SINGAPORE - Corporate service providers (CSPs) will soon have to take a new mandatory training and proficiency test aimed at boosting professional standards in the industry and Singapore's reputation as an international financial and business hub.
From Nov 15 this year, CSPs seeking to be registered as filing agents (RFAs) with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) will need to undergo the test before being allowed to register or renew their registrations, it announced on Friday (May 11).
CSPs provide services such as companies' set-up, corporate secretarial services and statutory filing of documents with Acra. In 2015, regulations, including anti-money laundering (AML) and counter financing of terrorism (CFT), were introduced to require CSPs to register with Acra.
It said the new training programme is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen the CSP sector's resilience to illicit activities such as money laundering and terrorism financing.
The initiative was announced by Acra chief executive Ong Khiaw Hong at the annual CSP Conference on Friday morning.
In his keynote address, Mr Ong noted the key role that CSPs play in helping to combat illicit corporate activities.
He said that CSPs should "remain mindful of the growing complexity and cross-border nature of such illicit activities" and urged them to "stay up to date with AML and CFT measures and implement them correctly".
Acra worked with the Chartered Secretaries Institute of Singapore (CSIS) and Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) to develop the training programme.
New applicants seeking to be a RFA, as well as existing RFAs, have to complete the mandatory training and take the online proficiency test.
The majority of existing RFAs registered with Acra will have until April 2019 to complete the training and take the test as they will only need to renew their registration in April 2019.
At the conference, Acra also shared findings from its latest round of compliance reviews of RFAs.
It said there was a marked improvement with close to 75 per cent of RFAs achieving a "compliant" rating for AML/CFT requirements compared to 50 per cent two years ago.
A small segment of the CSP sector however was still found to be non-compliant with significant breaches detected.
To deter such breaches and enhance market transparency, Mr Ong announced in his speech that from June 1 this year, Acra will be publishing the names of RFAs that have been suspended or had their registration cancelled due to severe breaches of AML/CFT regulations.
The information will be made publicly available on the Acra website and BizFile+ portal.
Commenting on the new regulatory measures, Ms Grace Tan, chief executive of CSIS which organises the annual CSP Conference, said: "With the crucial role they play servicing corporate clients, the CSP sector must ensure appropriate internal policies, procedures and controls are in place to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorism financing.
"CSIS is confident that the mandatory training will help raise the professional standing of the CSP sector."