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5/10/2005
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Banking Regulators to Launch XBRL-Powered Call Report Database

The project will launch on or about Oct. 1, following a final end-to-end test of the system at the end of May.

The Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC) will soon launch a project that will enable federal banking regulators and the public to access a common pool of information about the banks under their supervision.

The initiative, known as the "Call Report Modernization Project," revolves around a Central Data Repository containing the quarterly regulatory filings of over 8,400 financial institutions. All of the information within will be "tagged" using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a cross-industry standard for representing financial data.

The project will launch on or about October 1st, 2005, following a final end-to-end test of the system at the end of May. "This will be the first mandatory electronic filing system for financial data in the United States," said Mike Bartell, chief information officer, FDIC. Bartell spoke at a recent XBRL conference in Boston.

Users of the FFIEC-sponsored system will include the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Reserve Board (FRB) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

The idea behind the project was to simplify things for banks, regulators, analysts and the public. "We want to come up with a single way to collect call data with a common-sense approach," said Bartell.

Currently, call books contain quarterly information comprised of 2,000 fields from 8,300 financial institutions. Filing requires going through 400 pages of instructions. On the back end, 1,500 formulas promote data quality. "All of this can be boiled down into a fairly modernized process with XBRL," said Bartell. "We need to try to reduce this kind of burden on everybody."

"As filing rules change, we need to be able to get those rules out to filers quickly, without burden, and without spending significant resources or time," Bartell adds.

To satisfy their call reporting requirements, most institutions rely upon software vendors including Fidelity National Financial (Jacksonville, Fla.), Jack Henry & Associates (Monett, Mo.), S1 Corp. subsidiary FRS (Brussels, Belgium and Charlotte, N.C.), Financial Architects US (Boston), and IDOM (Newark, N.J.). However, those institutions that have in-house call reporting software packages will have to become certified, as are the software vendors, in order to submit data to the Central Data Repository.

The development of XBRL as a standard has been instrumental in making the Call Report Modernization Project a reality. Each data point will be "tagged" with contextual information about its meaning. As a result, developers can write programs that automatically read and process the information contained within. "XBRL is the most significant thing to impact financial data in the past 10 years," said Bartell.

Despite the volumes of data and the number of participating institutions, the FFIEC's challenge is relatively straightforward compared to that faced by the SEC, where Bartell formerly held the position of CIO. "We had over 350 unique form types [at the SEC]," he said. "Some of that data is structured, but most of it's not structured."

"Tagging unstructured data is pretty tough " that's why there's such a huge aftermarket [for financial data]," explained Bartell. "I don't think it's as straightforward as it is in the banking area, where everything that's submitted is financial, tabular, and lends itself to tagging in a certain way."

A 10-year, $39 million contract was awarded in 2003 to Unisys (Blue Bell, Pa.), which has been working in conjunction with Microsoft, PricewaterhouseCoopers, IDOM, EDGAR Online, UBMatrix, and V-Tech Solutions. The contract covers the design, build-out and management of the system.

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