The UFE in the spotlight

I was referred to a story in the September 10th Toronto Star about the UFE by my girlfriend’s Mom. It’s about time this momentous occasion is chronicled in the most-read daily in the country:

Starting Tuesday, more than 650 students will write the professional accounting exam in Toronto — more than 2,500 in Canada.

I’ll be one of those 650 students sitting in the International Centre right beside Canada’s busiest airport (and you can hear every plane fly overhead) on Tuesday. I won’t be the only one!

The UFE lasts three days, with a five-hour business case followed by two four-hour exams, each of which consists of a few shorter case questions. Last year, for example, the question on the first day was 15 pages long and candidates had to provide accounting, audit, tax and other business advice for a ski resort formed by the merger of three smaller ones.

This is not entirely correct. I know that case inside and out, and it was actually about a partnership between three ski resorts to sell a lift ticket that could be used at any of the partner hills. No merger. Minor details to the Star, but you’d be hard-pressed to earn any marks if you made such a big mistake when you were writing the thing last year.

Illness has not interrupted an exam in recent years, but evidence of serious stress — shaking hands, nervous ticks, vomiting — is routinely observed in washrooms beforehand.

I’m pretty lucky in that I deal with stress well. I’ll be nervous and anxious for sure, but I won’t be throwing up.

Bruce Densmore runs a UFE preparation program, Densmore Consulting Services, Inc. He won’t say how much he earns but he clearly makes more than his two main competitors, if only because his services are offered by three of the Big Four firms. He labels his company “a high-cost, high-quality provider.” As he says, “If we mess up, there’s a price to be paid” — with messing up meaning a low pass rate.

I was lucky enough to take Densmore’s course at the end of July at U of T. It really helped a lot – I learned valuable case-writing skills and improved my scoring immensely. It’s like night and day comparing cases I wrote before the course and after.

One thing is for certain about this monstrous exam – it will be the biggest challenge of my life so far.


Toronto becoming more expensive to live

Not through any direct experience of my own, although my landlord did take the opportunity to raise my rent the maximum allowable by law a month ago, but the city has been moving up the ranks of the most expensive on the planet.

Toronto of course ranks first in Canada as the most expensive place to live in the country, but its our international ranking that is more telling. We now rank 47th out of the top 144 cities, moving up from 82nd last year! That’s a 43% change in just a year, and analysts are basing it primarily on the strength of the loonie.

In other Toronto news, today is our annual Pride Parade, the world’s largest, celebrating our gay and lesbian community. I won’t be attending this year though, because the Netherlands is playing Portugal this afternoon! Go oranje!


Mapping out my clients after a year in public practice

I have been playing around with Windows Live Local lately, Microsoft’s competition for Google Maps.

GTA map of audit clientsI decided to map all the clients where I’ve been in the last year with my firm. For the blue ones I just had to search for the business name, but the red ones represent clients that I had to manually search for their address and add them because they didn’t show up in a business name search for whatever reason.

I thought it was pretty interesting to see it all laid out there. One client in Waterloo, an inventory count at a location in Guelph, a client in Burlington, one in Brampton, Pickering and Vaughan, a few downtown Toronto, the rest in Mississauga, Etobicoke and North York.


Electric atmosphere at Jays opener

I was at the Toronto Blue Jays baseball game last night at the Rogers Centre and man was it crazy.

Over 50,000 people there to watch the Jays? What is this, 1993? I had a good seat down the third base line, giving me a great view of Bengie Molina’s home run in the 4th inning.

Jays ace Roy Halladay was awesome, new free agent signing B.J. Ryan came in and shut the door in the 9th, and Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay had runs too.

The only downside was the massive headache this morning, not making the long drive to Pickering, where I’m working this week, any easier. On a disgusting side note, there was a guy urinating on the subway last night when I was on my way home.


Building and rebuilding in the GTA

The Toronto Star has two stories on their front page today about development in Toronto and the surrounding area worth noting.

The West Don Lands development is a community being built over derelict industrial buildings east of downtown. And Vaughan’s proposed corporate centre and downtown is an idea that is seeing the light of day because of the recently announced TTC expansion into the city.

These are exciting developments to me for different reasons.

The downtown residential and commercial Don Lands project appeals to me because it’s reclaiming some prime land that has gone unused for too long in a great location, and it’s the first step to truly revitalizing Toronto’s waterfront.

I’m excited about the Vaughan idea because it just means more business in the area, and more business is good for the economy. It remains to be seen, however, if Vaughan is willing or able to make the necessary investments in public infrastructure.