E&Y, university leap into joint development

The global shift away from HTML has taken a further step, with a new XBRL-based online financial results reporting tool developed in New Zealand.

The global shift away from HTML has taken a further step, with a new XBRL-based online financial results reporting tool developed in New Zealand.

LEAP+ has been developed jointly by the University of Auckland and consultants Ernst & Young, with web design from Terabyte.

Under development since October last year, LEAP+ instantly delivers financial data online using the programming language XBRL (eXstensible Business Reporting Language) based on an XML framework.

Its developers say LEAP+ allows for efficient tracking and analysis of financial data, which is usually only available as hardcopy periodic reports.

The announcement of the joint venture comes as the second annual XBRL conference kicked off last week in New Orleans.

The choice of the programming language was significant, says principal in the national assurance and business advisory services group at Ernst & Young, Mark Hucklesby.

“We needed to future-proof the system, and with Microsoft set to push its .NET XML strategy, XBRL seemed such a logical way to go,” he says.

Hucklesby says the Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand will be joining the XBRL Steering Committee and later this year will undertake an educational programme to show chartered accountants the language’s benefits.

Additionally, the third XBRL symposium will be held in October in Sydney.

The local system, LEAP+, will be used internally by Ernst & Young, though it plans to license it to other organisations, and make it available as the University of Auckland’s business school courses.

Analysis of financial information can be unwieldy since it is largely out of date, a problem LEAP+ alleviates says Hucklesby.

“At Ernst & Young we’ve got all these new standards, all this new legislation and listing rules continually changing and, dare I say it, the operational risk we face is in the timeliness and accuracy of the information.”

“We find LEAP+ lets our accounting staff have access to the information literally at their fingertips, and not just in the office,” says Hucklesby.

It’s a world-beater he believes.

“We wanted to play a thought-leadership role.”

The joint project also means hands-on business experience for the students involved, who in the past had to study out-dated yearly financial reports, which often did not reflect current business or legislative climates, says University of Auckland business school senior lecturer Alan Teixeira.

“We are constantly searching for examples of best practice being applied in the corporate world to use in our teaching,” he says.

“LEAP+ will be a fantastic web-based educational resource that will enhance the quality of our teaching and give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in financial reporting,” says Dr Teixeira.

Hucklesby says working with the university was “absolutely brilliant”.

“They’re excellent at finding solutions and thinking outside the square. They’re not constrained by brand.”

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