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Using SEC Edgar Database for Competitor Analysis

John A. Booth

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July 31, 2020

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is part of the United States federal government. Its database is known as EDGAR, which stands for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval.

This open source system processes about 3,000 filings per day, serves up 3,000 terabytes of publicly available information annually, and accommodates 40,000 new filers per year on average. As an online database for this kind of business information, Edgar is an enormously beneficial resource for competitive analysis.

Businesses conduct analysis of competitors to obtain or maintain an edge in the market. This is only possible if companies have agile strategies that don’t just respond to but anticipate competitor behavior.

The better informed these strategies are, through competitive analysis, the better chance they have of working. There are numerous sources from which to gain competitor data. Edgar is one of them.

Read on to learn:

  1. How to use SEC Edgar Database
  2. What kind of competitive intelligence information is available on the SEC Edgar Database
  3. How SEC Edgar Database works for competitor analysis
  4. SEC Edgar Database features, integrations and automation
  5. How much it costs to use SEC Edgar Database

Want a sneak peek into the best tool (in our humble opinion) for competitive analysis? Get a FREE demo of Knowledge360.

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How to Use SEC Edgar Database

The SEC Gov Edgar database can be manually accessed in a few different ways. There are several different meta-categories for the organization of posted documents. These are:

  • Divisions/Offices
  • Enforcement
  • Regulation
  • Education
  • Filings
  • News

Any and all of these may be relevant for your competitive analysis. Edgar has brief tutorials that point to two primary uses: general searches or special searches. In each of the above categories, users can retrieve competitor information that includes name, telephone number, address, Central Index Key (CIK) number, fiscal year end and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

"Getting ready to progress your opportunities requires good information in support of crafting a compelling narrative around pain or business model or market shifts etc. And sometimes you want to get behind Bloomberg or WSJ and go right to the source -- which can be the US government's SEC EDGAR database of public company filings. Which by law is available for the clicking! Reading 10-K and 10-Q filings from the source can be revealing! Congratulations sales and business development folks -- you're now ahead of the competition!"

- John Morris, Data Decisioning LLC

There are definitely some nuances to finding the right information. Sometimes, you can use inherent organizational mechanisms, like SEC Edgar search, to find information about a specific company. You can also search by Standard Industrial Classification (which each have unique codes), by state or by date.

You can already see how many options there are. If you want to perform searches in this database manually that yield valuable information for analyzing competitors, you will need to navigate it according to the way it is organized.

If you have more exact parameters for your competitive analysis, you should be able to find that by doing special-purpose searches. SEC Edgar company search can be performed by using unique identifiers (like the CIK), full text searches or in databases that house specific kinds of documentation.

For example, there are areas of SEC Edgar that have current events, prospectuses, proxy voting records, effectiveness notices and more. These may help you analyze a more granular component of a competing company.

SEC Edgar Database

Edgar SEC filings have the utmost authority. As a member of the public, you are gaining access to open source records that companies themselves have submitted to the federal government.
This ensures a high level of transparency. These disclosures often represent financial or business moves that have financial impact. The kind of data housed on this platform includes:

  • Public documents
  • Information on filers
  • Company filings
  • Forms
  • Registrations

These are all submitted by companies directly, in accordance to industry-specific standards of operation. As required by law, your competitors are filing this paperwork, which you can then use to better understand their financial state, holdings, employees and general affairs. There are several SEC divisions that will prove useful in your analyses:

  • Corporation finance
  • Trading and markets
  • Enforcement
  • Economic and risk analysis
  • Investment management

The SEC has numerous offices, each of which will have unique kinds of documentation on file for your review. Remember that both domestic and foreign companies have to file documents with the SEC. This means that you can gain global industry insight from this database.

You can learn information on your competitors from the various branches of the SEC, including the Office of the Advocate for Small Business and Capital Formation, Office of Information Technology and Office of International Affairs. There are dozens more.

Yvonne M. Davis of ResearchINC shares that she uses "EDGAR to locate and investigate the following:

  1. Possible competitors entering the markets- the S1 Form IPO (Initial Public Offering) and subsequent changes in the 424B series.
  2. Company financial, legal and economic positions- the 10Q and 10K reports.
  3. List of Subsidiaries provided in 10K and some 10Q reports can give insight into company family trees, relationship with other industries and markets as well as information on any privately held businesses.
  4. Corporate unscheduled changes and developments i.e. change in fiscal year, M & As and bankruptcies- the 8K Form."

Ultimately, if a business has played according to the rules, they will have a lot of information on display that you can use to directly compete with them in the market.

There is immense value in mining this data for competitive analysis.

SEC Edgar for Competitor Analysis

SEC Edgar has long been used to measure competition in financial, auditing and business spheres. This is because it is unfiltered information that comes directly from companies.

Using SEC Edgar, you can get immediate and trustworthy information that details your competitors’ risk factors, legal proceedings, ownership changes (of 5%+), consolidated financial data, internal analytics and corporate reports.

Here are some examples of the filed reports that can provide insight for competitive analysis:

  • 10Q Filings: all public companies have to submit these financial reports to the SEC. They are unaudited but can provide a lot of information about a competitor’s financial health, holdings or dealings.
  • 8K Filings: material changes that impact a company’s market value have to be reported to the SEC. If your competitor has lost a major client, had a CEO resign, major board changes and other shifts, you can learn about the exact circumstances from these reports.
  • 10K Filings: these are audited financial reports that will detail the financial health and any changes for a competitor.

These are a few examples. There are literally hundreds of additional data points within SEC Edgar that can inform your intelligent analysis and shape your strategy.

"We in Fuld use SEC'S EDGAR database data extensively. One of the first checks we make when looking at a target company, whether a potential new client, or a target competitor, is whether it is public and so has filings on EDGAR.

I personally regularly pull 10-Qs and 10-Ks on companies as they always have highly valuable competitive information. Not only do they have the latest financial on the company, but can also list key competitors, the company’s strategy, details of specific key product and service revenues, as well as profitability and details on burn rates for new start-ups.

The U.S. is unique in demanding detailed quarterly filings. They are one of the most valuable competitive information sources available, plus they are free."

- Mike Ratcliffe, Senior Director HLS, FULD + COMPANY

SEC Edgar Automations and Other Features

SEC Edgar is a database, not software. It does have internal sorting and search functions. The reporting is real-time. However, there are numerous reasons that there aren’t additional automations or features in this resource.

Many offices provide the data housed in SEC Edgar (some listed above). There are thousands of different kinds of standard forms and formats in which data is delivered. These disparities require some sophisticated third-party software to navigate with ease.

There are systems available that can harvest data, ready for analysis, from SEC Edgar. One of these is Knowledge360, which is the tool your team may need to find a main competitor, analyze your competitor's content, map a customer journey, create a competitive matrix and more. You can learn more or get started with a demo.

SEC Edgar: Cost

SEC Edgar is an open source database that is free for public use. One of the variables in play is that there is a daunting quantity of data, which grows daily. As businesses regularly submit new documents and files, the database grows.

Most researchers, or teams performing competitive analysis, struggle to keep up with the volume of manual downloads needed to gather the comprehensive and diverse information sets needed to support their business. While EDGAR is an excellent and essential resource, it’s equally essential to leverage third-party software if your business is going to benefit from the wealth of information SEC Edgar contains.

That’s where Knowledge360 comes in. We have provided a tool that does the work for you. What’s more, SEC Edgar is a rock-solid and reliable resource, but it is not the only one. There are multiple databases online that house equally important and authoritative information that your company needs to tap for competitive analysis.

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Knowledge360 works around the clock to surface relevant data on the topics or companies of your choosing, delivering to you the information you need to affect meaningful change in your business.

An Alternative to SEC Edgar

You can choose to use many independent data sources, like SEC’s EDGAR database, but combining many data sources in one tool is a force multiplier for you and your team. It's easier to spot trends, it means fewer places to look for information, fewer subscriptions to manage, less moving of data and lower costs.

"I actually don’t have to use the SEC’s EDGAR database to retrieve SEC filings like 10Ks, 10Qs, 8Ks, etc. I typically go to the company’s Investor Relations section of their website to retrieve these documents, as well as other presentations. In addition, our subscription to S&P Global Market Intelligence also provides access to company presentations and transcripts of those calls."

- Steve Micksch, Strategy Research Manager, American Family Insurance

Trying to stay on top of too many data sources is the most common reason most competitive intelligence practices fail. In our experience, marketing and competitive intelligence initiatives often tend to be implemented reactively, rapidly become unmanageable, rarely deliver meaningful insights, and ultimately end because of the lack of meaningful results delivered at the end of a budget cycle.

That is, until the next surprise market event, merger or acquisition has executives calling for more intelligence and better insights. And then the cycle begins again.

Every realm of data, from news articles to government filings, have information about your competitors that is potentially relevant for your business. Knowledge360 pulls from every imaginable data source on the internet: FACTSET, Crunchbase, SEC Filings (EDGAR Database), Job Boards (Indeed), Company Reviews (Glassdoor), Live stock ticker feeds, Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS), National Institutes of Health (clinicaltrails.gov), U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and more.

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"[Knowledge360 is a] One-stop-shop for competitor and market news"

- Administrator in Hospital & Health Care, Jun 22, 2020

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You also have access to aggregated news from over 600,000 global sources. Pull in customized RSS feeds and Google Alerts to amp up SWOT analysis, marketing strategy, identify your target market and more. Create a useful competitive analysis template that takes a 30,000 foot view into actionable steps. It is an essential step for competitive analysis that gives you the competitive advantage to dominate the marketplace.

All competitor analysis tools are helpful; use ours to find strategic groups, target customers, find competitors' strengths and weaknesses and get all you need to generate long-term growth.

Use our Ultimate Guide to Competitive Intelligence Research and Data Sources to learn more about our comprehensive data streams and how they will empower your team to conduct competitive benchmarking and analysis, in addition to downloading a pre-built competitive analysis template.

Competitor analysis research guide

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John A. Booth
John A. Booth

John has more than 25 years of experience as an accomplished marketing and sales professional and is responsible for setting the strategic direction of the marketing function at Cipher. Prior to joining Cipher, John co-founded a national marketing agency providing companies with digital marketing and sales support, driving lead generation and increased sales for B2B and B2C clients.

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