A new kind of interactive data is the focus of a pilot program from the SEC that’s intended to make it easier for advisors, funds, and data providers to use mutual fund data in tools that compare critical data elements on risk, performance and other key characteristics.

Firms such as Lipper, Morningstar, and Standard & Poor’s will be able to more easily gather and work with data in the Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL format, as it is filed with the SEC, according to Kirk Botula, COO of Confluence, a data management company. The firm has built a tool, Quick Tag that is available as a free download during the pilot program. Confluence is involved in the Investment Company Institute’s (ICI ) XBRL Working Group, which has developed a Mutual Fund Risk/Return XBRL Taxonomy and has a list of resources for members interested in learning more about the initiative (See link below).

“The first step is really this voluntary filing period that the SEC has just approved,” according to Botula, adding that “the voluntary filing period will allow fund companies to submit their risk/return information via XBRL.” While the XBRL interactive data should be easier to gather and manipulate, it is also expected that XBRL will make it easier for funds to submit their data, and “advisors could create their own portfolio spreadsheet,” to compare funds for clients, Botula says.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox announced in a speech on June 14 at The New York Society of Security Analysts (NYSSA), in New York, that he expected the Commission to agree to expand an SEC pilot program for public companies to submit their data in the XBRL format, to the mutual fund space, noting that “XBRL–the language of interactive data–will give analysts and investors far more flexibility in accessing and using financial data than you’ve ever had before.” There has been a pilot program underway for corporate data with about two-dozen participants. The sister pilot program for funds will be a next step in the SEC’s drive to make interactive data more easily accessible to any interested party. One “advantage of interactive data–not just to analysts, but to all of those who participate in our securities markets–is that it will enable the use of cost calculators and other tools to get data directly from our EDGAR filing system, without any intermediate re-keying or other manual labor,” Cox asserts in the speech. The SEC voted “unanimously” on June 20 to approve the mutual fund pilot program, according to Kevin Callahan in the SEC press office.

The SEC has a free, downloadable tool that’s available in the SEC Web site, “in open source so that everyone can improve it for free. As a result, today any analyst can log onto the SEC’s Web site, and not only view interactive data, but use this software tool to immediately generate graphical reports and multiple-issuer comparisons,” according to Cox’s speech.

For the text of Chairman Cox’s June 14 speech, please go to

http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2007/spch061407cc.htm

For more about the SEC’s XBRL initiatives, please go to:

http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/xbrl.htm#new

For information from the ICI about its recommendations about XBRL for mutual funds, please go to:

http://members.ici.org/xbrlTaxonomy.do

For information about XBRL itself, please go to:

http://www.xbrl.org/Home/