OPBAS publishes report on progress and themes from 2020/21

The Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervision (OPBAS) has today released its latest report on progress made in tackling money laundering by professional body supervisors over the past year.

The professional body anti-money laundering supervisors of the accountancy and legal sectors (PBSs) have improved in recent years to achieve a level of compliance with the technical requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations (MLRs). However, as set out in its latest report, OPBAS continues to find differing levels of achievement and some significant weaknesses. OPBAS expects PBSs to continue investing and improving, focusing their supervisory efforts to have the greatest impact on the prevention of money laundering, and working with other authorities to make the UK an inhospitable place for criminals.

Sarah Pritchard, the FCA’s Executive Director of Markets, said:

'Ensuring the effectiveness of financial crime controls and reducing financial crime risk is a key priority for the FCA. As this report finds, Professional Body Supervisors of the accountancy and legal sectors have made welcome improvements in compliance with the Money Laundering Regulations in the three years since OPBAS has been in operation, and we need to see continued improvements in the effectiveness of their supervision. OPBAS will continue to collaborate and partner with law enforcement, government and wider stakeholders, domestically and internationally, to raise standards across the regulated sectors.'

The report highlights examples of effective supervision from some PBSs, but there are key areas in which many need to improve. Many PBSs had not implemented a risk-based approach that effectively prioritised their AML supervisory and enforcement work, based on a robust assessment of the AML risks posed by their supervised population.

While PBSs effectively took part in information and intelligence sharing arrangements, there are gaps and inconsistencies in many PBSs’ approach which limit their overall effectiveness in this area. Effective intelligence and information sharing are key to the collaborative approach needed among PBSs, law enforcement, statutory supervisors and other agencies to address money laundering risk, and OPBAS will continue to focus on this area of concern and drive improvement.

The report also found that gaps remain in most PBS enforcement frameworks. Enforcement plays a key role in correcting weaknesses in processes, procedures, systems or controls and in influencing and fostering a culture that contributes to effective risk management and compliance.

The majority of PBSs were effective in providing information and guidance for members to help them understand their high-level obligations; and the quality and accuracy of information and guidance had improved since the 2020 report.

This round of supervisory assessments also considered the PBSs’ response to Covid-19, and there are good examples of PBSs amending their risk-based approach to factor in pandemic-specific challenges, such as providing updated guidance on alternative methods of customer due diligence verification.

OPBAS will continue to evolve its approach to supervision, using a wide range of methods to enrich its understanding of risks and drive more effective supervision by PBSs. It will continue to make robust interventions where PBSs do not make required progress.

Notes to editors

  1. Read the latest OPBAS report.
  2. OPBAS supervises the Professional Body Supervisors (PBSs) of the accountancy and legal sectors. It does not directly supervise accountancy or legal firms.
  3. OPBAS is housed within the FCA and its key objectives are to reduce the harm of money laundering and terrorist financing by: (a) Ensuring a robust and consistently high standard of supervision by the professional body AML supervisors (PBSs) overseeing the legal and accountancy sectors. (b) Facilitating collaboration and information and intelligence sharing between PBSs, statutory supervisors and law enforcement agencies.
  4. Find out more about OPBAS.
  5. Ensuring the effectiveness of financial crime controls and effectively reducing financial crime risk is a key priority in this year’s FCA Business Plan.
  6. Before joining the FCA in June 2021, Sarah Pritchard served as the Director of the National Economic Crime Centre.