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Investor Relations Magazine, October 17, 2008 article


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XBRL community descends on US capital


Oct 17, 2008

Experts give status report, vision for new financial reporting tool

SEC chairman Christopher Cox, one of XBRL’s key champions, was too preoccupied by the financial crisis to turn up for a keynote speech at a wide-ranging conference exploring the power of the new interactive data tool. But 500 developers, standard setters, early adopters and interested parties from 30 countries did convene here this week for the 18th XBRL International Conference.

Attendees pressed David Blaszkowsky, the SEC’s interactive disclosure czar, for details on when exactly the regulator will mandate XBRL for US filings. He said he could say only that it would be ‘very soon’. A draft rule proposed in May, which the commissioners are expected to approve, has the largest 500 companies using US GAAP beginning to file interactive data in the first quarter of 2009, with the remaining listed companies following a year later.

That means financial reporting teams at US public companies don’t have long to get ready. The major financial printing firms and other vendors such as EDGARfilings, EDGAR Online and UBmatrix were on hand to point the way to making the conversion. Other vendors including Hitachi and Rivet Software focused on describing new XRBL-enabled tools that will help analysts and investors study companies.

The major accounting firms and software developers outlined how XBRL is a tool not only for reporting, but also for managing any internal process, risk or compliance function. In one of the most talked-about sessions, Kazuhiko Hanaoka, corporate vice president at Fujitsu, which sells XBRL solutions, explained how his company deployed XBRL to standardize systems throughout his $53 bn conglomerate of 430 subsidiaries and 167,000 employees.

Yale governance professor and Weil Gotshal & Manges partner Ira Millstein said his vision was for using XBRL to extract information now locked in static internal corporate reports to help executives and boards better manage.

NIRI executive vice president Linda Kelleher led a session on the role of XBRL in investor communications. She told the audience IROs were looking forward to being able to use and share interactive data even if they haven’t been public advocates of the XBRL cause. Kelleher said NIRI was also tracking how analysts are using XBRL and planned to be part of an ongoing effort to standardize a taxonomy for key performance indicators (KPIs) to enable cross-company comparisons.

Following her was Bob Laux, a senior director for financial reporting and accounting with Microsoft, who explained how his company has already installed an XBRL-enabled tool on its Investor Central website to help analysts dissect results. It allows investors to drill down into segment results that sum into top-line numbers on the financial statements.

Among other things, it also unites Microsoft’s KPIs in one place, an important improvement. ‘Before, we gave out KPIs all over the place, in earnings, in a speech by Steve Ballmer or a speech by CFO Chris Liddell on investor day,’ Laux said.

By Anna Snider

© copyright 2008 Cross Border Ltd




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