How much of the information reported by a filer in its financial report is readily available to you, the user, as distinct data fields from your data vendor?
XBRL-First Process Outperforms Document-First Process
XBRL instances include, as data fields, every fact reported in the face of financial statements and footnotes to the financials. When a data vendor adopts the XBRL-first process, it harvests every last one of these data points and can normalize the data points to make them comparable and serves them up ready to be used to its users.
On the other hand, traditional vendors may only provide selective data that they have decided is worth investing their human analysts’ time and their custom developed databases’ capacity. Every financial statement line item and footnote fact represents an additional expense for a traditional data vendor, because it takes human effort and custom coding to turn that item into a data field in the vendor’s database. Thus, these vendors may only classify the line items and footnote facts for which they believe have a large enough market.
Segment Reporting Footnote
Frequently, the traditional data vendors do not provide all the facts from footnotes as independently-identified data fields. For example, the segment reporting footnote where the company identifies company segments and each segment's operational results.
Investors and other financial statement users view the segment footnote as very important to their investment decisions. Investors use segment information for a variety of analyses, including understanding business activities, making judgments about the company as a whole, and understanding future growth prospects.
A Roadmap to Segment Reporting June 2020, Deloitte
Since the segment footnotes are XBRL-tagged, XBRL data vendors would be better at delivering the data to the users. In addition to making data available, a purposedly-built chart can also intuitively surface the data for drill-down analysis.
Another prime example is the notoriously detailed pension footnotes reported by hundreds of public companies. One of the ways to measure investment risk is by analyzing a company's pension, which promises to pay a specific (defined) benefit to retired employees. The maintenance of a pension creates significant liabilities. What is the fair value of the plan's assets? What's the assumed discount rate? What is the target asset allocation of the plan's assets in equities, fixed income, or cash? These are all crucial questions to ask as we analyze a company's financials. With the XBRL-first process, data vendors can help to answer these questions by capturing a comprehensive set of pension data from the footnotes of the financials to help make better-informed investment and risk analyses.
COVID Disclosures, the Unusual yet Important Disclosures
As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc on the economy, many companies are experiencing lower revenues, resulting in lower future cash flows and longer collections cycles. From the footnotes, we learned the unavoidable restructuring and layoff or furloughs. These detailed data points are also tagged in XBRL and can provide valuable information on how companies deal with workforce management in response to COVID-19.
Users of financial data should consider the benefits of receiving data sourced directly from its machine-readable source - XBRL.
idaciti is ready to work with all users to maximize the benefits of its XBRL-first process - leading to cheaper research, faster insights, and better investment decisions.