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Why Identifying a Company's Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) is Important

Ultimate Beneficial Owner) - Image from pixabay by Tumisu

By confirming their clients' identities, businesses can ensure they are doing business with the right people in a regulatory environment that is always evolving. In light of this, financial regulators mandate that companies identify the ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) in transactions with customer entities.

The UBO (Ultimate Beneficial Owner), who may be a natural person or a legal entity, is the party who stands to gain the most from and has the most effective control over an arrangement. Regardless of the chain of command, it is the final gainer. While it could be simple to identify specific consumers as the recipients of transactions, UBOs might be harder to spot because they are hiding their identities or being obscured by corporate infrastructure.

What Are The Characteristics of UBO?

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) identifies the following guidelines for determining beneficial owners:

  •  Individuals who control at least 25% of the share capital
  •  People who use at least 25% of their voting rights
  •  Beneficiaries of at least 25% of the capital of an entity
  •  Power of attorney holders
  •  Protectors of minors
  •  Corporate directors or nominee directors are chosen to hide the real owners of a particular company.
  •  Shareholders, including owners of anonymously transferable bearer shares
Ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is important - image from pixabay by StartupStock
Ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is important - image from pixabay by StartupStock

How Can We Determine If There Is a UBO Present?

Step 1

Get the credentials of the company first. Companies must provide complete and current information about their register number, firm name, address, official status, and senior management personnel for their data's legitimacy and accuracy to be verified. The precise requirements could change depending on the region and fraud regulation norms.

Step 2

Study the ownership hierarchy. Find out who is a direct or indirect owner of shares or interests, whether they are natural or legal individuals.

Step 3

Determine who will benefit most. Check each person's total proportion of shares, management control, and ownership stake to determine if they meet the criteria for UBO — having the greatest advantage.

Step 4

Do an AML/KYC check. All people identified as UBOs must undergo a thorough AML/KYC examination. The more precise term "KYC" refers to confirming customers' identities before approving a transaction. The term "AML" is a broader group of controls intended to thwart money laundering, terrorist funding, and criminal financing. KYC is a part of it but is not the only one.

Risks Associated With UBO.

The risks are categorized into low, mid, and high.

Low To Mid Risk

For low-risk UBOs, requesting the client's confirmation of identity is sufficient, and having them sign a statement that includes all of their information. It is sufficient to conduct the standard visual check (by comparing the client's facial features shown on the ID's photograph with the client's real facial features) and authentication check (by confirming the authenticity and validity of the provided ID) to establish the identity of a low-risk client.

Mid to High Risk

Further research is necessary if the subject is a PEP or if there are any indications of terrorism or money laundering. Before the case is concluded, all business interactions put you and your firm at risk of getting entangled in illegal conduct. The FATF recommends the following as improved due diligence measures in such circumstances:

  1. Executing further searches to gather identifying information from a wider range of sources and utilizing this data to evaluate the risk profile of the specific consumer. Risk factors include being exposed to politics, receiving negative media coverage, and facing legal repercussions;
  2. Examining the source of wealth or money involved in the business relationship to confirm that they are not the profits of any crime and to note any differences between the source of wealth, the source of income, and the total net worth;
  3. Requesting the customer to provide more details regarding the goal and intended nature of the business relationship;
  4. Requiring the customers to deliver up-to-date details on any changes in significant ownership at least once a year.

What Are The UBO Regulations?

The following UBO requirements are part of the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (5AMLD), which replaced the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive on January 10, 2020.

  • Public access must be granted to UBO lists created under 4AMLD.
  • Trusts (or any arrangement of a similar nature) must adhere to the rules governing beneficial ownership and, like corporations, must make this information available to authorities or other parties with a justifiable reason to request it.
  • To promote collaboration and information sharing between the authorities of member states, UBO national registries must be interconnected at the EU level.
  • To guarantee the accuracy and dependability of the data they contain, member states must upgrade their UBO verification processes.
  • Member states must implement a separate UBO registration for bank accounts.
  • Unlike business UBO registers, these listings are exclusively accessible to authorities and not publicly accessible.


How To Create UBO

Businesses should identify the ultimate beneficial owner by implementing the Know Your Customer (KYC) processes as part of their AML/CFT solutions. In actuality, this should entail:

  • Due diligence on behalf of the customer: Businesses should look to gather identifying information about their clients, such as the names and addresses of the company directors and the details of the firm's incorporation.
  • AML transaction monitoring: By keeping an eye out for strange transaction patterns and transactions involving high-risk nations, businesses may be able to spot shell corporations.
  • Screening for sanctions: Clients subject to international sanctions may try to access financial services through shell firms. As a result, businesses should check high-risk clients against the pertinent sanctions lists.
  • PEP vetting: People who are politically exposed (PEP), such as public servants or politicians, constitute a high AML risk and may try to hide their identity by using shell corporations. To determine a customer's PEP status, businesses should screen them.
  • Media coverage that is unfavorable: Before information is made public by governmental sources, news reports may implicate clients in money laundering offenses connected to UBO. Businesses should employ constant negative news screening for unfavorable news articles involving their clients.
Why identifying a company's ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is important - image from pixabay by StartupStock
Why identifying a company's ultimate beneficial owner (UBO) is important - image from pixabay by StartupStock

Importance of Ultimate Beneficial Owner(UBO) To a Firm or Company.

  1. The main goal of UBO identification is to stop financial crimes like money laundering and financing terrorism from taking place behind closed doors of businesses and legal entities.
  2. By hiding their identities, criminals may attempt to get around AML restrictions when laundering illicit funds. The use of corporate entities like shell corporations or proxies by criminals to carry out transactions is occasionally seen.
  3. Enterprises can address the hazards created by shell corporations and other money-laundering techniques by looking into ultimate beneficial ownership, ensuring that they are not working with criminals who misuse corporate infrastructure to hide their identity.
  4. If a UBO is not identified, the corporation may handle transactions violating national and international regulations to prevent money laundering, illicit funding, and criminal activities. The US Patriot Act, UK Bribery Act, FCPA, UN Sanctions, and others are a few of them. The business runs the danger of being shunned by the international financial community for ostensibly or unintentionally retaining relationships with these people.
  5. Failure to find UBOs may result in violations of national and international laws and heavy fines in some nations. The company's reputation is also in jeopardy, which could affect its future capacity for income generation. Costs of repair and corrective measures should also be taken into account.


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