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Professional body supervisors get a grip on tackling money laundering - but some lag behind

Julian Dixon
May 16, 2020

The FCA’s Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) has released its latest report on the progress that professional body supervisors (PBSs) have made in tackling money laundering.

In 2018 OBPAS was set up by the government to strengthen the UK’s anti-money laundering (AML) supervisory regime. Identifying that lawyers and accountants are at high risk of enabling money laundering, OPBAS was created 'to supervise the supervisors' - those professional bodies that are responsible for AML supervision of the accounting and legal sectors; and to ensure these professional body AML supervisors provide consistently high standards of AML supervision.

Criminals generally cannot obscure the source of their funds alone. Lawyers and accountants are at high risk of enabling money laundering through the UK’s financial system. The National Risk Assessment 2017 (NRA) identified … that accounting and legal professionals are particularly vulnerable to enabling money laundering and terrorist financing by serious organised crime and other criminals.”
- OPBAS, 2020.

In the UK there are 22 professional body supervisors that oversee the accounting and legal sectors.

The report published last month is an update on the progress of professional bodies since an initial evaluation was made in2019.

Quick OPBAS report summary

Most PBSs made strong progress during 2019 in implementing the AML measures required by OPBAS in eight key areas. But the picture isn’t perfect. Even greater improvements are required – particularly in relation to the implementation and testing of risk-based processes and the data analysis that sits behind them.

While some PBSs have been very positive about the changes, others haven’t been so proactive. Some 14% of members are lagging behind and consequently felt the force of OPBAS’ regulatory powers, which ranges from deadlines to restrictive measures.

Other areas identified as requiring improvement for some members include:

- Enforcement action – more is needed where appropriate

- Information and intelligence sharing – better systems are required

- Quality assurance of supervisory decision making – formal procedures are lacking

- Internal staff training – structured training is needed

The full report can be read here.

More reading

OPBAS is one of the UK’s many regulators.  To get a view of the complexity of who regulates who, read more here.

AML in the UKL Who Regulates Me?
Who regulates you?
Julian has more than 20 years of financial services experience gained at major investment banks including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Commerzbank. His roles have ranged from front-office sales leadership to private equity. Julian has extensive knowledge of financial services processes and technology.