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Publication Type: 
Guidance note
Published Date: 
December, 2021

Guidance Note: Relational Database Design Considerations

Download PDF in: English, French and Spanish


This guidance note focuses on the requirements for publishing high-quality, structured beneficial ownership data to Open Ownership’s Beneficial Ownership Data Standard (BODS). Most of the recommendations will also suit the creation of any system which aims to ingest declarations of beneficial ownership and create auditable records.

The primary audience for this document are technical professionals, especially those with a role in the database design and technology architecture of company registers and/or sector registers that will publish to BODS.

The guidance will be of use to people in countries in the early stages of implementing beneficial ownership transparency reforms where authorities are taking a holistic approach to updating their systems. It will also help countries build on existing efforts of publishing high-quality beneficial ownership data in line with international best practices and in ways that make the use, sharing and publication of that data easier.

Why is it important to ensure beneficial ownership data is structured?

The utility of beneficial ownership data is enhanced when the data is available in a structured format. This allows the data to be easily analysed and linked with other datasets, enhancing the data’s ability to expose transnational networks of illicit financial flows and support effective and timely due diligence. When beneficial ownership data is structured and interoperable it is easier to verify, as a greater range of verification mechanisms can be used.

BODS provides a structured data format, along with guidance for collecting, sharing and using data on beneficial ownership. BODS data is expressed using JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), making it suitable both for publishing online as open data and for transferring between systems as a data exchange format.

When building a system to hold beneficial ownership information and publish high-quality structured data, here are the characteristics of BODS which are explored in the guidance note:

  •  Statement-based data structure
  •  Different categories of ownership and control
  • Auditability of statements
  • Use of unique identifiers
  • Exemptions and other missing information

The  key sections to refer to for more information:​

  • Information flows describes assumptions about the high level systems architecture which a beneficial ownership database will exist within, and how data flows from a company through that system to be published as BODS
  • Data capture discusses best practices for collecting beneficial ownership data. Finally a potential relational database structure is set out that enables the collection and storage of beneficial ownership data in a way that supports the publication of high-quality BODS data

Further resources

Guidance about beneficial ownership transparency, visit

Documentation for the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard at

To request support, please email the Open Ownership helpdesk via