Technology to simplify corporate reporting

A NEW organisation aiming to overhaul the technology companies use to report their figures has been launched — with the blessing of the JSE.

The not-for-profit group will evangelise the technology until every listed company comes on board, as the system will make corporate accounts faster to prepare, less error-prone and far easier to compare.

The technology is eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) and it works by assigning a standard tag to every field in a financial report. It has been developed by XBRL International, a consortium of accounting societies, financial institutions and technology developers.

Yesterday the South African branch of XBRL was officially launched, chaired by Graham Terry, the vice-president of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica).

The JSE is a member of the local branch, and is the first stock exchange in the world to present its annual results in the new format. Other South African members include Saica, the Financial Services Board, the Reserve Bank and the big four accounting firms.

“XBRL is a business reporting language that offers cost savings, greater efficiencies, improved accuracy and reliability,” said the JSE’s CEO, Russell Loubser.

Introducing a better way for companies to report their figures was of great importance to the JSE, he said.

The royalty-free technology may take a while to become universally adopted but it was so useful that it would become entrenched over time, Loubser said.

Kurt Ramin, the chairman of XBRL International, said 8500 banks in the US had adopted the technology, and the speed and efficiency of their financial reporting had improved.

Once a firm had set up the system, data could be moved around easily, eliminating human error, he said. The unified tagging system also overcame language barriers so figures from foreign firms could be compared as easily.

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Technology to simplify corporate reporting