Small companies, Big Data, and XBRL

CompaniesHouseNewLogoLet’s congratulate a regulator for doing the right thing in a big way. UK Companies House has begun sharing the XBRL and iXBRL filings they receive with the public. This pushes XBRL into the Big Data world.

Why? Because the total filings with Companies House are several million per year. Every limited company in England and Wales files some form of annual accounts, no matter how small. Companies House is now the source of more XBRL documents than any other regulator in the world.

Of course, the total capitalisation of all those companies might still be less that the market cap of the 8,000 or so public companies that file XBRL with the SEC in the US. The more interesting opportunity here is the absolute depth of the data.

Big Data approaches work by aggregating millions, or billions, of data points. We now have a freely available source of high level balance sheet and income statement data, director names, and company addresses across all companies, even the smallest. We also have full audited accounts for the larger firms. Pure open data goodness!

If I could wish for only one additional data element in all of this, it would be an industry code. It would also be helpful if more than one year of data was archived. Disk is cheap.

This data should be a huge benefit research at the macroeconomic level as well as many other forms of financial analysis spanning the focus on small company success factors to economy-wide policy. Grab the monthly data backfile, and then the daily updates, and start understanding a major industrial economy at a never before available level of detail.

Thank you, Companies House! Sharing data with the public in a standard format is a great step forward. I hope other regulators will follow your lead.

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5 thoughts on “Small companies, Big Data, and XBRL

  1. Yes, this is a great addition! One minor nitpick, however. I’m still trying to figure out a programmatic way to periodically fetch the data. I’ve requested Companies House for a response and will hopefully get it soon. It is a bit of a hassle having to go every day to see the daily ZIPs. Even in it’s absence, however, periodically going to the relevant page and downloading the ZIP file is a terrific advancement compared to the dark days of no data.

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