Artificial Intelligence: Applications Today, Not Tomorrow.

From reports of the DeepMind scandal a few weeks ago, to several talking spots at this year’s London Fintech week, July has arguably become Artificial Intelligence Month in the Fintech world. But while there has been a great deal of interest in future applications of AI, it seems that less attention is being paid to the AI solutions already out in the wild. Let’s take a look at the state of play for AI today.

Why the rise of AI?

It’s no secret that as computers get more powerful, and society gets more connected, organisations across all industries are feeling the pressure of too much data. Whether you’re gathering it, storing it, or trying to use it, modern data volumes present vast operational challenges. For example, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is reportedly building a private cloud that will process 2.5 petabytes of information each hour. That’s one company processing the equivalent of over half a million DVDs (or the estimated memory capacity of the human brain) each hour, every day.

The problem is bandwidth: a human being can only process so much information at once. Using Artificial Intelligence is a good way of dealing with such staggering amounts of data – and although we haven’t quite reached the I, Robot scenario, research into everything from deep learning to artificial neural networks continues to gather pace.

Applications today, not tomorrow.

One way that AI is helping to conquer the data mountain right now is through automation. The advantage of AI in this area is scalability – in theory, AI can learn how to recognise complex patterns of information that would normally require human understanding; AI-based pattern recognition has already been used to build surveillance cameras that can distinguish between people, objects, and even events.

At CoreFiling, we recognise that potential. That’s why we built AI-based automation right into our XBRL document creation tool, Seahorse. Seahorse learns how to interpret the fields in forms, and automatically tags the information, thanks to a form of machine learning called Logistic Regression. And because it’s hosted in the cloud, Seahorse benefits from every filing. Each and every document scanned refines its detection method, allowing Seahorse to achieve incredible levels of accuracy.

Click here to learn more about Seahorse.

A Wealth of Potential: Interview with Ian Hicks

Last week, CoreFiling’s Ian Hicks took part in the FRC’s Digital Future: Data round table, and discussed ways to combat the current “under-performance” of financial data. After the event, we sat down with Ian to talk about the benefits and challenges of using XBRL for Digital Future.


DAN: Is XBRL right for Digital Future?

IAN: Oh, absolutely. XBRL has applications around the world, and it’s flexible enough to meet the main goal of Digital Future, which to me is data versatility. The nice thing about XBRL is that it creates a kind of blank canvas with data, from which you can start to create solutions that meet the specific needs of each client or industry – that could be data automation, integration with other reporting media, and so on. That doesn’t mean it’s a perfect fit, though!

DAN: How so?

IAN: XBRL is a powerful standard, but it needs to be better at hiding complexity. CoreFiling already helped to address this in some instances when Philip Allen developed iXBRL, but XBRL itself still needs specialist applications to be useful.

DAN: You currently chair the XBRL Best Practices Board. Is reducing complexity something you focus on?

IAN: Oh absolutely, yes. But that relies on more than just developing XBRL. To reduce the complexity of an XBRL-based system, you need to take a holistic approach – develop working methods and processes that enhance customer experience, for example, or take advantage of new technologies.

DAN: What would be on your wish list for XBRL development?

IAN: I think the most useful thing for all applications, including Digital Future Reporting, would be to make XBRL a little more visual – more “renderable” – outside of specialist tools. Similar to how Microsoft plug-ins can be embedded in a browser. We’ve already started to address this with our Beacon platform, which renders XBRL instance data and displays it in a format that users can engage with.

From a more technical standpoint, I’d like to see features such as non-repudiation of instances – i.e. was the instance created by an authorized person, have its contents changed, is the date stamp correct, etc. More widespread use of auto-tagging would also be a great benefit to the preparer, accountancy and audit communities, both from an XBRL perspective and from the point of choosing the most appropriate concept.

DAN: How would those advances relate to Digital Future Reporting?

IAN: The Digital Future Reporting model is all about taking advantage of technology. The advantage of using XBRL is that it already supports features like auto-tagging – that’s how CoreFiling’s instance creation tool, Seahorse, is able to auto-tag filing documents, for example. The challenge is just to maximise the usage of these features.

DAN: Do you think XBRL is under-used in the fintech industry?

IAN: XBRL itself has an enormous user base around the world, but I do think its more advanced features are overlooked – which is why the Digital Future Reporting model is so key. But I think the most important thing is to deploy XBRL where it can be of maximum use. There was an interesting discussion in Dublin regarding “NOXBRL” – not a rejection of XBRL as it might imply, but rather the idea of “Not Only” XBRL. This discussion was around hiding the complexity of XBRL reporting from filers. It went on to cover the idea that XBRL is fundamental, but that other technologies should be included to meet the overall regulatory reporting need.

To give you one example, investment analysts have already developed sophisticated systems sourcing data in a multitude of ways, like “web-scraping”. XBRL has the capability to massively enhance these processes through its ability to rapidly and effectively analyse large sets of structured and unstructured data – this ability to enhance other technologies is what makes XBRL so useful. We’re already seeing this in practice in other industry sectors.

Linked Data is another example. Linked Data and XBRL appear to have progressed in parallel: there needs to be closer co-operation to benefit from using both technologies. This co-operation could result in massive benefits to the analyst community by simplifying the process of comparing information from seemingly disparate data sets.

DAN: What about outside fintech?

IAN: Extending XBRL beyond finance isn’t just possible, it’s already happening, and I fully encourage it!

DAN: Can you give us an example?

IAN: Non-financial data looks to me to be the next ideal candidate for XBRL. We’ve already seen something similar in the US, with the SunShot Initiative’s Orange Button Programme – XBRL is going to be used for solar data gathering and analysis. It’s a great idea, because solar data comes from so many different sources across America. You need to keep data like that in a single, consistent format to make it useful. Equally, organisations like AECA in Spain are pioneering the reporting and analysis of sustainability data using XBRL.

DAN: Do you have any advice for people already working with XBRL?

IAN: I think taxonomy developers should broaden their approach when developing a taxonomy. Rather than thinking just about the regulation to be met, they should also consider and take into account, far more thoroughly, the needs of the groups who will be consuming and analysing the data.

I’d also advise the filer communities to require the solution vendors to provide the means to simplify XBRL filing, to hide the complexity from users and report preparers. This could only encourage a more widespread adoption of XBRL in digital reporting.

DAN: Thanks Ian!

IAN: Happy to help.


To find out more about the FRC’s financial reporting lab, and the goals of the future data model, click here. And for information on CoreFiling’s XBRL services, click here.

EDITOR’S NOTE: parts of this interview have been shortened for clarity.

CoreFiling at the FRC’s Digital Future Round Table

This week, CoreFiling’s Ian Hicks joined over 20 other industry representatives in London for the Digital Future: Data round table, hosted by the FRC’s Financial Reporting Lab. Discussions focused on how XBRL can help facilitate Digital Future Reporting: a 12-step model proposed by the FRC that uses technology to combat the current “under-performance” of financial data – read more about Digital Future Reporting here.

The event was a great success, attracting attendees from key fintech organisations (including Vizor, IFRS, Workiva, the FRC, and the Bank of England). CoreFiling was on hand to provide important insights about XBRL and its capabilities – and as chair of the XBRL Best Practices Board, Ian also outlined how to follow best practice when implementing it.

 XBRL and the Digital Future model

As an open source technology, XBRL is a good fit for Digital Future, because it isn’t constrained to a single supplier. The standard is also well established, with many examples of large-scale implementation across the world (including tax ecosystems in the UK, Middle East, and now the USA); XBRL provides a proven framework for creating simple, cost-effective solutions, without needing to “reinvent the wheel” or develop brand new technologies.

As IFRS’s Rita Ogun-Clijmans noted during the discussion, “XBRL should focus on where it fits best into the Digital Future Reporting model” – CoreFiling agrees, as the strength of XBRL lies in its inherent auditability, data provenance, and versatility; XBRL can be linked with other reporting media to assist compatibility.

For more information about XBRL, iXBRL, and CoreFiling’s solutions, visit corefiling.com.

UK Government Joins the Party at London Fintech Week 2017

London Fintech Week is back for 2017, with a new line-up of conferences, workshops, exhibitions  and meet-ups for financial innovators. For those who haven’t attended before, London Fintech Week is a 7-day event designed to act as a hub for international financial professionals, held across the City of London, Canary Wharf and East London’s “Tech City”.

The event has gone from strength to strength since its inception in 2014 – and this year’s conference is the biggest yet. Starting on 7th July, London Fintech Week 2017 will host the UK government’s first International Fintech Conference. The conference aims to attract investors to the UK’s “high growth fintech centre”. Click here to read a comprehensive overview of the event by Liam Fox (Department for International Trade) on GOV.UK

Ready. Set. Innovate.

At CoreFiling, we know that developing new technologies is key to the success of the fintech industry – so here are the top 4 events we’re looking forward to most at this year’s London Fintech Week:

  • Regulatory Sandbox Panel. Barclays, Santander and Credit Suisse meet to unlock the potential of regulatory reporting. As experts in regulatory reporting technology, we’ll be watching with interest.
  • Blockchain & Cyber Security Showcase. Blockchain is set to be the next evolution in financial security – but how far can we trust the hype? Thomson Reuters, the Linux Foundation and Applied Blockchain investigate.
  • Machine Learning & AI: Is it OK to Panic Yet? With the recent Deep Mind scandal still fresh in our minds, we look forward to seeing this panel’s take on an important emerging technology.
  • The FCA’s Regtech Update & Innovation Hub Workshop. Innovation is at the heart of what we do at CoreFiling, and as long-time supporters of the FCA, we anticipate big things from this workshop.

A Bright Future for Orange Button & Solar Energy

CoreFiling recently joined XBRL US, the SunSpec Alliance, Wells Fargo and the US Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, to co-host the “Orange Button” webinar. This webinar focused on the role of XBRL in the US DoE’s Orange Button program – a solar energy development plan aimed at reducing solar energy costs (and growing the US solar industry).

Mark Goodhand, Head of Research at CoreFiling and a global authority on XBRL specifications, was on hand to give attendees expert advice about XBRL and its features. Solar energy is already big business in America, and a data-led approach is key to its growth; Mark showed that adopting XBRL will simplify and standardise solar data, aiding (and in some cases enabling) all aspects of the SunShot Initiative. The discussion of XBRL’s benefits covered everything from improved feasibility studies and financial projections, to better planning, smarter construction, and support for future research.

Chris Mills then put theory into practice, by taking the audience through a detailed demonstration of CoreFiling’s taxonomy development suite, Yeti.

The webinar was a real success, and gave the audience an exciting look at the bright future of solar development. Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube, or read a write-up on the XBRL US page. You can also get involved with solar energy by attending the InterSolar conference in July.