At CFA’s Investor Forum 2017, a panel of industry experts discussed case studies that illustrate XBRL’s use in accounting and financial reporting and the rationale behind its adoption. This panel discussed different ways in which XBRL is employed in the financial sector.
CFA Investor Forum Discusses Who’s Using XBRL and Why
Christine Tan spoke of how idaciti pulls the SEC’s XBRL data, normalizes it, and presents it to users in a manner that allows easy access, immediate analysis, and data tracking. “In this theme of transparency, I think that there is a lot of opportunities to leverage the XBRL data to be able to actually trace from the data point back to the original source where that data came from.” In addition, she mentioned there is a great deal of information in the textual component of an SEC filing that can also be presented and used by investors. Companies like idaciti build upon the XBRL technology to further tag and improve the readability and usability of financial documents, by tagging earnings release documents for example. “We have a fantastic infrastructure out there which is XBRL and the fact that the SEC has made this available and possible for companies like ours to build on top of that… we can now innovate.”
In terms of analyzing financial data and advising investors, XBRL can provide a cleaner, more accurate picture of the strength and nature of equities. Todd Castagno presented an example where leveraging XBRL in the study of unremitted foreign earnings, a process which normally requires significant time and manpower to manually examine filings to locate pertinent information of those companies involved in the S&P 500, vastly improved the efficiency and accuracy of the analysis. This process could be automated, reducing the manpower required to gather and compare information across companies. XBRL allows for data points to be properly tagged, thereby aiding in collecting and correlating information. Castagno also explored an example of using XBRL to determine which companies benefitted from certain tax advantages, including immediate expensing. “So [this is] another example to kind of heap map different industries and sectors using XBRL data. I could not have done this five years ago because this data wasn’t available in a lot of traditional packages.”
Mike Willis also offered some key information concerning using XBRL with EDGAR when doing financial reporting to the SEC. He covered some useful tools available on the SEC’s website for filers who use XBRL, including the Inline XBRL Viewer which allows searching filings by topics rather than simply by words. In addition, the SEC is in the process of leveraging XBRL to streamline analysis within the Commission. “[XBRL] gives [SEC staff] capabilities and insights they could not get through manual view,” Willis said.
These case studies illustrate the many applications XBRL has in the financial reporting, data analysis, and investment sectors. For more information on the 2017 Investor Forum and to view this and the other panels that were conducted, visit XBRL US’ website.