Facing the upcoming challenges: Reflecting on the 2023 Paris conference and the current landscape for the business registers

Maureen O’Sullivan, EBRA Board member and Registrar of Companies, Companies Registration Office (Ireland) 

In May this year, EBRA held its annual conference in the city of Paris, France. The conference was hosted by the Conseil National des Greffiers des Tribunaux de Commerce and attended by over 150 participants from across the globe. It was EBRA’s second in-person conference to be held since COVID and a great opportunity to hear from high profile speakers – both EBRA members and external experts – as well as catching up with friends and colleagues.

The two-day 2023 conference was titled, ‘Facing the upcoming challenges: Innovation, Transparency, Sustainability’ with the aim of shining a light on the common challenges that business registries are facing in the current climate. The conference was split into four panels which included representatives from the European Commission (DG FISMA and DG JUST), the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), FATF, as well as from business registers around the world.

The panels covered highly relevant topics for the Business Registers that are impacting decisions being taken now and in the near future. The conference panels discussed:

  • Innovation and sustainability in the Registers
  • Implementing the Corporate Social Responsibility Directive
  • The contribution of the AM/CFT standards to competitiveness
  • Managing the balance between privacy and transparency
  • The future landscape for the business registers

Kersti Rätsep presenting with panel members Philippe Bobet, Niccolo Stamboglis and Hérve Bonnazi. EBRA Board member, Marco Vianello (moderator).

Same topic, new views

It is a challenging time for the business registers. We can no longer rely on the status quo but must instead navigate a rapidly changing legislative environment that brings new responsibilities and administrative challenges. In Paris, participants had the opportunity to take a step back from their day-to-day operations and reflect on how to approach these current challenges.

It was interesting to hear unique viewpoints on a range of key topics, such as the panel that reflected on how Anti-Money Laundering regulations can contribute to competitiveness. In this panel, participants heard different perspectives in response to the same question, for example:

  • Yves Pepin from the Quebec Business Register discussed how they believe registries should be seen as tools that are available to the government and public to share key data on beneficial owners;

Solène Clément presenting with panel members Yves Pepin and Didier Banquy. EBRA Board member, Yves Gonner (moderator).

This was only one of a number of equally stimulating and thought-provoking panels that took place during the conference, and we are grateful to all our hosts, speakers, panels and panel moderators for their contribution to such an interesting and relevant conference.

You can find many of the presentations on the EBRA website

Managing the changing landscape

Traditionally, business registers had one clear purpose: to register and maintain business data and make it available to the public. However, the role of the registers has changed in recent years and is continuing to change at an extraordinary pace. New obligations include allowing greater digital access, identifying the real beneficial owners, implementing anti-money laundering regulations, and managing the balance between transparency and privacy. The challenges ahead will require policy, operational and technical changes on a scale that has never seen before.

EBRA’s role is to support collaborative working in the business registry community to face these challenges together. The annual conference is a key event that brings registry professionals together to engage on the key issues, as well as offer the opportunity to network and learn from fellow business professionals. In addition to this, EBRA organise expert working groups for its members throughout the year and enable continuous collaboration and information-sharing on Basecamp, our members-only platform. By supporting the registers in this way, EBRA and its members are helping to create a more cohesive approach to the implementation of European company law, which benefits both business and European citizens.

The EBRA Board is currently working on a new strategy for the future that will focus on even greater collaboration between the registers on key issues. We look forward to sharing it with our members later this year and facing the challenges together.

We’re grateful to Thomas Denfer and his team at Conseil National des Greffiers des Tribunaux de Commerce for hosting such a stimulating conference in 2023. In 2024, the EBRA conference will be hosted by the National Agency of Public Registry under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and we look forward to an engaging conference in the beautiful city of Tbilisi.