Policies and Procedures

What is OPBAS? (AML)

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS)

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) is contained within the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and came into fruition in 2018 as the first line of defence against threats. The key objectives of OPBAS are to make sure that Money Laundering and terrorist financing are reduced as far as possible. Well, as minimising other crimes that threaten the UK financial sector and economy. It came into being after the UK government found that accountancy and law firms did not have adequate AML (Anti-Money Laundering) measures in place. The professional bodies that were responsible for overseeing them were not enforcing the measures strictly enough, and any penalties or other repercussions that should have been dealt out for non-compliance were not being distributed. In response, OPBAS was created to check the supervisors of AML.

OPBAS Responsibilities

OPBAS does not supervise individual firms but instead oversees the professional bodies that are responsible for the firms. They enforce AML techniques and requirements and make sure that the requirements are stringent enough. It does this by ensuring high standards of supervision by the anti-money laundering supervisors that oversee the legal and accountancy sectors. It promotes and spearheads collaboration and information swapping, and intelligence sharing between statutory supervisors and law enforcement agencies. As OPBAS is such a young division, the following objectives were set out for it in 2019 after its first year of findings:

  • Professional bodies must focus on the most vulnerable firms to Money laundering and ensure their AML compliance is in order.
  • Supervision needs to be properly resourced in terms of time and money.
  • Failure to comply with AML requirements will mean firms and companies will be issued fines and restrictions to make sure in the future compliance is adhered to.
  • Professional bodies should share bits of intelligence about any potential ML risks that they are alerted to and any methods on how to negotiate them.

If a business is in accountancy or law, OPBAS is overseeing the organisation that oversees a business in these sectors. This means that AML compliance will become stricter, and businesses will be under greater scrutiny than ever. OPBAS states:

 ‘One of our priorities following the MER report, is to continue our efforts to address significant weaknesses in supervision by the 22 legal and accountancy sector supervisors.’

Governance – Supervisory functions should be independent of any other functions, and adequate resources must be provided. Risk-Based Approach: – An effective risk-based approach requires information; as such, any gaps in knowledge and understanding of the sector may lead to an imperfect risk-based approach; documentation and information are essential if a business understands the sector, understands the clients, then the risk-based approach is mostly there. Information Sharing between Supervisors and Public Authorities: – The AML supervisor has the responsibility of making reports to the National Crime Agency. PSBs have the right to impose sanctions for breaches of the relevant requirements. Enforcement:- All PSBs should offer support, guidance and advice to their members to improve AML compliance; a line must be drawn between wilful non-compliance and relevant requirement errors. Those that wilful and knowing flout compliance should be punished with ‘robust enforcement outcomes’ Staff Competence and Training: – People working in the sector should have appropriate qualifications, integrity and professional skills. This will aid with AML being enforced at the earliest levels. Record keeping and Quality Assurance A business’s records are the last line of defence; a lack of records will make it difficult to evidence the steps that have been taken in order to comply with any AML Regulations.

How We Can Help

If you would like any more information on Anti-Money Laundering policy writing, please use the form below to contact us. Further reading: Sanction Compliance and Prevention of Facilitation of Tax Avoidance.


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