Open Ownership (OO) is the leading global hub for company ownership information and advice, from drafting laws to verifying data, and making it work in practice.
OO offers technical assistance to countries seeking to collect, compile, and publish data on who ultimately controls companies operating in their jurisdiction. By providing easy access to technical knowledge and peer review, OO supports effective implementation and helps remove barriers to the collection and publication of beneficial ownership data.
OO specialises in providing integrated support across the whole range of policy, legal, systems, and technology issues involved in establishing beneficial ownership registers. For those just starting out on their implementation journey, OO can also advise on the implications of creating open registers and the numerous advantages they bring. These include supporting diverse national policy goals, such as improving the business environment; meeting Financial Action Task Force and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development standards; and tackling corruption and money laundering.
OO offers a tailored and highly collaborative approach to technical assistance, providing bespoke guidance that fits the specific needs of each individual country’s context. Recognising that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the challenges involved in implementing beneficial ownership disclosure, OO works closely with partner agencies to help them deliver in-country impact.
The OO team is internationally recognised as leading experts in the field and, in 2019, partnered with the Open Government Partnership to convene the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group. This initiative brings together national governments that have committed to sharing insights and driving continued development of best practice in the field of beneficial ownership transparency.
Previous technical assistance projects have included sector-specific work, such as extractive industry beneficial ownership registers as well as cross-sectoral and national initiatives. OO has provided comprehensive assistance to government agencies in Ukraine – among the first countries to create a public beneficial ownership register – as well as to those in Armenia, the Kyrgyz Republic, and elsewhere. OO has also advised Kenya on the development of its beneficial ownership legislation and helped Nigeria create its disclosure forms and associated laws, among many other projects.
How we can help
OO has collated knowledge from multiple country contexts to create a suite of implementation guides, templates, and tools that can be used to streamline register creation and data publication. The emerging best practice on beneficial ownership transparency is outlined in a range of freely available guides, including:
- the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard (BODS), a structured template for producing high-quality, machine-readable beneficial ownership data;
- our implementation guide, which helps implementers navigate the full journey from considering beneficial ownership transparency right through to publishing data on a public register;
- template forms for collecting beneficial ownership information; and
- our legal framework and data systems reviewer tools, which can help identify required reforms prior to the creation of centralised registers.
Via our helpdesk, we also provide support to governments or organisations implementing, or considering implementing, a beneficial ownership disclosure framework using the BODS. The helpdesk service provides practical advice on designing data collection processes; integrating beneficial ownership data with existing systems; addressing policy queries; and assessing whether published data complies with emerging best practice.
For a more limited number of countries, OO offers enhanced support by tailoring various tools to fit the individual context and assisting with their implementation. Our highest level of programmatic assistance generally includes: a holistic evaluation of the technical, administrative, and policy frameworks; bespoke recommendations on how to produce high-quality beneficial ownership data; and implementation support in the form of technical expertise and access to our networks.
The exact support OO provides to our high-engagement countries is always tailored to respond to the most pressing needs. To date this has included: detailed legal and technical document reviews; in-country and online training and workshops; customised guidance on data verification best practices; or technical support during the data import and user-testing phases. The aim of all these initiatives is to provide practical and realisable technical recommendations that facilitate the creation of a sustainable beneficial ownership regime containing high-quality, and highly usable, data.
What are the advantages of beneficial ownership transparency?
Anonymous shell companies are the main vehicle used to evade billions of dollars in tax revenues. They are also used to move illicit funds – from laundering money for human trafficking and the drug trade to funding terror groups and criminal gangs. By removing the ability of the criminally inclined to hide their earnings behind opaque corporate structures, beneficial ownership registers help governments to crackdown on these illicit activities.
In addition, transparent company ownership creates a better environment for business by increasing market competitiveness. Open registers allow companies to better vet prospective partners, clients, and suppliers; conduct enhanced due diligence; and manage risk exposure.
Does Open Ownership only assist countries that are working towards public beneficial ownership registers?
OO advocates for open beneficial ownership registers, as these generate the largest benefits for both the business environment and the efforts to clamp down on financial crimes, such as tax evasion, corruption, and money laundering. Whilst generally prioritising partnering with countries that are working towards public registers (either at the national or sectoral level), OO recognises that this is an emerging policy field and that implementation of any centralised register still presents a series of significant challenges. As such, OO remains open to partnering with agencies that are working on compiling or improving their central beneficial ownership register, even if there are no immediate plans to make the data publicly available.
What type of countries and organisations does Open Ownership work with? How much support can you provide?
Anyone is able to access our library of practical resources, which includes implementation guides, templates, and tools that can be used to streamline the process of register creation and data publication. Implementing agencies within government, and those supporting implementation from within civil society, can also use our free helpdesk to gain advice on designing data collection processes and integrating beneficial ownership data with their existing systems. Via the helpdesk, organisations can also ask for guidance on policy requirements or information on whether published data complies with our suggested best practice model, detailed in the BODS.
A greater level of free technical assistance and enhanced support is also available to a more limited number of countries, in accordance with our funding restrictions and strategic priorities. We are very happy to consider any requests for enhanced support, so please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] for more information or to discuss your requirements.
What is the cost of working with Open Ownership? How is your work funded?
OO receives funding from international donors, including the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office and the World Bank, which finance the majority of our international technical assistance work. Thanks to the ongoing support of these donors, OO has been able to deliver a number of important technical assistance initiatives at no (or at a heavily subsidised) cost to the beneficiary institutions.
Countries that are not eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA) can still access our helpdesk as well as our range of free tools and implementation guides. However, we will be able to provide enhanced support to these jurisdictions only in a more limited set of circumstances. Indeed, one of the first stages of assistance we may provide to such countries could include guidance on securing funding to cover the cost of a more in-depth technical assistance programme.
We are currently only considering whether to create a beneficial ownership register. Can we still request assistance from Open Ownership?
Yes. OO remains committed to working with agencies that are at all stages of the implementation journey. Whether you are considering a register and unsure of its benefits, have committed to creating a register but are unclear of how to proceed, or are looking for advice on technical and legal aspects of implementation, OO can offer tools and advice that will make the implementation process more efficient and effective.
Get in touch
We are actively seeking to expand our in-country support, and regional and global work to advance beneficial ownership transparency. If you are interested in partnering with Open Ownership in your country, please contact [email protected] to discuss your country’s needs and the support we could provide.