Views on improving the integrity of global capital markets
21 March 2012

XBRL Resources to Whet Investor Appetites

At the end of February more than 300 people attended, either in person or via webcast, the “XBRL and Financial Analyst Technology Conference,” jointly sponsored by the New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA) and XBRL US. An archived copy of the webcast is available through the end of May.

The conference began with keynote remarks from Mike Starr of the Securities and Exchange Commission informing the audience of where XBRL stands today for the regulator. Starr mentioned the SEC is looking into efficiency changes to the filing process that may ultimately allow for the use of iXBRL (a more integrated version of XBRL) and the filing of a single report to the SEC. He also explained how the tagged data benefited the regulatory review process with the SEC and the standards development process of the FAF and FASB. While Starr acknowledges that the use and development of XBRL remains an evolving process, he believes past successes will keep the momentum going.

A panel discussion followed addressing topics on the state of XBRL in the financial industry. The culmination of the event was the announcement of the finalists and grand prize winner of the XBRL Challenge that launched last July.

Fifteen competitors submitted applications for final judging. The applications were submitted in an open-source environment, which means the applications may be downloaded and used without a charge. Additionally, the actual application code is available to others in order to incorporate and expand upon the application with limited restrictions and without the need to pay royalties. Information and links to all of the applications are available here.

The submissions fell into two primary groups: applications used for analytics and those that assist in accessing the data within XBRL filing, commonly referred to as “middleware.” The middleware entries, such the one submitted by finalist Arelle, provide a processor that future applications may use to consume data tagged in filing. The middleware applications did not directly incorporate analytical features but can be incorporated into applications based in Excel or that utilize customized financial modeling packages and tools. The judges recognized the importance of such applications in the ongoing development of tools and resources for investors.

The grand prize winner,, came from the analytical tool entries. In the press release announcing the winner, Paul Ratnaraj, director of Advanced Initiatives at Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) and a judge for the XBRL Challenge, stated, “Among a very strong pool of applications, the judges chose Calcbench because it offers the broadest appeal and the most comprehensive use of data with XBRL and other sources, all within a simple interface that’s easy to use. It also offers a good framework on which to build other analytical tools.” According to the release, the analytics “allow users to perform multi-company comparisons annually and quarter to quarter. Users can add their own notes and formulas, export to Excel and share their work with others.”  

One submission actually highlighted the potential use for XBRL-tagged data beyond the traditional financial valuation process. The team of Dixon Wright and Norm Barnes provided an entry that focused on the use of publicly filed XBRL-tagged data in the application and review process for surety credit. They reasoned that the consistency provided by electronic data distribution between XBRL and other XML resources, combined with common and open standards, should reduce cost and overhead for both the borrower and lenders. This entry expands the potential uses of the information that is currently required to be tagged; such innovative concepts are added benefits of contests like the XBRL Challenge.

CFA Institute commends all of the individuals and teams that participated in the challenge and congratulates Calbench on its victory. Given the opportunity, the knowledge and abilities of professionals operating in our industry will bring about amazing changes for the future.

About the Author(s)
Glenn Doggett, CFA

Glenn Doggett, CFA, was a director of professional standards for CFA Institute. His responsibilities included providing member guidance in applying the ethics and standards of practice policies, supporting related educational and public awareness activities, and working with the Standards of Practice Council of CFA Institute on its initiatives. He was a co-host of the free, live, interactive webinars used by CFA Institute to promote ethical decision making and global best practices. Previously, Mr. Doggett, as a member of the CFA Institute Financial Reporting Policy Group, represented membership interests regarding reporting and disclosures initiatives, including XBRL. Prior to joining CFA Institute, he worked in the financial information sector with SNL Financial, where he focused on the real estate and energy industries, directing the development and maintenance of a financial data storage system. Mr. Doggett holds a BA in economics from the University of Virginia. He was awarded the CFA charter in 2006 and is a member of CFA Society Virginia.

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