Asia is open for business: How to master the KYC data landscape

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With its vibrant economies and evolving consumer landscapes, Asia is rapidly emerging as a nexus for business expansion. This region’s appeal isn’t just a matter of numbers. While the sheer size of its market is undoubtedly compelling, its shifting consumer behaviours are another significant drawcard. Here, robust growth is being fuelled by rising purchasing power and demand for innovative products and services. 

In this fast-changing and diverse ecosystem, a one-size-fits-all approach is neither practical nor wise. Businesses must gain a deep understanding of the local context, cultures and regulations, address language barriers, and tailor their strategies for successful expansion in Asia.

The crucial first impression: customer onboarding 

A company’s foray into a new market is heavily influenced by its first interactions with prospective customers. Customer onboarding isn’t just a process; it’s a pivotal touchpoint that can set the tone for the entire customer journey. It determines how well a company understands its customers, how effectively it can mitigate risks and how adeptly it can forge lasting relationships. In Asia, where relationships are deeply valued, an effective onboarding process can be the difference between fleeting transactions and lasting customer loyalty. 

At the core of customer onboarding is the Know Your Customer (KYC) process, which serves as the first line of defence against financial crime. Central to this process are the pillars of data quality, transparency and availability. However, the challenge in Asia lies in its diverse data landscape. The reliability and ease of access to data differ markedly across various countries in the region. For firms looking to grow their market share in Asia, an in-depth understanding of its complex data environment is essential. This knowledge ensures a smoother, more efficient onboarding process that accurately evaluates and mitigates potential risks.

A snapshot of the KYC data landscape in Asia 

Key data sources in Asia

Internal Data: 

  • Company-specific data: Documents pertaining to company registration, financial statements and annual reports. 
  • Identity data: Official documents that establish an individual’s identity, such as passports, driving licences and National IDs. 

External Data:  

  • Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT): Publicly available data sources which can provide insights into an individual’s or company’s behaviour, relationships and networks. 
  • Watchlists and sanctions Lists: Lists maintained by governmental and international bodies highlighting entities subject to restrictions or monitoring. 
  • UBO (Ultimate Beneficial Owner) Data: Information concerning the natural persons who ultimately own or control a company. 

The focus is not merely on accessing these data sources, but also in evaluating their trustworthiness. The entire client onboarding process depends on this reliability, which makes it a critical factor for businesses.

Country-specific comparisons 

KYC China 

Data availability   China’s data landscape is characterised by a decentralised and fragmented system. Multiple agencies maintain varied databases, making data retrieval a navigation challenge. 

 

Key Portals include 

  • National Enterprise Credit Information Publicity System1 (NECIPS), 
  • Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE)2 and the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE)3  

There are also some sources of watchlists and sanctions lists that can provide information on individuals and entities that are subject to restrictions or prohibitions by local or international authorities, such as  

  • The PBOC List of Dishonest Persons Subject to Enforcement 
  • The Ministry of Commerce Unreliable Entity List 
  • The United Nations Security Council Consolidated List4 
Data reliability  China has a restricted and controlled OSINT landscape which is subject to censorship by the government and affiliates, limiting the availability and reliability of information on individuals and entities.  

  • The Chinese government has implemented a vast system known colloquially as the “Great Firewall”,5 which restricts access to numerous foreign websites, including many Western news outlets, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and search engines like Google. Moreover, Domestic search engines, such as Baidu, are required to censor search results that might return politically sensitive information. 

KYC Singapore 

Data availability  Singapore offers a more streamlined data architecture, with centralised databases such as ACRA BizFile6 offering more efficient and comprehensive access to company information and UBO data. There also exists a number of other OSINT sources that provide information on individuals and companies: 

  • Singapore Business Federation (SBF)7 
  • Singapore Exchange (SGX)8 
  • Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS)9 

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) maintains a list of individuals and entities that are subject to financial sanctions under the United Nations Act (UN Act) and the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSOFA). This list consolidates the various sanctions and prohibitions applicable under these regulations, making it easier for institutions and entities in Singapore to ensure they are in compliance with these regulations.10

There are also various sources of UBO data that can provide information on the natural persons who ultimately own or control a company or a legal arrangement in Singapore such as the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority’s (ACRA’s) Register of Registrable Controllers.11 

Data reliability  Singapore requires all companies and legal entities to maintain and update their UBO information with (ACRA) and imposes strict penalties for non-compliance with disclosure obligations.  

Singapore also participates in various initiatives to boost the quality of its UBO data – for example, the Singapore Governance and Transparency Index (SGTI) reviews annual reports against dozens of criteria. Latest results the mean score for companies stands at 74.8 / 100 in 2023, up from 70.6 in 2022. 

KYC India 

Data availability  Open-source intelligence, watchlists, sanctions lists and UBO data are scattered across multiple platforms and formats, often requiring manual aggregation and analysis. The fact that this information is not available in a central unified database could impose challenges to the timely access of information. Some of the primary sources include: 

  • Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA)12  
  • Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)13 
  • National Stock Exchange of India (NSE)14 

There are very few sources of UBO data that can provide information on the natural persons who ultimately own or control a company or a legal arrangement in India, as the country does not have a comprehensive or public register of beneficial ownership. Financial institutions may have to rely on self-declaration or contractual agreements to obtain UBO data from customers. 

Data reliability  Company information can often be incomplete, outdated or inconsistent across different registries and databases. Identity documents are also prone to fraud and duplication, particularly in rural areas where biometric authentication is not widely available.  

 

Addressing these data challenges with technology

Technology significantly improves access to accurate, complete and reliable data, acting as a lifeline for risk and compliance teams, who are able to bridge information gaps and keep KYC processes running like clockwork. 

Acting as a trusted trade gateway to the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, AsiaVerify is a RegTech platform that allows global organisations to streamline and enhance their Know Your Business (KYB) and Know Your Customer (KYC) processes, ensuring a thorough understanding of organisations’ corporate and UBO structures.     

What sets AsiaVerify apart is a unique combination of best-in-class business verification technology and exclusive access to authoritative sources across APAC that enable us to deliver fully translated, authenticated and connected company checks for our clients to navigate the region’s markets with ease and confidence.

AsiaVerify offers your organisation

  • Access to insights on 344 million entities and the 3 billion related individuals across 12 APAC jurisdictions.
  • Advanced natural language processing (NLP) and automatic content recognition (ACR) technology for efficient document translation.
  • Robust audit trails linking translated text to source material for verifiable KYC data.
  • Real-time data extraction for accurate corporate structure and UBO identification.
  • Predictive insights based on historical entities’ data patterns.

Group 393Discover how AsiaVerify can help your business fulfil your compliance and regulatory requirements, and strategically manage risk as you expand and grow in the Asian market. 

If you are interested in seeing a demo, book a call with our experts today! 

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