Every day, advances in digital technologies are increasing the volume and variety of available data and the ease with which we can collect, extract, manipulate and use it to enhance decision-making in our personal and our professional lives. But so much more is possible – particularly with the financial data that listed companies make available in their annual reports and compliance filings.
Technology exists to allow investors, regulators and other stakeholders to automatically assemble and analyse comparable financial data from listed companies across the globe. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the US has been experimenting with the possibilities for decades and was an early adopter (see text box ‘Born in the USA’); other regions and regulators have shown less pioneer spirit, however.
There have been voluntary and mandatory electronic financial filing initiatives using the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) by regulators in Australia, Denmark, Japan, the UK and other countries, and more are coming. In 2018, Suruhanjaya Syarikat Malaysia, the country’s business regulator, adopted XBRL for the annual and financial filings of over a million companies, and big changes are on the way in Europe too.