Virtus Assure Successfully Performed Review Assessment of Internal Know-Your-Customer and Anti Money Laundering Procedures for Digital Asset Trading Client

Our client developed and implemented internal KYC and AML procedures to manage and effectively mitigate the money laundering and financing of terrorism for their digital asset trading business.

We reviewed their internal KYC and AML policies and guidelines by designing the appropriate review procedures in order to express an opinion on the adequacy and effectiveness of the procedures in the following areas:

  • Customer Due Diligence
  • Customer Relationship Management Database
  • Monitoring of Existing Customers
  • Record Keeping

Based on the results of our review, we recommended that certain specific KYC and AML should be enhanced but felt reasonably assured that the overall internal KYC and AML procedures are adequate to mitigate money laundering and financing of terrorism risk.

 

Virtus Assure Is Proud To Be One of the Sponsors For the Young Sustainability Innovator’s Challenge: Sustainable Society

We are pleased to be one of the sponsors for an event, namely the Young Sustainability Innovator’s Challenge: Sustainable Society.  The award ceremony of this challenge will be held on 01 December 2018, Saturday.

UON Singapore (a wholly-owned entity of the University of Newcastle, Australia) is organizing a Young Sustainability Innovator’s Challenge with the theme: Sustainable Society, targeting pre-university students from Junior Colleges, Institute of Technical Education, Polytechnics, International Schools and Private Education Institutions in Singapore.

The main objective of this challenge is to kindle the idea of developing a sustainable society among the younger generation by encouraging the creation of products and/or services that are significant and innovative.  At the same time, influence a sustainable and scalable technological and social impact in Singapore.

For detailed information about the challenge, please check the following link: https://www.newcastle.edu.au/singapore/young-sustainability-innovators-challenge

Young Sustainability Innovators Challenge

Virtus-Assure-Sponsor-Young-Sustainability-Innovators-Challenge
Virtus Assure Sponsors Young Sustainability Innovators Challenge

The Solo Sustainability Forum on February 24th, 2018

We are pleased to announce that the Solo Sustainability Forum will be held on February 24th, 2018. Our Project Director, Professor John Lee is one of the panelist and the forum theme is “Latest Developments of Sustainability Reporting and Assurance in the Region.”
Solo-Sustainability-Forum
Please join the event if you are interested.

• Registration deadline is on February 14th, 2018
• Payment deadline is on February 15th,2018

Event Location : Lorin Hotel JI. Adi Sucipto, Solo.
Event Date  : February 24th, 2018
Event Time : All of the day

 

The Solo Sustainability Forum – Information & Registration
For detailed information about the event and to register, click here.
Or click this flyer with additional information.
Solo-Sustainability-Forum-1

Virtus Assure Appoints the Hon. David Butcher as a Senior Advisor to the Firm

Virtus-Assure-David-ButcherVirtus Assure has appointed the Hon. David Butcher as a Senior Advisor to the firm. As Senior Advisor, he will provide strategic guidance and act as a thoughtful sounding board, to help the firm remain true to its mission. The firm’s directors and management take seriously their commitment to operationalise the experience brought to our company by David.

David was a minister in New Zealand’s Government responsible for all aspects of Agriculture, Lands and Forests (1984-1987) and played a crucial role in New Zealand’s abolition of subsidies to its land based industries, bringing producers closer to their markets. From 1987, he was a full Cabinet Minister in Portfolios including Energy, Trade and Industry, Commerce and Finance.

Since democratic retirement from politics he has undertaken more than 70 assignments in about 35 different countries, for institutions such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the United Nations. He has carved out a career in public sector reform, including commercialisation, corporatisation and privatisation, applying in African, Asian and Middle Eastern Countries the lessons from a reforming government. He has increasingly realised that private sector governance issues are similar.

Sustainability Reporting – In 2016 David was invited to present a paper on strategic accounting at the 4th Annual strategic Management Accounting Forum. Sustainability reporting is a more specialised comprehensive version of integrated accounting where all aspects of the business are highlighted in the annual report, requiring the board and management to assess all the strategic factors affecting the business.

Corporate Governance – David’s SOE reform work is strongly related to improving corporate governance and strategy. He helped refine a strategic business planning methodology, based on the conversion of ministry business operations into registered companies where the shares are held by the government. The new methodology was initially used in the NZ Coal Corporation and subsequently in several successful assignments in governments, NGOs and the private sector. There were significant productivity gains, improved commercial performance, greater profitability with profits and tax paid to the government in place of capital injections.

Regulation of business –Throughout history, competition has been the main regulator of business. In David’s experience, in competition investigations, draft regulations designed to confer business certainty or address market failures, the question should be asked “would more competition do a better job that yet another regulation inviting regulatory failure?” Nine times out of 10 the answer is “Yes!”. In David’s role as Minister of Trade and Industry and Commerce he saw examples where regulations could be replaced with competition and achieve a better outcome.

Risk Management – In 2016 David was employed by the United Nation’s ESCAP (Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific) ICT for Disaster Risk Reduction Division to prepare an evaluation of their major project focused on ICT for Disaster Risk Reduction. He highlighted that 63% of all disaster related deaths and 43% of all major disasters are in the Asia Pacific Region and account for 50% of economic costs. The Private sector share of rehabilitation is between 70 and 85% so risk reduction by the private sector is vital.

David is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) and is available to help you develop strategies for dealing with issues similar to those above.

If you’d like to contact him, he can be reached via email here: David.Butcher@virtusassure.com

 

Virtus Assure Offers Internal Audit Services to Singapore Pawnbrokers

Pursuant to The Pawnbrokers Act 2015 (“PBA”), The Registry of Pawnbrokers requires that all licensed pawnbrokers are to submit an independent audit report on their internal policies, procedures and controls (“PPCs”) to manage and effectively mitigate the money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

Virtus Assure is ably qualified to act as a consultant to develop the internal PPCs, identifying and mitigating the areas of risks, or as auditor to conduct an assessment of the effectiveness of internal PPCs with an audit report.Virtus Assure Pawnbroker Chart

 

  • We can assist to develop internal PPCs for you.

 

  • We can recommend measures to improve internal PPCs for you.

 

  • We can assess on the effectiveness of internal PPCs to assist in reporting to The Registry of Pawnbrokers pursuant to The Pawnbrokers Act 2015.

 

 

No matter what your risk and control environments are, Virtus Assure would like to hear from any pawnbroker to understand your requirements and to customise a cost-effective solution to comply with The Pawnbrokers Act 2015.

The Elephants in the Boardroom – The Sustainability Imperative

First Published in SID Conference Book “The Sustainability Imperative”
By Professor John Lee

Some leading companies are pioneering best practice towards truly sustainable business models. For the majority, followers and a handful of sceptic, whilst there is some acceptance that sustainability is “good”, there remains doubts as to how, in the current capitalism, sustainability can positively impact company financial performance.

The reality is that the vast majority of boardrooms today work to an agenda dominated by short-term issues, pressures and priorities. Current financial decision-making does not fully capture the value of sustainability-related investments. These investments are often based on long-term and intangible rewards, environments, social and governance (ESG) factors, whereas many investments made are based on the short-term impact on the bottom line.

Hence, it is imperative to address the short-term and long-term ways to assess and justify sustainability related investments? Until sustainability becomes accepted as a legitimate and value-creating activity, it will remain as the “elephant in the boardroom”.

The sustainability elephant
A May 2016 INSEAD paper, “Turning Sustainability into Value Drivers”, highlighted how an asset manager, Robeco Asset Management use of a “Value Driver Adjustment” (VDA) approach is giving companies practicing sustainability higher market valuations.

The VDA approach consists of three steps:

  1. Identify and focus on the most material issues for the respective industries.
  2. Analyse the impact of these material factors on the individual company.
  3. Quantify competitive (dis-)advantages to adjust value driver assumptions.

In the context of sustainability, materiality as defined by Global Reporting Initiative is “relevant topics that reflects the organization’s significant economic, environmental, and social impacts or that substantively influences the assessments and decisions of stakeholders.”

The VDA approach ties traditional investment approaches, linking ESG factors to value drivers through their expected effects on business models and competitive positions. In deriving competitive advantage from its ability to manage any ESG factor, company should reflect such advantage in its value drivers. In the end, company should have higher sales growth, higher margins, more efficient use of capital, or lower risk. Which in turn drive the ROIC (return on invested capital) and the firm’s valuation.

Robeco is not alone in applying sustainable investing. A Wall Street Journal article, “‘Sustainable Investing’ Goes Mainstream”, reported that signatories to the Principles of Responsible Investment, a UN-supported initiative, pledge to incorporate elements of sustainability into their financial decisions, with funds under their management totaling about US$59 trillion, or about half of all institutional assets world-wide.

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, our economy has a basic structure: we dig things out of the ground, turn them into products and then dispose of them into the air, water or bury them back into the grotmd as landfill. This linear model has recently experienced economic pressure from rising resource prices. This continued resource depletion and subsequent commodity price increases, has motivated some leading companies to adopt a regenerative business model in which products and components are reused multiple times, the circular economy.

An effective transition from a linear economy to a circular economy entails a substantial departure from the status quo, requiring collaboration from various stakeholders, and would release a vast amount of disruptive innovation across a variety of industries.

The Asian Development Bank estimates Asia Pacific (APAC) food wastage, including both food losses (up to the moment of sale) and consumer waste, to be at 37 per cent. Often ending up on trash heaps and in landfills, where they break down releasing methane, 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

To feed an ever-increasing hungry population, reducing this massive wastage proves to be both an uncharted challenge and a golden opportunity. “Disrupting the Food Logistics” is an initiative of “Forum for the Future”, an international non-profit organisation which is working with business, government and civil society to solve complex sustainability challenge. The initiative aims to use today’s cutting edge web based tools to map the innovations that can deliver sustainable, zero-waste food supply chains, ensuring that all produce, whether animal or vegetable, contributes to feeding the growing population.

Natural capital elephant
Another elephant in the boardroom is natural capital depletion. Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value, directly and indirectly, for people and organisations, such as forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans. It includes the living aspects of nature, such as fish stocks, as well as the non-living aspects, such as minerals and renewable or non­ renewable resources.

In the not-too-distant future, we may well have to value, account and make public the natural capital in our businesses. A concerted effort is underway to create methodologies and frameworks to value and account for natural capital in business. The Natural Capital Coalition, a multi-stakeholder initiative, is seeking to create a harmonised framework that will help standardise how natural capital is accounted for and valued: the Natural Capital Protocol (NCP). It is supported by, among others, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, and the accountancy professions.

The NCP is designed to generate trusted, credible, and actionable information that business managers need to make truly informed decisions. It brings together and builds on a number of approaches that already exist to help business measure and value natural capital, and, by harmonizing them, will allow all businesses everywhere to benefit from understanding their relationships with nature.

According to a 2013 report commissioned by the Natural Capital Coalition, half of all existing corporate profits would be at risk if the costs associated with natural capital were to be internalized through market mechanisms, regulation or taxation. A water shortage, for example, would have a catastrophic impact on 40 per cent of Fortune 100 companies.

Natural capital brings together the environmental strands of climate, water, energy, biodiversity and waste into a uniform strategic approach. When adopted, the NCP has the power to revolutionize the way that businesses evaluate their operations and make decisions, helping them to reduce pollution, protect biodiversity, and limit the impacts of climate change, while simultaneously producing positive business results, safeguarding operations and supporting efforts to create a more sustainable world.

We are committed
With 139 Parties of the 197 Parties to the Convention having ratified, the Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Singapore is a signatory of the Paris Agreement and is committed to reducing emission intensity by 36 per cent from 2005 levels, and peaking around 2030. Towards achieving this commitment, Finance Minister announced in February 2017 that the government is looking at a tax rate of between S$10 and S$20 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions on large direct emitters such as power stations from 2019.

To the skeptics, the message is this: climate change and other sustainability issues are not a passing fad; it is a disruptor that will transform our economy and society.

 

SID Directors’ Conference 2017 on September 12th, 2017

Join Us At the Conference with a Focus on Sustainability Imperative – 

We are pleased to announce that Virtus Assure is participating in the upcoming SID Directors’ Conference 2017 on September 12th, 2017. The theme of this year’s conference is “Sustainability Imperative: A Muitifaceted, Mindshifting Look at Money and Meaning in the New Capitalism”.

We would like to invite all clients, associates and participants in the conference to visit us at Booth No.9.

Event Location: Suntec Convention Centre, Level 3, Summit 1
Event Date: September 12th, 2017
Event Time: 1300hrsVirtus-Assure-SID-Poster-Finalized

SID Directors’ Conference 2017:
The Sustainability Imperative

For detailed information about the conference and to register, click here.

Sustainability Reporting – Going Beyond Compliance

Effective and efficient reporting that fulfills SGX mandatory requirements

By Lee Chuan Guan John
Published The Business Times

By fully embedding sustainability practices in their business, companies stand to reap distinct benefits.
It will become mandatory for all SGX primary-listed companies to publish an annual sustainability report on a comply-or-explain basis with effect from the financial year ending on or after 31 December 2017. The SGX said this will help meet growing demand from investors for more information on sustainable aspects of doing business.

By making sustainability reporting mandatory, Singapore joins  the ranks of the European Union, US, Japan and even Hong  Kong in getting all listed companies to be transparent about the economic, environmental and social impacts caused by their business activities. Currently, SGX-listed companies may submit sustainability reports on a voluntary basis, a practice adopted by only a small number such as CapitaLand, City Developments Limited (CDL) and Singapore Exchange.

Elements of a sustainability report
According to the SGX consultation paper on the proposed Listing Rules for implementing sustainability reporting, the primary components in a company’s sustainability report should comprise:

  • The material environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, why the factors were selected, their relevance to the business and business model, strategy and key stakeholders, and the process by which the choice was made;
  • The policies and practices that address each of the material ESG factors, and their performance in the context of previously disclosed targets;
  • The targets and objectives for the forthcoming year in relation to each material ESG factor;
  • The sustainability reporting framework appropriate to the industry and business model, explaining the choice;
  • A statement of the board that the issuer’s sustainability report complies with the primary components; otherwise, an explanation of alternative practices.
  • Taken together, proponents of sustainability reporting believe such disclosure assures stakeholders that the company is well managed, with interests aligned with investors, thereby building investor trust and confidence.

However, sustainability reporting may also seem to be adding to the compliance and reporting burden for companies, without generating any real benefit beyond looking good amongst their peers. Is it really just a case of “ticking the boxes” and be done with it?

Benefits of sustainability practices
Companies will do well to go beyond mere compliance in their sustainability reports. By fully embedding sustainability practices in their business, they stand to reap distinct benefits.

The first is the cost savings arising from improved operational efficiencies due to more efficient water and energy consumption. For example, listed property developers, CapitaLand and CDL, have over the past years reported substantial cost savings from their sustainability reports which have directly contributed to improved bottom line performance.

The second benefit is the positive impact on brand equity. Sustainability can and has been leveraged to differentiate one’s product or service from the competition. CDL’s late deputy chairman Kwek Leng Joo said that CDL had hoped to create a strong brand equity, product differentiation as well as investor and consumer value through its sustainability reports. The international awards and accolades that CDL has received are proof that CDL is well on the way to achieving that vision.

At the other extreme, the annual incidence of haze and air pollution due to slash and burn methods of clearing forest land in Indonesia has led to calls to boycott listed plantation companies believed to be behind such unethical and environmentally damaging methods.

The third benefit comes in the form of employee satisfaction and retention. Studies have shown that sustainability-conscious companies have been better able to retain staff. In a 2013 Employee Engagement Survey conducted by a third party consultant, CDL achieved a score of 70 per cent on the Employee Effectiveness Index, which is 6 percentage points higher than the national average. More impressively, its employee turnover was 15.9 per cent, 8.4 points below the national average of 24.3  per cent.

The fourth benefit lies in building a reliable supply-chain eco-system. By taking the lead in sustainability, companies will be conscious in selecting, guiding and managing supply-chain partners. Over time, the entire eco-system will operate within a more sustainable framework. A case in point would be the companies in the business of producing palm oil or forestry products in Indonesia. They will do well to highlight in their sustainability reports how the material risk to the environment is being managed. Further, they should select contractors and vendors that meet external independent standards like ISO 14001 or OHSAS 18001, and for palm oil, the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to ensure compliance and mitigate the risks of omission or wrongdoing in the supply chain.

Increased valuation is validation
Value creation is a virtuous cycle, enabling companies to enjoy a higher valuation against their peers and a lower cost of equity funding, leading to further improvement in their financial positions.

To conclude, companies should avoid seeing sustainability reporting as a mere paper exercise; it has benefits that may be leveraged if they are committed to embedding these practices in their normal course of business. At the end of the day, it is important for the public to trust that companies will be good stewards of all the resources at their disposal, to act responsibly at the same time as they are seeking to maximise profits.

The writer is a member of the Professional Development Committee of the Singapore Institute of Directors.

A Global Trend, Local Impact – Sustainability Reporting

Effective and efficient reporting that fulfills SGX mandatory requirements

In 2014, the European Union (EU) passed a directive on non-financial and diversity information, which will be transposed into national regulations by the end of 2016. In the United States of America, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board is developing sustainability reporting standards for a considerable number of industries.

From 2016 on, Hong Kong is adopting after public consultation, a revised sustainability reporting guide on “comply or explain” basis; and in October 2015, starting from December 2016 to December 2018 and staggered over a period of 3 years, Malaysia revised its listing rules requiring all listed companies to include sustainability reports in their respective annual reports. In October 2014, Singapore Exchange (SGX) announced that it was time for sustainability reporting to be elevated from a voluntary to a “comply or explain” basis for listed issuers.

Now in 2017, it is be mandatory for all SGX listed companies to publish a sustainability report for each financial year.

 

August Consulting Teams Up with Virtus Assure to Help Companies Kickstart Sustainability Reporting

To help companies prepare for the development of their inaugural sustainability reports, which has been mandatory by SGX, August Consulting has teamed up with Virtus Assure (formerly JF Virtus), an independent assurance services consultancy firm, to explain how companies can approach the project in the most effective and practical way and assist in kick starting the report.

Virtus-Assure-August-Consulting-Joins-Forces

Organised exclusively for the clients of August Consulting, the session was well attended by company representatives from its clients. Participants were taken through a presentation by Professor John Lee, head of Sustainability Reporting in Virtus Assure, who explained the key components of a sustainability report, a recommended workflow, relevant issues to consider and several practical aspects of the production work. This was followed by a lively discussion, in which the participants gained an improved understanding of the requirements and timeframe for implementing this.

As Professor Lee explained, the clock is ticking for all companies to lay the groundwork for sustainability reporting. For companies with their financial year end on 31 December 2017, they are required to produce their first report by FY2018. While many companies will tend to find the start-up process daunting, Professor Lee expounded on some benefits of having a robust sustainability reporting system, which include being able to identify areas for improving operational efficiencies, cost savings and the raising of a company’s brand equity.

With the good turnout in this first session, August Consulting and Virtus Assure will be looking to host more sessions and starting to work with its clients more closely to embark on sustainability reporting programmes in compliance with SGX’s requirements.