize and monitor information on all your assets, including local and international assets, wills, insurance policies, and other important documents, electronically in one place.
vaultbox keeps all your data secure and no one, including us, can have access to the data you've stored unless it’s someone you want to give access to.
The trigger to create vaultbox came about after our founder, Matt Richards, realized that he had no place to store information on his assets in different countries and it made it very difficult to do his own legacy planning. I know Matt from my previous role and decided to join him about a year back.
Q: How does vaultbox work as a digital vault?
Hartono: There are three parts to vaultbox.
Net worth Tracking
First, you can track your net worth. Just like how you would read a financial statement, all your assets and liabilities are under the balance sheet and that makes up your net worth.
You input the information and vaultbox will generate a graph to give you an overview of your net worth, breaking down into different asset classes and currencies. It also allows you to update your assets and liabilities over time to keep your net worth up-to-date.
Store Documents Digitally
The second part is digital storage. People often categorize us with other ‘boxes’ such as Dropbox and Box.com because of the “box” in our name. But we are not just a box that you merely throw documents in.
When you have supporting documents of your assets and liabilities, vaultbox allows you to link these documents to your relevant assets and liabilities, contacts, passwords and calendar events, helping you or your deputies (people who you gave access to) find and retrieve relevant information easily.
Assume for example that you own an apartment and you have the mortgage agreement for your apartment. If you want to contact your banker, you would have to go to your storage room, search inside your cabinet for the document, and look for your banker’s number in your phone. All of these items and information are related but they are scattered in various places. vaultbox can help by linking all these related things together so they are more organized and meaningful.
Give Access to 'Deputies'
The third part is related to legacy. After you have stored and created linkages to all your information, you can give access to others (referred to as ‘deputies’). There are two types of deputy depending on the purpose of the access.
Personal vs Professional Deputy
The first one is what we call a personal deputy. These are people such as your spouse or children. If you lose your password or cannot access your vaultbox, they can help unlock your account for you.
The second one is a professional deputy. Professional deputy is someone who is not a family member such as a trustee, a financial planner or a lawyer. You prepare a set of instructions, and when you pass away or become incapacitated (ie. physically impaired or don't have mental capacity), your professional deputy will carry out your saved instructions using our smart legacy management feature.
Additionally, vaultbox has a function that if you are inactive for a period of time, your deputy will be notified.
Q: Why do people need a digital vault?
Hartono: vaultbox is very legacy planning-focused and the reason why you need a digital vault for legacy planning is clear and obvious, but most people don’t do it until there is an urgent need.
When someone close to you passes away, you would need to start looking at what this person has. You may wonder if he/she has a deposit box. If yes, what number is it and where is the key? If all the information were not stored in one place, where do you start looking? This is why when something happens, people will frantically scramble through things.
Related Article: What Happens To My Stuff When I Die? (Singapore Edition)
Three years ago, a relative came up to me and asked for my help because her husband had just passed away. Other than knowing that her husband has a bank account in Singapore, she and her family have no information about his assets. ‘What is the account number?’, ‘Are there any passbooks and passwords?’ are some of the questions that I asked.
Turns out, they are very clueless. They don’t even know how much is inside the account!
The Digital Age
So how do you even start your search for these kinds of scenarios? In the olden days, when someone passed away, you could straight up rummage through their stuff. But as we move into the digital world, you don’t have stuff to look through.
Going back to my relative's case, the first thing she can do is bring a copy of her husband’s passport and ask every bank whether there is an account. Even if she can find it, the bank can’t do anything. She must first go to court to get a grant of probate or grant of letters of administration, which are legal documents issued by the court, so that she can have the legal power to access his bank account.
But given that she doesn’t know how much is in the account, she needs to consider if it’s worth the effort. What if the account only has $5,000? The fees for getting a court order to have access to his assets could cost just as much if not more.
Q: Who is vaultbox’s target audience?
Hartono: Our target audience are basically people who are at a certain age and have experienced certain life events. Broadly speaking, it would be working adults, people who are married, have a family and maybe have kids, or have gone through the death of a loved one. When you are young, you may not have that many experiences and therefore, you may be less able to understand the need of a digital vault.
In terms of geography, we primarily focus on countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia as well as Singapore.
Q: How do you compare vaultbox to the Singapore government’s My Legacy digital vault?
Hartono: My Legacy is by the Singapore government and so, it is very Singapore-centric. If you have assets outside of Singapore, you need something more than that. This is where vaultbox becomes more handy.
No Access To Your Data
The other thing is privacy. One differentiating factor about our platform is that we do not have access to the data that you put inside.
This is also the key difference between us and other platforms like OneDrive and Google Drive. They can actually look into your data but we can’t.
Q: Are there any exciting features that our audience can look forward to?
Hartono: One interesting feature is a digital sealed envelope.
In traditional legacy planning, what people do is that they write some instructions, put it in a sealed envelope and give it to the trustee. The trustee will just hold onto the envelope and pass on the sealed envelope to the appropriate person when certain events happen. The trustee won’t know the contents inside the envelope.
For vaultbox, right now, once you give access to your professional deputy, he/she can see everything. But we are working on this digital sealed envelope feature and hopefully it will be available in the first quarter of 2022.
Q: What do you think are the potential triggers that will cause more people to use digital vaults?
Hartono: We haven’t quite fully captured the people who need it yet. A lot more education needs to be done so that people realize the importance of organizing their asset information and having someone have access to it. We’ve made it really simple and easy-to-use for people to do just that.
It’s just like Netflix and Spotify. We didn’t have those before, but once some people have tried and used it, they realized how convenient and easy it is to use and they tell others about it. Not enough people know about digitals vaults now. But they will and once they do, they will know the importance of it, the convenience of using it, and it will be the tipping point for mass adoption.
Q: Anything interesting about you?
Hartono: My background is in electrical engineering. I was quite geeky back in my university days. I used to help people fix and build their computers. These days, I spend my weekends with my family. I also have a thing about organizing things and keeping things in the right order.
This interview has been edited for length.
What is a digital vault?
Digital vault is like a safety deposit box but for digital assets and information. It allows you to store, organize and monitor information on your assets and important documents electronically in one place.
What is the use of a digital vault?
A digital vault stores all your important information electronically in one place. One use of digital vaults can be for legacy planning. Some digital vaults allow selected people to have access to your asset information in case you pass away.
What is a digital sealed envelope?
A digital sealed envelope is a digital version of a sealed envelope. In traditional legacy planning, people write important instructions, put it in a sealed envelope and give it to the trustee. The trustee will hold onto the envelope and pass on the sealed envelope to the appropriate person when certain events happen. The trustee won’t know the contents inside the envelope.
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