We're on the road again for the Inspire Tour

June and I are on the road today meeting members at the Inspire Tour in Glasgow.

It’s been a fantastic opening to this year’s Inspire Tour which kicked off in Inverness on Tuesday (pictured above) and will be in Carlisle tomorrow. Thankfully we seem to have taken the sun with us and avoided the threat of wind and snow!

As always, ICB Bookkeepers are showing they are leading the profession and very switched on. Thanks to everyone who’s attended so far, including our popular sponsors FreeAgent and SmartVault. Last year’s sponsors AutoEntry are back on the tour starting in Chester next week.


OPBAS Findings impact licence holders

As you will be aware, in 2007 ICB and a small number of senior professional bodies were appointed by HM Treasury as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Supervisors, and since that date, it has been our collective responsibility to support, educate, monitor and, where necessary, discipline our members.

In 2017 HM Treasury passed responsibility for monitoring the effectiveness of the Supervisors, to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which, in turn, created the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervisors (OPBAS).  This was in part to ensure that supervision across the bodies was consistent and was based on risk, and in part to prepare for the evaluation by the global Financial Action Task Force (FATF), of the UK’s anti-money laundering programme.  The published findings revealed inconsistencies across the professional bodies, a lack of adequate intelligence across the sectors. Many members of professional bodies were found to be simply not aware of the scale and structure of money laundering and were not being effectively monitored. Startlingly, almost a quarter of the 22 professional body supervisors were revealed to have no supervisory regime at all.

I’m very proud of ICB’s well-established supervisory function. We were right to invest heavily in our bespoke risk-assessment and monitoring platform, AML Online, and OPBAS has praised the use of data analytics to inform a risk-based approach. That said, all supervisors have come under fire for our lack of enforcement action, with OPBAS stating clearly that ‘robust supervision means taking tough enforcement action against members who don’t meet the standards…and to show that meeting standards is a serious requirement.’

ICB has therefore committed to increasing the number of practices that it inspects from the current less than one hundred per annum, to at least two-hundred-and-fifty.  To do this, ICB has appointed a team of inspectors who will work under the ICB Director and Head of Compliance, Stephen Hardwick.  It will be their responsibility to monitor practices and select those that they wish to inspect.  They will select practices on a risk-sensitive basis but will also choose some at random.  The risks they will be looking at might relate to high-risk clients, high-risk services, failure to respond to ICB, not providing a DBS certificate for each BOOM, and late payment of fees.  The first task of the inspectors will be to ensure that practices operate a risk-sensitive programme and that members are aware of their responsibilities.  They will want to check that members are using AML Online, carrying out initial risk-assessments and due diligence, followed by checks at least annually that these are still up-to-date and accurate.  Early inspections suggest that some ICB members have simply relaxed and are failing to take their legal obligations seriously or to understand the importance of being risk-aware when it comes to their clients.  In some cases, they have been negligent and have strayed outside the Law.  ICB must ensure that this does not happen, and we are now being closely monitored to ensure we issue fines and initiate other disciplinary proceedings where necessary.

You can find out more about AML when you join us on the 15-city UK and Ireland Inspire Tour. We have an AML Compliance Inspector speaking at every event. Find out if there’s a tour near you here www.bookkeepers.org.uk/events  

Financial crime is bad for everyone but as ICB bookkeepers you should be proud that you are playing your part in stifling the opportunity of people to engage in fraudulent activity and to find avenues to spend the proceeds of their crimes.  As these avenues are closed off, members need to put into place systems and checks to ensure that they do not unwittingly assist in fraudulent activity by missing glaring signs that something simply isn’t right.

Above all ICB is here to support you and make your job easier; to guide you so you know what to look out for and, in the unfortunate event that you identify a problem, you know exactly what to do.  ICB greatly values its members and is confident that this new, enhanced programme of inspections, will ensure that ICB maintains its lead at the very forefront of the AML campaign.  This is vital to the future, not only of bookkeepers and ICB, but to UK business and the integrity and reputation of the UK as a world-leading centre for commerce and enterprise.