In his first CIO job, Corey Booth, just 34 years old, is leading the IT department of one of the country's most closely watched and influential government agencies: the Securities and Exchange Commission. On the job now for a year, Booth is close to wrapping up several IT initiatives that he started last year, and he plans to kick off even more aggressive projects in 2005. The initiatives get to the heart of SEC chairman William Donaldson's top priority: Become more proactive in protecting investors and maintaining fair and efficient markets by overseeing SEC-registered companies' financial practices.
"My assumption before I came to the SEC was that there were big computers down in the basement crunching numbers and looking for problems," Booth says. That wasn't the case. So Booth and his team are bringing in technology that will let the commission scour financial data from third-party providers, as well as the filings it currently collects, and even new, undisclosed financial data that it may start collecting from SEC registrants. In the new year, Booth and his team will begin implementing risk-assessment and analytics tools; in particular, the SEC will start using data warehousing and tools for online analytic processing to crunch numbers. "As chairman Donaldson says, we want to be able to look over the hills and around the corners to spot problems before they become problems," Booth says.
Using document-imaging and optical character-recognition software, the SEC's IT team is two-thirds finished with the monumental task of converting to an electronic format many of the paper documents related to investigations that are under way; most firms under investigation submit truckloads of paper documentation to the SEC. Booth's team will finish the file conversions by early next year, he says.
The SEC also is pushing ahead with standards. In September, the commission proposed a rule to let SEC registrants file documents using the Extensible Business Reporting Language, or XBRL, an XML-based markup language for tagging data in financial statements. XBRL and other standards that the SEC is considering should make it easier to search and analyze financial information. The tags describe information, such as items included in financial statements, and allow for the exchange of financial information across various software platforms, including those based on Web services.
Booth also has been reshaping the commission's IT culture. When he left his job as associate principal at consulting firm McKinsey & Co. to join the SEC, he took over a post that had been vacant for about a year and a half. "If you go back a year or two ago, the IT staff felt neglected and a little rudderless," Booth says. "But that's changing."
Now, the IT team has almost three times as much money in its $120 million budget (excluding salaries and related expenses) as it did in 2001. And it has a CIO who believes IT is a lot more than a back-office function. "Fundamentally, we're much, much more engaged with the business side of the agency than we had been in terms of creating and driving these initiatives," Booth says. "We're getting much smarter about the SEC's mission and business processes."
This article originally appeared in InformationWeek.