The Federal Financial Institution Examination Council (FFIEC) will 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 more than 8,400 financial institutions. All of the information within the filings will be tagged using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), a cross-industry standard for representing financial data.
The project is scheduled to launch on or about Oct. 1, 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, 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 the call report process for banks, regulators, analysts and the public, according to Bartell. "We want to come up with a single way to collect call data with a common-sense approach," he told conference attendees.
Currently, call books contain quarterly information comprised of 2,000 fields from 8,300 financial institutions. Filing requires the review of 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," he added. "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."
To satisfy their call reporting requirements, most institutions currently rely on software vendors - including Fidelity National Financial (Jacksonville, Fla.), Jack Henry & Associates (Monett, Mo.), S1 Corp. subsidiary FRS (Brussels and Charlotte, N.C.), Financial Architects US (Boston), and IDOM (Newark, N.J.) - that already are certified to submit data to the Central Data Repository. Those institutions that have in-house call reporting software packages, however, will need to become certified.
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 Securities and Exchange Commission, according to Bartell, who formerly held the position of CIO at the SEC. "We had over 350 unique form types [at the SEC]," he related, adding that most of the data is unstructured. "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," Bartell explained.
A 10-year, $39 million contract for the design, build-out and management of the system 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.