Research & Innovation

Quantitative Finance Student Selected for ICFNJ Grant to Support Development of XBRL Tools for Researchers, Regulators and Investors

David Inga ‘16, a Stevens quantitative finance student and a member of the 2013 Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Summer Scholars Research Program, was recently awarded a grant from the Independent College Fund of New Jersey (ICFNJ) to support research he is doing to create eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) tools and services for researchers, regulators and investors.

XBRL is a global standard for exchanging business information, such as financial statements, between business systems. It enables corporations to share financial information to all users faster and more accurately.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires all publicly traded companies to disclose their financial information to the public using XBRL technology, but do not provide interpretations or analytics of the information.

Inga’s research project – which he is conducting along with Dr. Steve Yang, assistant professor in the School of Systems & Enterprises (SSE) at Stevens – is to build a web interface to the Hanlon Financial Systems Center’s Financial Disclosure Database, where the public can get the financial information they are seeking in an open, familiar format.

“All XBRL filings are publicly available, but the data is messy and incomprehensible unless further analyzed,” said Inga.

“Financial disclosures disseminated by the SEC are captured in the XBRL technology, but many people are not equipped to decipher the information received,” added Yang. “Our goal is to bridge the gap for the public with an open resource, and encourage collaborations among financial and accounting researchers.” 

There are many potential benefits of the research project within the financial community.

“XBRL has been widely adopted by many countries around the globe for financial reporting and its impact is spreading,” said Yang. “The. U.S. has been a leading force in its development, but the consumption of the XBRL data from the SEC has been lagging behind. Our effort is to make the data more user-friendly and promote more analytics.”

“The tools we are developing could also help to reduce the human effort of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to catch corporate reporting inconsistencies and fraud,” Inga added.

The grant of $1700 comes from Inga’s selection into the ICFNJ Undergraduate Research Symposium, which supports hands-on research by college freshmen, sophomore and juniors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. No more than 28 grants are awarded annually for the select, state-wide program.

Inga is one of the select students chosen to participate in the 2013 Innovation & Entrepreneurship (I&E) Summer Scholars Research Program. In this elite and competitive program – which has been organized by the Stevens Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIE) for 13 years running – high-performing and entrepreneurial undergraduate students engage in innovative research, design or business projects with potential commercial impact for a period of ten weeks under the active supervision of a Stevens faculty member.

Yang, Inga’s advisor, is involved in a larger research project hosted at the Hanlon Financial Systems Center focused on creating innovative ways to deliver key financials to the public, including academic researchers and regular investors. His focus is on developing an XBRL infrastructure system to apply various analytic techniques such as statistics and data mining to publicly available financial disclosure information. The system will provide a platform for investors to use meaningful analytic results for better-informed decision making and for the academic community to conduct financial disclosure-related research.

Yang choose Inga to work with him through the I&E Summer Scholars Research Program after Inga expressed interested in predicting behavior through large data, especially as it relates to financial market stability and regulation.

While the OIE provides a stipend for the students to live on campus while conducting summer research, additional funding is needed if the students want to continue to work on the project during the following school year. Given the impact and influence of student-led research at Stevens, a large percentage of projects that began in the summer program ultimately move forward to the next level of research through sponsored grants, senior design or technology commercialization.

In Inga’s case, the ICFNJ grant will help Inga to consult with XBRL experts, pay for the service he is creating, and even continue his research through the fall semester and ultimately present his findings at the ICFNJ Undergraduate Research Symposium, to be held in March 2014.