Lost Treasure

Ever wondered what happens to that first bank account you had as a kid? Ever lost a couple of thousand dollars and wondered where it went? Well, it went down the figurative crack in the couch. In fact, down this nook, you’ll find more than the remote, a desiccated slice of pizza, some fluff, bits of this, that, and a couple of coins. In fact, you will find $1billion in lost shares, bank accounts and life insurance. All you have to do is stick your hand right down into the depths of the Australian Securities & Investments Commissions (ASIC) unclaimed money website, scramble around for a bit and pull up the details of  long-forgotten bank accounts.

Regardless of whether you’re an individual or a large institution, the ability to be forgetful is universal. Even us (supposedly) bright ANU students seem pretty woeful at keeping track of what we lose down the crack of the couch. The ANU Philosophy Students Society misplaced $549.03 since 2002, ANU Accounts have lost $1773.90 since 2009, ANU Science Society, $192.21 since 1988, and ANUSA (tsk, tsk), $982.10 since 1989 (think of all the sausages we could have bought with that). Similarly, the ANU Historical Society, which by a preliminary search no longer exists (until the publication of this article anyway) has had $379.23 in safekeeping since 1990.

This, though, is pocket change in comparison to some other lost, lapsed and left-behind bounties from other organisations. Bond University’s Taiwanese Student Association has been squirrelling away $3475.87 since 2002. But perhaps this is what the secret is for ancient institutions: the Masters, Fellows and Scholars of Pembroke College in the University of Oxford deemed it wise to leave $155.21 sitting in an Australian bank vault since 1978.

A quick search for “ANU” “scholarship”, “college”, “school” and “friends of” reveals a host of groups that have too successfully hidden their gold. Like wielding a metal detector, searching geographically by place names reveals a long list of lost clubs and charities whose funds from election day barbeques, door knocks and cake stalls are waiting to be capitalized and remembered. In many ways it’s sad that this money has not been better managed or used for the purposes it was given: the unused scholarship funds especially.

We can’t be too harsh: whether there was a change of staff or leadership, or the person in charge became doddery and forgetful, the fact is organizations and institutions can lose track fairly easily. Apportioning blame is also easy but not helpful; rather, this serves as a cautionary tale for student organizations with high turnovers in leadership to be both accountable and have clear transition and succession plans.

If you don’t find some lost treasure after your mad dash to the computer, then take solace in the fact you’re probably organized.  If you do find some lost money (it is conditional on reading this article that you shout EUREKA!) or you suspect your organization is in danger of losing some money, then I hope you’ll spend it or look after it properly. Otherwise someone else will get it, either the government or a wily impersonator (Cue: the resurrection of the ANU Historical Society).