What is OPBAS? Anti-Money Laundering

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) is contained within the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). As a result of increased security requirements, it came into fruition in 2018 as the first line of defence against threats. 

What Are the OPBAS Key Objectives?

The key objectives of OPBAS are to make sure that Money Laundering and terrorist financing is reduced as far as possible. Additionally, it intends to minimise other crimes that threaten the UK financial sector and economy.

When Was OBPAS Created?

OPBAS 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. Moreover, any penalties or other repercussions that should have been dealt out for non-compliance was not being distributed.

OPBAS Supervision

In response, OPBAS was created in an effort to check the supervisors of AML.

OPBAS does not supervise individual firms. However, it oversees the professional bodies that are responsible for the companies.

As a result, OPBAS 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 who oversee the legal and accountancy sectors.

OPBAS promotes and spearheads collaboration and information swapping and intelligence sharing. Specifically, 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 need to 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 companies will be issues fines and restrictions. This is 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. Also, any methods on how to negotiate them.

If a business is in accountancy or law, OPBAS is basically overseeing the organisation that oversees a business in these sectors.

Therefore, this means that AML compliance will become stricter, and businesses are under greater scrutiny than ever.

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.


Overview Of OPBAS Controls

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. As a result, documentation and information is 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. PSB’s 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. However, 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. As a result, this will aid with AML being enforced at the earliest levels.

Record keeping and Quality Assurance. A firm or businesses records is the last line of defence. A lack of records will make it difficult to evidence the steps that have been taken. Therefore, they may be lacking AML compliance.