Inside the federal teller’s cage

Planning and implementing the Call Report Modernization Project required bank regulatory agencies and their contractor, Unisys Corp., to go far ahead in technology and deep into changing their business processes.

Harmonizing the three agencies’ business rules was a feat in itself. The agencies that form the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council—the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve System—first combed through their requirements for gathering and processing data in the quarterly call reports that banks submit.

The call report consists of more than 2,000 data elements that must conform to more than 2,000 rules to ensure validity and accuracy.

The rules and edits are outlined in almost 400 pages of instructions, updated quarterly. Many cover methods of defining financial measures on bank balance sheets and income statements. Bank regulators agree that “the devil is in the details” defining the financial data that reflects a bank’s soundness.

After reaching harmony on the data definitions, FFIEC and Unisys faced the task of embedding them in the metadata tools that constitute the online system.

The foundation of the Central Data Repository is the Extensible Business Reporting Language, an advanced, cross-industry standard for representing financial data.
The XBRL tags embedded in the call report data allow the system to treat the information intelligently, according to FFIEC.

“They can recognize the information in an XBRL document, select it, analyze it, store it, exchange it with other computers and present it ... in a variety of ways,” the council said.

The core of this process is that XBRL is the only financial reporting model that enables a company to define semantics and business rules, according to the system’s framers.

Deeper within the system, XBRL uses other metadata specifications, such as XML Schema and Xlink.

“One of the advantages of the new system is that it eliminated inefficiencies in the exchange of files,” said Mary M. West, assistant director of the Fed’s Division of Research and Statistics.

The system’s designers built Web site security using 128-bit encryption and Secure Sockets Layer technology, according to project manager Martin D. Henning, associate director of FDIC’s Division of Insurance and Research.

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