Dave McOmie starts every job staring down a locked door.
McOmie has been a safecracker for more than 50 years, having gotten his start watching a local locksmith help out a neighbor. He became the locksmith’s apprentice and quickly discovered the work of safecracking: breaking into vaults and safes for customers that had become inadvertently locked out of them.
That took him into the world of banking. Vaults have been a mainstay feature of bank branches, but anyone who has worked in a branch will know there are other physical safety mechanisms that occasionally lock up: lockers, cash safes, undercounter units and ATMs. He’s worked on all of them and knows the stakes: Whatever is behind that locked door is important, and someone wants it.
“When the bank or credit union cannot get into their vault, that situation tends to escalate quickly,” he says. There’s usually some urgency to the situation: Someone needs a wedding ring, a passport or a will, and there’s a tight timeline. McOmie is under pressure to open the vault. “[I]t’s stressful when you have an entire family sitting in the lobby, waiting to retrieve their passport so they can go to the airport. … You don’t want to be the reason they didn’t make their flight.”
In facing these locked and secured doors, McOmie says it’s key to prepare and research in advance. A mistake can trigger other safety mechanisms in a vault, quickly shutting down his entire progress. He carefully documents his progress and the products he works on to make the next job easier.
“It’s all about the challenge and the conquest. You’ve got a locked door in front of you. What’s the problem? How can you overcome it? And can you do it efficiently? And quickly?” he says.
McOmie joins Bank Director to discuss how he became a safecracker, how he approaches a locked door problem and what trends in bank branching mean for vaults, physical security and the future of safe cracking. Listeners interested in learning more about his experience can read his memoir “Safecracker: A Chronicle of the Coolest Job in the World,” which includes his experience opening the musician Prince’s vault at Paisley Park.
This episode, and all past episodes of The Slant Podcast, are available on Bank Director.com, Spotify and Apple Music.