ASIC gets the lowdown on the benefits of digital reporting

Posted on July 2, 2021 by Editor

Should Australia go digital, and why? A recent webinar on digital financial reporting from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) covered international developments in reporting and opportunities for Australia – and makes worthwhile viewing whether or not you’re Down Under!

While ASIC has offered a voluntary digital filing option for over a decade, this has not been taken up by companies. Meanwhile, digital reporting is increasingly required in the US, Europe and elsewhere. Given this perspective, three speakers joined the webinar to discuss their personal experiences and views on the benefits of going digital.

The first of these was Mike Willis, who is Associate Director in the Division of Economic and Risk Analysis of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He began by asking why analysts demand and use digital data over information in traditional reports or from data aggregators. “Time is money, and it pays to understand what the company reported, rather than what a third party said they reported,” he said. In the US, the SEC’s EDGAR portal makes it easy for users to analyse and compare all digitally-tagged data, so “structured disclosures ensure that the consumer is able to immediately and accurately access and reuse exactly what the company is reporting.”

He also discussed in detail the US experience with and lessons learned from the implementation of Inline XBRL, which combines human and machine readability. This “augmented reality view” offers insights and analytical capabilities – for both regulators and investors – that he describes as previously almost unimaginable. At the same time, costs for filers have decreased. “Supply chain standardisation works to lower processing cost while improving quality and throughput, just like the bar code in the grocery store,” he concluded.

The other speakers were Adrien Cloutier of Morningstar, who discussed the benefits of digital reporting for data aggregators and end users, and International Accounting Standards Board member Ann Tarca. She spoke on the key challenges for modern financial reporting – including making the most effective use of technology, the democratisation of data, and the implementation of shared IFRS taxonomies – as well as lessons from international experience and opportunities for Australia, particularly in developing its capital market. Rounding off a thought-provoking session, the speakers were joined by additional experts for a panel discussion and Q&A session.

Watch the full webinar here.

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