IBM Proposes XBRL for Risk Reporting Standard

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2008-12-15 Print this article Print

The IBM Data Governance Council is exploring the use of XBRL, Extensible Business Reporting Language, a software language used to describe business terms in financial reports, for risk reporting. The IBM Data Governance Council is also seeking input from banks and financial institutions, corporations, vendors, and regulators with the goal of creating a standards-based approach to risk reporting.

In a move to provide businesses with consistent tools for measuring aggregate risk in the financial world and to provide a more a real-time view of market exposure, the IBM Data Governance Council is seeking input from banks and financial institutions, corporations, vendors, and regulators to create a standards-based approach to risk reporting.

The IBM Data Governance Council is also exploring the usefulness of XBRL (Extensible Business Reporting Language), a software language for describing business terms in financial reports, in risk reporting, said Steve Adler, chairman of the IBM Data Governance Council, in an interview with eWEEK. XBRL could be used to provide a nonproprietary way of reporting risk that could potentially be applied worldwide, Adler said. It is already widely used for financial reporting throughout Europe, Australia and Japan, and the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) has proposed its use among American firms in 2009.

"What we're doing here is we're announcing a standards-based initiative for risk reporting," Adler said.

Adler noted that risk comes in many forms-from the financial exposure to credit, market and operational risk to the broader societal exposure to economic, pandemic and natural catastrophe risk. At the heart of the current economic downturn are the credit and liquidity problems that have stemmed from the inability of many financial firms to track or measure their risk positions. In all its guises, risk is difficult to track, even harder to measure and model, and almost impossible to completely avoid.

Adler said in today's environment, organizations have inconsistent methods and vague language for disclosing operational, market and credit risk. And such inconsistencies make regulatory oversight extremely difficult and complex. The first step to enabling new transparency of risk and exposure in the financial services industry is semantic clarity-a precise method for consistently describing and reporting risk across all organizations, he said.

Such transparency could provide a new macroeconomic tool and greater fiscal accountability for regulators, investors and central banks worldwide, making it easier to identify toxic assets on the books, mitigate fraud, help prevent wide-scale fiscal crisis and rebuild confidence in financial systems, Adler said.

"Individual participants are unable to adequately measure the impact of their decisions on other entities," Adler said. "We have so much data flying around that you have no way of tracking the impact of a decision on the aggregate. With this announcement we're trying to figure a semantic reality to better understand risk."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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