Measuring the economic impact of beneficial ownership transparency (summary report)

  • Publication date: 16 May 2022
  • Authors: Oxford Insights, Lateral Economics, Open Ownership


Over the course of this research, we found a very limited body of existing work that specifically quantifies the economic value of BOT. BOT is widely understood to be an economically beneficial reform, and its benefits are well-documented in a qualitative sense, but research largely refrains from quantifying economic impacts in this area due to limitations regarding attribution and data availability.

These challenges to measurement are not insignificant, yet nor do they render measuring the economic impacts of BOT impossible. As this report has outlined, there are a range of potential approaches that could be used to quantify benefits in this space, all of which are accompanied by trade-offs in terms of feasibility and robustness of findings.

In light of the methodologies identified and insights from subject matter experts and economists, we set forth a number of key considerations for governments, international organisations and civil society. Whilst some of the recommendations outlined below can be broadly applied to all of these groups, we recognise that governments in particular have a key role to play in any efforts to measure the economic impact of BOT, as the stewards of the public datasets needed to assess impact in a number of benefit areas.


1. Whilst for many jurisdictions the available economic evidence already justifies the associated costs of beneficial ownership transparency, some of the methodologies outlined in this report would strengthen the understanding of the economic impacts of BOT in the short-term. Governments in particular should consider strategically employing the most cost-effective of these approaches to fill in the gaps in the existing evidence base.

Economic evidence that is already available justifies government spending on effectively implemented BOT, and its associated costs for the private sector. This research points to strong evidence of large economic costs that BOT is expected to directly or indirectly ameliorate. There is broad agreement that BOT is a missing piece in the existing institutional structure, and would bring significant benefits for the operation of markets and democracies. Case studies of analogous reforms, and a handful of studies of the value of BOT for end-users, suggest that these benefits can be realised. It appears resoundingly clear that the benefits outweigh the costs of reform, even if benefits cannot be precisely quantified at present; indeed, this is why we see broad support for BOT among economists and international institutions.

Given this existing evidence base, to commit funding to complex causal studies which measure the economic impact of BOT, would not be “practical” nor “proportionate”, to quote UK government guidance on preparing a business case, which warns against costly impact assessment where evidence is already available. [45] Indeed, such approaches are unlikely to ever be considered by analysts either in government or international organisations, given the intensive resources needed to conduct them.

Nonetheless, survey based approaches have the potential to supplement the existing economic argument in favour of BOT. For instance, data which is currently available provides little insight into how BOT may impact investigation times for enforcement agencies, the prevalence and profitability of organised crime, the robustness of procurement processes, or due diligence costs within the private sector. Survey-based estimates in these kinds of benefit areas would be an efficient means of contributing to the economic case for BOT.

2. Focusing on particular benefit types in relation to specific policy goals is likely to be the most practical approach to studying the economic benefits of BOT.

As outlined above, it will not always be financially viable to commit resources to the approaches identified in this report. In addition to justifying whether it is proportionate to carry out an approach, governments, organisations or researchers looking to carry out novel research should avoid measurement for measurement’s sake and instead focus on measuring particular benefit types, where a need for additional evidence to support the case for BOT has been identified.

When looking to prioritise benefit types, researchers and governments need to consider which benefits are likely to be relevant to specific groups. For instance, we heard repeatedly throughout interviews that industry leaders were particularly likely to be interested in the benefits of BOT for businesses, given that the private sector shoulders most of the regulatory burden of BOT. Where this is the case, methods which look to gauge the benefits of reform for businesses should be prioritised in the short term, with a view to providing better evidence to support ongoing discussions around the costs and benefits of BOT for the private sector.

For governments more specifically, measuring via benefit type will also be crucial when looking to confirm the extent to which a BOT regime is able to meet its intended policy goals. Whilst the potential benefits of BOT are myriad, governments will often implement BOT reforms having identified key policy goals, such as reducing illicit financial flows and the time taken by law enforcement to investigate them. In addition to being more methodologically feasible and “proportionate” than attempting to measure aggregate economic impact, measuring by benefit type will allow governments to prioritise these policy outcomes in their impact assessments, and even to chart progress in key impact areas over time.

3. Governments implementing BOT reforms should conduct impact assessments and publish their findings to help understand the economic case for BOT across jurisdictions.

Most of the evidence collected during this project is UK-centric, given that almost all of the resources encountered in the literature review which actively seek to measure the impact of existing BOT reforms were published by the UK government. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the UK is one of the forerunners in terms of BOT implementation. However, now that more than 30 registers have been implemented worldwide, the economic case for BOT could be strengthened by other jurisdictions dedicating resources to conducting their own impact assessments.

Crucially, if governments are to commit resources to evaluating the costs and benefits of a BOT intervention, they should also publish their methodologies and findings publicly, to add to the growing evidence base in this area. The work carried out by BEIS and Companies House in 2019 is available in full online, and was published alongside a methodological paper, which provides a useful starting point for other jurisdictions looking to conduct similar work, in a way that is sensitive to their specific country context. [36]

4. In order to support more robust research to quantify the impacts of BOT in the future, and for their own monitoring and evaluation purposes, governments need to start tracking baseline data points now.

In the future, there is scope for a range of correlational and causal studies to be conducted in this area, mostly by economists and other social scientists. Correlational studies would simply demonstrate a before and after change in an indicator following reform, whereas causational studies could go further, in an attempt to prove whether, and to what extent, BOT was the determinant of change.

To facilitate this kind of research, and for the purposes of their own monitoring and evaluation activities, governments need to work to establish the baseline data from which impact can be measured as soon as possible. This might include data on asset seizures, investigation times, and financial crime detection rates, although the types of data collected will depend on the benefits a government has prioritised for measurement. Consultation with economists and social scientists about data requirements is advised.

5. As the BOT policy area matures, further work should consider how specific design elements may lead to specific economic benefits. Future research is needed to understand the evidence not just for BOT in its broadest sense, but for the specific aspects of BOT implementation which contribute to an effective disclosure system.

As a preliminary landscaping study, this report has focussed primarily on how methodological approaches might measure specific classes of benefit relating to BOT. However, future work may be able to isolate particular BOT design features, assess their value, and in doing so guide continued improvements. Important dimensions include data quality, coverage, verification mechanisms, cross-border data sharing and processes of review to close emerging loopholes. Some work has already been done by the UK government in this regard; the 2019 valuation of Companies House data illustrates how making company data (including the PSC register) freely accessible is economically advantageous. The report outlines how switching to a fee-based model would generate welfare losses. [47]

As more and more governments move from the initial step of implementing a BOT register, to iterating and improving the way that data is collected, structured and verified, there is increasing scope to assess which design features constitute effectively implemented BOT – that is, emerging good practice that meets the criteria outlined in Open Ownership’s principles for effective disclosure.

6. The Financial Action Task Force could play a role in supporting countries seeking to track the impact of BOT reform by publishing guidance around collecting and analysing statistical evidence for BOT.

As a leading standard setting body on BOT, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has the potential to be instrumental in encouraging governments to implement monitoring, evaluation and learning practices around reforms in this area.

FATF already advocates for the quantitative impact evaluation of anti money laundering reforms. Recommendation 33 states that “Countries should maintain comprehensive statistics on matters relevant to the effectiveness and efficiency of their AML/CFT systems”. [48] Acknowledging the challenges around assessing effectiveness, FATF has also published guidance which sets out options for collecting, maintaining and analysing anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) data. [49] In addition, guidance provides concrete examples of the kind of statistics that could be useful to collect.

Particularly as FATF revises Recommendation 24 on beneficial ownership, the organisation should consider developing further non-binding guidance, specifically focussed on measuring the impact of BOT. Designing and implementing impact evaluations for BOT policies is not straightforward, and more practical guidance for countries in terms of data collection, in line with existing resources in the broader anti corruption space, would be a useful resource for governments.


[45] HM Treasury. (2018). Guide to Developing the Programme Business Case., p. 20.

[46] Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Companies House. (2019). Valuing the User Benefits of Companies House Data: Policy Summary.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Financial Action Task Force (FATF). (2015). Guidance on AML/CFT related data and statistics

[49] Ibid.