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This past week I had the opportunity to visit the Brink’s storage facility in Montreal.  I have visited several vaults in Europe over the years and was highly impressed each time; Brink’s Montreal was equally impressive.  I would like to give you a little history of Brink’s itself and also the partnership that Miles Franklin has forged with them.

“Brink’s” began in Chicago in 1859 when Perry Brink purchased a single horse drawn wagon for a delivery service.  He primarily delivered luggage between the train station to city hotels.  A year after Brink’s began, the 1860 Republican national presidential convention was held in Chicago.  Abraham Lincoln (from Illinois) was nominated by an estimated 50,000 delegates and Brink’s delivered much of their luggage.  11 years later in 1871, the “Chicago fire” burned down over 18,000 buildings including Brink’s, the horses and wagons however survived!  The following year, they had grown to 20 wagons and were delivering “trunks” (those things your grandparents travelled with) for .25 cents per piece between the railroad station and any hotel in the city.  2 years later, Perry Brink died of encephalitis and left an estate valued at just over $2,500.  Perry was succeeded by his 19 year old son who installed one of the city’s first telephones in 1878 and in fact was one of the 500 numbers listed in Chicago’s very first phone book.

Over the years, Brink’s adapted time after time to economic conditions and changing customer’s needs.  By 1890 there became a need to transfer (courier) money between banks, their retail customers and between banks themselves.  There was also a great need to courier cash to pay employees of industry and of course to move stocks and bonds (most all of which were “bearer” form at the time) between banks, brokers and insurance companies.  They purchased their first motorized transport in 1904 and by 1912 the Brink family severed ties and sold the company but the name “Brink’s” was so well known that it stayed with the firm.

Brink’s has also been an innovator over the years and has designed solutions to security flaws.  For example, they were the first to use “convoys,” they side armored cars and even redesigned these armored cars in response to a robbery where the floor of a car was blown up with dynamite.  They also were the first to create a “two key” system where two keys were needed to open a safe or safety deposit box.  This concept is still widespread even today.  They have gone from delivering luggage to start, to carrying cash for payrolls, stocks, bonds and other securities for banks and brokers as well as precious metals and diamonds.  They were also a very large courier of food stamps in the U.S. until electronic transfers took over.

Until researching it, I had no idea the actual corporate history of Brink’s.  From a single family company they evolved financially and were eventually bought many years ago by the mining/petroleum/trucking company “Pittston.”  Pittston has since divested their interests in these businesses and changed their name to “Brinks.”  Today, Brink’s has operations in over 100 countries and employs over 70,000 people where they provide transport, security and storage solutions for mining companies, financial firms and individuals.  They are headquartered in Richmond Virginia.

While doing research for this piece, I wondered about “robberies.”  Over the years there have been a handful of robberies, the largest in the U.S. ($2.7 million which at the time was the largest U.S. robbery ever) was in Boston in 1950.  The culprits were eventually caught and most of the money was recovered but interesting to me was that the customers were made whole within 48 hours.  There have also been a handful of robberies in Canada, the largest and most famous was at the airport in Montreal.  $5.5 million worth of bullion and jewelry was stolen in 1990.  Though the security was “technically” Brink’s, they had subcontracted the job to another firm.  Brink’s ended up paying for the loss.

I would like to speak of Brink’s Canada as this is where Miles Franklin stores their customer’s metals, specifically in Montreal.  Brink’s “does it” a little differently from their competitors in Canada.  Their 2 other main competitors no longer allow their employees to carry 12 gauge shotguns as the public “views it” as unbecoming or even a little scary.  (As a side note, each employee must “qualify” twice per year with their handguns).  Brink’s also has a policy that no truck can ever be left unattended with valuables in it whether locked or not, their competitors no longer follow this strict policy.  While in Montreal I was able to view several of their new trucks.  New technology (which I cannot go into much detail about) such as retinal scans, biometric scans etc. are required to enter the trucks “safe cargo” area.  The drivers themselves have no access to this area even if they wished.  Modern technology such as GPS allows for the central “turret” and each peripheral vault turret to know and monitor where and when every single truck is in the system.  They also have the ability to simply shut the trucks down remotely and also lock up cargo area.  Some of these trucks are as large as tractor trailers and ship cargo to all points within Canada without ever having to stop!

As for the vault itself, “solid” is my first thought.  The vault is protected on all sides so that it cannot be rammed from the outside.  The construction was engineered to “dissipate the energy” of anything trying to enter such as a mortar shell.  Several vault areas cannot be accessed by one single person as it requires 2 or even 3 separate employees (guards) with either separate keys, “retinas,” “biometrics” or what have you to enter.  Even then, they must also be viewed by the “turret” for access to be granted.  Every square foot of the complex can be viewed from the “turret,” in fact, I was told after being there less than 5 minutes that they had probably at least 300 pictures of me already.  Without going into specifics, the high tech protections that you see in Hollywood heist movies are all employed, backed up with redundancies several times and even then must be “human” approved.  I even asked the question “what if one of the guards’ families was being held hostage?”  I asked this (skeptical me) because it was clear to me that no one from the outside was ever going to get in, a robbery if accomplished would have to be an inside job.  This is why the most sensitive areas require 2 or 3 separate individuals and even then final access ONLY after being “turret” approved.

To finish I’d like to explain the Brink’s/Miles Franklin partnership.  5 years ago Miles Franklin approached Brink’s as a storage source.  We had many customers asking us “where” they could store their metal.  The decision was made to look for a source for our customers that could enable them to store metal safely AND outside of the country.  This was by no means an easy task and it took about a year for Brink’s to offer their storage facility.  They had never done storage for a coin dealer’s clients on a segregated basis.  The program has become such a success that Miles Franklin is now Brink’s largest non-bank storage customer!

If you have wondered to this point “where” to store your metal, I would highly recommend this facility.  You can ship it there, have it shipped to you if you wish, sell some, all, or add to your positions without ever leaving your home.  Your metal is safeguarded and the contents independently audited each and every 6 months, “peace of mind” is how I would describe it.  If this is something that you have thought about but did not know how to go about the logistics, then please call your broker for details.  If you have more metal “buried in your backyard” than you are comfortable with, Miles Franklin/Brink’s storage is your alternative.