1,300 ESEF filings and counting!
Have you visited filings.xbrl.org recently? This week our collection of European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) filings tipped over into four figures and beyond, with the total standing at 1,365 as of 17 March. Based on Inline XBRL, ESEF is the digital reporting format being used to make financial data across Europe consistent, comparable and straightforward to analyse using software. It is now in its second year, although for most countries this is the first year of mandatory ESEF filings. The first year of any data collection always creates teething problems, and you can find advice about some of these on our website. We expect to see many more filings rolling in over the coming weeks, with the peak filing season still to hit.
Digitally tagged data promises a huge utility boost – but accessing EU data is currently difficult, as it is filed to different entities (Officially Appointed Mechanisms, or OAMs) in each country, and they each have their own way of publishing it. In the long term, there is an EU project to provide a single access point (ESAP), but in the meantime we have created a repository at filings.xbrl.org. We aim to make it easy to find and access ESEF reports, get familiar with the benefits of the format, and experiment with the data. Filings can be browsed online in an Inline XBRL viewer or downloaded either as original files or as tagged data in xBRL-JSON format.
We don’t yet have all ESEF filings in our index, and there can be a delay before new filings are added, but we are working hard to include as many as we can. The different publishing approaches taken by OAMs make finding and collecting the data for filings.xbrl.org a complex process. We’re aware of only two countries where the OAM provides a freely available API to their filing data that allows us to fully automate our indexing process. In these cases, we use software to seek out and upload any new filings every day, with minimal effort and minimal time delay. For other countries, we have to download filings via the OAM’s website, which tends to be more time-consuming. We automate the process wherever possible, but in many cases the design of the website makes this difficult, and in some cases the OAM has taken steps to actively prevent automated access to data.
The great advance in using XBRL for digital reporting is that it makes data machine-readable; in other words, it can be detected, captured or analysed in the blink of an eye by software. But with data increasingly being consumed in this way by computers as well as humans, filings also need to be available via portals that facilitate this process.
Our experience at XBRL International of creating filings.xbrl.org has underlined for us that some approaches make it much simpler and quicker to access data, and that websites designed only for human users are a substantial stumbling block. For regulators and OAMs looking to facilitate consumption of digital data, the best solution at present is an API, which can be added on to existing systems with very little effort. If this is a theme you’d like to explore further with us, get in touch! We’re also keen to make as many filings as possible available, so if you know where we can find any ESEF reports that are not already on filings.xbrl.org please do let us know.