In Today’s financial world, hiding illicit funds has become a complex web of entangled illegal activities. Money Launderers, Drug Lords, and other criminals have explored much darker ways to cover up their tracks. Now, it is far more difficult to identify Money Laundering and the KYC and AML system requires upgradation. Also, a useful approach for combating Money Laundering is to identify the Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC. This article is a complete guide for information on Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBO) and their role in KYC.
Who is the Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC?
As the name suggests, Ultimate Beneficial Owner is a real-life person or entity who ultimately owns a legal entity. Notably, this entity can be a company, trust, or business. A UBO’s compliance with KYC regulations helps to ensure that these institutions are not facilitating financial crimes. Especially, money laundering or terrorist financing, are the prime concerns while identifying Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC.
Basically, a UBO in KYC relates to the transparency, accountability & legal compliance of the firm’s ownership in the course of AML regulations. Likewise, an Ultimate Beneficial Owner is the Ultimate beneficiary of the firm when it makes a transaction.
Requirements of Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC
Primarily, a UBO in KYC has minimum requirements listed below:
- At least, 25% ownership of the company
- Power to influence and control the Board’s Decision
- Benefits the Board’s decision economically
Bank’s UBO identification steps
Mostly, banks have SOPs to identify the UBOs through the KYC and AML guidelines. Following are the basic steps to place a UBO in banks:
- Acquiring the firm’s credentials
- Researching and verifying the chain of ownership
- Shortlisting and filtering out the Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC process
- Perform the Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer (KYC) check
Importance of Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC
Outrightly, the KYC regulates UBOs for the identification & verification of real persons owning a firm or entity. So, the Financial institutions and regulated entities must identify the natural person who ultimately owns or controls a legal entity or structure. Also, it can include documents review, such as articles of incorporation or trust deeds.
Therefore, to determine the ownership and control structure of the entity Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC is identified and verified. Once the UBO has been identified, the institution must verify his identity too. This is done using reliable and independent sources such as proof of ID documents.
Also Read: Red Flags for Money Laundering: Exposing the Illicit Transactions
UBO in KYC for Improved Regulatory Compliance
Indeed, the UBO regulations are an important part of KYC processes. In fact, they help FIs and regulated entities to understand the true identity and ownership structure of their clients. So, it enables them to assess the risk of financial crime, such as money laundering or terrorist financing. Also, the regulators must take appropriate measures to ensure that the UBOs are KYC/AML compliant.
Hence, it helps to ensure that these institutions are complying with laws and regulations designed to prevent financial crime. In this way, the integrity and trust of the financial system are maintained. Moreover, the UBOs cannot falsely benefit from the system if kept under watch by a fair KYC AML system.
Loopholes in UBO regulations on KYC
Increased compliance costs:
Even Though the Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC is of core importance, but, Financial institutions and other regulated entities may incur additional costs to comply with UBO regulations. For instance, the cost of obtaining and reviewing documentation, training staff, and implementing new processes. Ultimately, a firm may need to transfer the cost to the customers in the form of hidden charges or other. This will reduce customer satisfaction and may cause unrest.
Reduced financial services:
The identification of UBO in KYC can be time-consuming and complex and may hinder streamlined services to entities. So, businesses and individuals might not be able to render financial services or open bank accounts. Particularly, this can be problematic for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). So, it may have limited resources and may be more sensitive to compliance costs.
Identity theft and fraud:
Similarly, UBO regulations require financial institutions and regulated entities to collect and store large amounts of data. This can be personal and financial data about UBOs and their beneficial owners. So, the data may be vulnerable to identity theft and fraud especially if it is not properly protected.
Privacy Concerns of UBO in KYC:
Particularly, it is objectionable to disclose personal and financial information in the UBO identification and verification process. Especially, if another party is asked to share the UBO’s information. Surely, this can have negative impacts on financial privacy. Also, it can endanger the security of the third party if the UBO is of criminal background.
Some updates on Switzerland and UBO regulations
Certainly, Switzerland has not adopted the UBO regulations to increase the cash inflow. Also, the country is not concerned with the sources of income of any individual having a Swiss account. Incidents have shown that Switzerland's decision not to adopt UBO (Ultimate Beneficial Owner) regulations will make it easier for criminals to misuse the system. Mostly, they use shell companies for opening Swiss bank accounts.
Significantly, it has increased money laundering and other financial crimes. As a result, it is expected that the prevalence of these crimes will be higher in Switzerland compared to other nations. Despite this, other countries that have implemented regulations for Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC are much more trustworthy.
Following are some updates in Switzerland’s KYC and AML regulations to combat the fin crime for UBOs:
AMLA & Switzerland
The Swiss Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) requires all regulated entities in Switzerland to identify and verify the Ultimate Beneficial Owners. Additionally, if the client is a legal entity or structure, such as a company or trust, the requirement of UBO increases. This process is regulated by the AMLA and is intended to help prevent financial crimes such as money laundering.
Furthermore, it ensures that these institutions are aware of the true identity and ownership structure of their clients. So, UBO in KYC is identified through AMLA guidelines for maintaining the public’s trust in the financial system.
FINMA & Switzerland
Actually, FINMA is a regulatory authority that supports the cause of AMLA. Generally, financial institutions in Switzerland are responsible for the Ultimate Beneficial Owners (UBOs) of their clients.
However, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) has the authority to request information about the UBO of a legal entity or structure. Also, it determines the need to meet the requirements of the Swiss Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA).
Overall, Criminals including money launderers and cyber criminals, often find new ways to exploit the banking sector for illicit purposes. Surely, one of the biggest challenges in preventing fin crime is detecting them in a timely manner. So, it is important to implement a strong AML regulatory framework for the Ultimate Beneficial Owners in KYC. This AML compliance framework must be able to trace, detect, and mitigate the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Lastly, Switzerland has become notorious for sheltering criminals and corrupt politicians. It has opened up ways for illicit money to be laundered and injected back into the system. So, to mitigate it the identification of the Ultimate Beneficial Owner in KYC will facilitate in tracing back such money.