Richard Campbell | The New Language of the Bottom Line

Interview with Richard Campbell, enterprise architect at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

"With XBRL, it only has to be entered once, and off it goes. ... That could be a very big deal, because it will be validated." - Richard Campbell

Rick Steele

Richard Campbell, a senior enterprise architect at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., has been one of the key players in the government's efforts to make use of the Extensible Business Reporting Language. XBRL makes financial data interactive, and standardizes data so regulators can make comparisons when analyzing corporate information.

Campbell is one of the founders of the Federal XBRL Community of Practice. He spoke with GCN from his FDIC office in Arlington, Va.

GCN: How did FDIC start using XBRL?

CAMPBELL: The FDIC started this'in collaboration with the Federal Reserve System, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency'in overhauling the Call Reporting process. XBRL is an enabling technology that allowed us to modernize the process. Basically, there are approximately 8,000 insured institutions that submit information in XBRL format now. Prior to that, it had been a somewhat more lengthy process that was centered in, and enabled by, mainframe machines of the 1960s-1970s design.

This [XBRL] is more 1990s Web-based design. It takes advantage of Web technologies, so that we can take the validation criteria from a mainframe and push it up to the client software itself in the standardized format, which allows us to receive accurate data'much more accurate data'right away.

GCN: Which agencies are using XBRL? Is its use in government growing, or is it more a matter of potential growth at this point?

CAMPBELL: The Securities and Exchange Commission [is using it]. The Housing and Urban Development Department is using it to aggregate home mortgage loan information ' [and] the Interior Department has a system to aggregate all of its National Park Service suppliers.

There's a lot of interest from folks in the Department of Defense, and Treasury, and a certain amount of interest from [the Office of Management and Budget]. But at this point, I think they are looking toward designing pilot programs. So, I would say it's potential growth.

I think there are some other tools that need to be developed as well. Something to bring the cost down, so that some agencies can do Web-based XBRL forms.

Because right now, an Internet form, an HTML form'it's usually printed out. Then somebody has to re-key it, and then fax it in to somebody else who re-keys it again. With XBRL, it only has to be entered once, and off it goes. That could be a very big deal, because it will be validated ... you would have to exercise validation criteria, according to what your agency business rules are. And that would be very cost-effective, I believe, for many agencies.

GCN: Where does that development stand?

CAMPBELL: I think its in beta right now. A couple companies appear to be doing that, including IBM and UBMatrix. But I can't promise what they haven't delivered.

GCN: XBRL advocates have claimed that 95 percent of banks using XBRL meet FDIC requirements. True?

CAMPBELL: That's approximately correct. What has grown out of the XBRL technology is that the banks are now required to provide explanatory notes for each quality edit failure, which ultimately documents the reasons why editing anomalies occur.

So, XBRL doesn't guarantee the banks are going to enter the correct data. [But] it does provide for acceptable reasons, and documents the data prior to the submission according to the criteria that we sent to them.

GCN: Do you think that XBRL use leads to more accurate data?

CAMPBELL: Well, we get more accurate data quicker. The data that comes in from banks is 100 percent mathematically correct. Before that, the analysts would have to sit there and look at it, and think, 'well, maybe it isn't correct,' and then would make phone calls to say, 'did you add this column up correctly?' That sort of thing. So yeah, it helps that, it's much more accurate.

GCN: How is FDIC sharing information with other regulatory agencies?

CAMPBELL: With the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the data is stored in what's called the CDR, the Central Data Repository. So now that is our source of data. Prior to this, under the mainframe system, we had to send data back for them occasionally, because the Federal Reserve had part of the system of record, and we had part of the system of record.

But now the CDR is the system of record, so that's where we all go for data, whenever we need it. So, that's how we share. The point is that with the CDR system, XBRL allows us to put a central system of record together.

GCN: How closely should XBRL be used in the standard general ledger financial data (USSGL)?

CAMPBELL: I know that there are people working to convert the USSGL'which is what the federal government uses'into XBRL format. And the work is ongoing; we'll have to see how well that comes out.

As far as using that goes, that would mean that everybody in the federal government would have the same rules, the same validation capability, in the USSGL.

GCN: Any sense of when that could happen?

CAMPBELL: I think that should be ready this year, but I'm not entirely sure. A relatively short time frame, I believe.

GCN: What are the goals and objectives of the XBRL Community of Practice?

CAMPBELL: The goals and objectives are to try and bring everyone in the federal government together who's worked with XBRL and give them a place to put their information. You know it was hard for me to find, for example, the Department of Interior's [XBRL-related] project'that took a lot of searching, and finding people, and calling. So I wanted to put together, and FDIC wanted to put together, a place where people can store all this information. Plus, there are articles on XBRL that explain what it does, for a variety of viewpoints.
And it's to encourage [XBRL users] to have a meeting place.

GCN: Looking forward, what's next on the agenda with XBRL use?

CAMPBELL: FDIC is looking to extend it to some other bank reports'the UBPR (Uniform Bank Performance Report) and Summary of Deposits. Those are ongoing development efforts, and those will be our next steps. From that point, we'll see where we go from there.

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