A NEW company is causing a stir in investor relations and corporate reporting circles with its financial reporting software that makes it a snap for companies to confidently create multiple disclosure documents that automatically update when figures are changed in a single spreadsheet.
WebFilings, which developed its cloud-based software over an 18-month period, emerged from a private beta earlier this year with a handful of test clients. It has quickly gained more than 100 companies as clients and has been getting rave reviews.
In October, the company closed a fully-subscribed $12.5 million Series B private placement of equity, bringing the total raised to $24 million.
Praise from IR professionals
I was given a demo of the slick new software several weeks ago after complaining on Twitter that I couldn’t get anyone to demo the product for me (turns out they’re busy!). I was extremely impressed with the software and its capabilities.
The WebFilings team has invested considerable time in fine-tuning their software and building out its capabilities, including XBRL support, and it shows. They have come to market with a completed product and its usability is at a level you rarely see in new software tools.
Others in the IR community are equally impressed with WebFilings.
Heather Wietzel, principal at InsuranceIR LLC, a 25-year veteran of investor relations, recently called the software the “ ’missing link’ to solve a long list of corporate disclosure process problems, including IR participation in the SEC filings.” And she added: “Watching the demo, it took only a few minutes to convince me that it could revolutionize disclosure processes – it does so many things so easily.”
FBL Financial Group Director of Investor Relations Tim Bigley spoke highly of WebFilings’ solution in a recent webinar where he explained how it saves time producing the department’s quarterly supplement while cutting the risk of errors. And there’s an entire page of customer testimonials on WebFilings’ website.
Change once, update everywhere
So what’s got everyone so excited? Well, it’s something called a single document data model.
In simple terms it means that when you create documents by drawing on data from a single workbook. You can create a wide variety of documents all using the same data store.
If any of the data points needs to be changed, you only do it once in the workbook and all instances of the old figures will automatically update in all of your documents, be they draft SEC filings, pending news releases, financial supplements or factsheets.
There are many other features that make WebFilings a great financial reporting document creation tool, including sophisticated collaboration capabilities and version control, an audit trail, black line comparisons, simple XBRL tools and integrated SEC filing.
But it’s really the “change once, update everywhere” feature that impresses IR professionals because of the huge amounts of time it saves. No more tracking down references to figures in different documents and changing them manually. What used to take an hour is now done in 1 second!
Just the beginning
At this time, WebFilings mostly supports SEC filings, spreadsheets and word processing-based documents like earnings releases, financial supplements, factsheets and fact books. It doesn’t support investor presentations or website content, but those could be supported as well.
The idea of a single source for data can be taken to the next level by including other kinds of disclosure media besides financial data. Recently, online financial reporting specialists Nexxar (IRWR sponsors) outlined the concept of a single “cross media database.”
This adds multimedia, presentations, photographs and financial data into a single data store from which IR departments and others can create accurate documents for a variety of online and offline uses. The model is being implemented by companies in the Netherlands.
Clearly, a new future of financial reporting and investor communications is just around the corner. It’s great to see new companies targeting the long-neglected IR and financial reporting areas with innovative and highly usable new products.
It’s even better that IR professionals are embracing them.
- WebFilings is hosting a free 30 minute demo of its product on Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 11am PT. You can register here