If you follow XML in the financial services arena, you undoubtedly know about XBRL, the emerging standard for financial data reporting that is really taking hold at the SEC and the regulatory agencies of EU countries. But a lesser known but equally intriguing standard is RIXML, the Research Information Exchange Markup Language. RIXML.org is a consortium of buy-side and sell-side research firms, and vendors, that is defining an XML-based standard for categorizing, tagging and distributing global investment research.

Like XBRL, RIXML has great potential to enhance how financial analysts work with financial content. With rich, XML-encoded financial information, you can imagine analysts finding ways to better filter information, to develop powerful queries and reports, and to commingle research content from various sources. I was talking to colleague Geoff Bock about this, and we both know financial analysts who do all this now, but do it with Excel. They are the ultimate Excel power users, and they consume and model vast amounts of financial information. And they typically do this under tremendous time pressure.

XBRL clearly has traction–9,540,000 Google hits, lots of vendor support, and a roadmap to mandatory SEC adoption (warning, big PDF file!). RIXML is a more nascent effort–9,740 Google hits–but its potential impact is significant. Financial reporting and research data already has an important lifecycle. We see it in the markets every day, though most of us only from a distance. XML has the potential to make this lifecycle much more efficient, much more content-rich, and much less dependent on the manual efforts of those frazzled financial analysts. Instead of 16-hour days during earnings season, maybe they can work, heck, 14-hour days! (Actually, their managers will likely just give them a few more companies to cover…)

By the way, an obvious question to ask about RIXML is how it might integrate with XBRL. This too is nascent, though the two organizations have signed a very general memorandum of understanding. You can also find a related presentation here (PDF again).

UPDATE: The SEC has launched a new website, Financial Explorer, that enables users to generate custom data from the underlying XBRL-encoded reports.