Short for the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision, the OPBAS is a recently founded regulator, set up in order to solidify the government’s efforts to counter money laundering in the UK.
Housed within the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority), this organisation aims to improve the consistency of AML supervision across the legal and accountancy industries. It does this by monitoring the AML efforts of the 22 professional bodies which dominate these two sectors of the economy.
When did OPBAS come into effect?
The OPBAS was established by the UK government in 2018, in an effort to double down on financial crime in the British economy. In part, this is because many law and accountancy firms were found to have inadequate AML measures in place. The professional bodies overseeing them, for example the Association of International Accountants, were not enforcing these measures strictly enough, nor were they issuing penalties when they were not implemented. The OPBAS is intended to remedy this, by ‘supervising the supervisors’.
Who does the OPBAS supervise?
The OPBAS does not supervise individual firms in the law and accountancy sector directly. Rather, the OPBAS oversees the professional bodies which are responsible for overseeing these firms, to ensure that their AML requirements are stringent enough.
There are currently 22 professional bodies which the OPBAS supervises, ranging from the Association of Accounting Technicians to the Law Society, and even the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. You can find a full breakdown of the professional bodies the OPBAS is responsible for listed over on the FCA’s website.
OPBAS – The Next Steps
As the OPBAS has existed for such a short time, it has only issued one report. Alison Barker, director of Specialist Supervision at the FCA, spoke at the Royal United Services Institute in London on 12th March 2019. During her speech, she set out the following objectives for the OPBAS after its first-year findings:
- Professional bodies should implement a risk-based approach to supervision; this means focusing on the most vulnerable firms and ensuring their AML compliance is up to scratch.
- Failure to comply with AML requirements should result in ‘robust enforcement outcomes’. Penalising firms and companies with fines and restrictions is the only way to make sure compliance is taken seriously.
- Supervision should be properly resourced, in terms of both time and money.
- Professional bodies should share intelligence around potential money laundering risks and methods of negating them.
“We want to see an improved quantity and quality of supervision, enforcement and intelligence sharing outcomes"
Going forward, the OPBAS will work alongside the 22 professional bodies they supervise in order to help implement strategies which counter money laundering threats. They will also help to create a useful intelligence-sharing network which all firms and companies in the law and accountancy sectors can benefit from.
Why Your Business Should Care
If your business is a law or accountancy firm, it will not be overseen directly by the OPBAS, so why should you take notice?
Where anti-money laundering is concerned, the OPBAS is the organisation overseeing your supervisor. This means that their requirements for AML compliance may become stricter, as they are under greater scrutiny than before, and so are you.
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