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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Nov. 28, 2003 18 years ago

Coffee Talk

This week's items: Dean of the Sykes College of Business fan of Outback'sBonefish Grill chainCourt records moratoriumBlue Ocean stand-inChartered financial analyst coming upMarket Street Mortgage offering first-time buyer program

Coffee Talk

Outback Steakhouse Inc.'s Bonefish Grill chain has a fan in Joseph E. McCann, dean of the Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa.

McCann recently confessed as much while interviewing Chris Sullivan during a visit to UT's Hyde Park campus by the Outback founder. "I know your Bonefish in Belleair real well," McCann told Sullivan.

Sullivan took the compliment in stride and revealed a little-known fact about McCann, who apparently wasn't kidding about frequenting the Bonefish Grill restaurant in Belleair Bluffs. "His picture's up on the wall in the bar," Sullivan told the audience, which included business students and faculty along with UT President Ronald L. Vaughn.

The line drew chuckles all around the room. "That's funny," said Sullivan, looking over at Vaughn in the front row. "You didn't know that, did you?"

McCann was among the amused. "You could have said dining facility," the dean joshed back at Sullivan.

Records blackout

Earlier this month the Review reported about an upcoming moratorium on the electronic distribution of court records in Florida.

It's here.

On Nov. 25, Florida Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead issued an administrative order barring the release of electronic court records to ensure the privacy of those involved in the court system. The administrative order still contains provisions allowing access to official records, dockets, court calendars and traffic cases and extends access to electronic records for attorneys of record and governmental agencies. The order also provides the exemption for "a court record which has been solitarily and individually requested, provided it has been manually inspected by the clerk of court or deputy clerk of court," which some court clerks say may allow them to continue to operate their Web sites.

The order requires clerks of court to terminate their electronic systems by Jan. 1.

A committee, established by the state Supreme Court, will look into some of the more specific requirements for providing court records electronically. Gulf Coast committee appointees include 12th Judicial Circuit Court Adminstrator Walt Smith and Charlotte County Clerk of the Court Barbara Scott.

Blue Ocean stand-in

Diners at the Tampa Bay Technology Forum's annual supper Nov. 20 got to hear David Weiss after their meals at the A La Carte Event Pavilion in Town 'N Country.

That was fine. Weiss is vice president and general manager of Intuit IT Solutions, a creature born last year of the well-known Silicon Valley financial software developer's purchase of a Tampa help-desk program provider.

But Weiss isn't Russ Hobbs.

Hobbs founded Blue Ocean Software Inc., the Tampa company that Intuit Inc. purchased in 2002 for $177 million. With that deal, Intuit added Blue Ocean's Track-It!, the world's best-selling inventory/help desk management system, to a stable of software products for the small business owner that includes QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax.

Did we mention that Blue Ocean, started with $6,000, was sold for $177 million cash?

Weiss was an interesting speaker. But, rest assured, the tech entrepreneurs in the audience would have liked to have heard directly from the guy who cashed that check.

After all, most of them are trying to do the same thing that Hobbs did - and reap a comparable windfall for their toil.

Test isn't getting easier

On Dec. 6 and 7, financial professionals will sit down at 26 sites around the globe to take the first phase of an examination that could lead to their designation as a chartered financial analyst.

Earning the CFA designation is considered a significant milestone in the career of accountants and auditors, equity analysts, portfolio managers and others who have influence over your investments. The CFA exam, now 40 years old, is a graduate-level, self-study curriculum for investment specialists of all kinds.

Coffee Talk thought this might be a good time to examine the exam, which has a strong ethics component. The Association for Investment Management and Research, which administers the CFA exam, recently reported on who takes it and how they've done.

On the latter score, the answer can be summed up in two words: not good.

The CFA pass rate has been steadily declining since the exam was first given in 1963. More than 90% passed the combined three levels of the exam in 1963. Fewer than 50% passed in 2003. "For the unprepared candidate, the exam has never been more difficult," the AIMR concludes. "This is no place to earn points for demonstration of general knowledge."

The AIMR says 72% of CFA candidates confessed that the exam was harder than they expected. That must include a few of the prepared candidates, too.

Those seeking to be CFAs have become a more inclusive group. The average candidate has gotten younger and is less likely to be a man. More candidates work outside the United States. That might be why the AIMR, with American headquarters in Charlottesville, Va., also maintains offices in Hong Kong and London.

Market opportunity

Sticking to its operating strategy, Market Street Mortgage has negotiated a partnership that will increase its volume of loan originations while helping first-time homebuyers.

The Clearwater-based retail mortgage loan originator signed a three-year deal that offers mortgages to clients who complete a first-time homebuyer program through St. Petersburg Neighborhood Housing Services. Such an arrangement creates first-time loan opportunities to low-income wage earners, particularly those from minority groups - one of Market Street's target markets. Neither the lender nor the nonprofit community housing development group disclosed the potential estimated value of the loan portfolio.

Market Street joins other lenders, such as Bank of America Community Development Corp., that serve the community housing group. Last year, Market Street originated about $2.5 billion in mortgage loans.

The partnership agreement comes about 2 1/2 years after Atlanta-based NetBank Inc. acquired all the outstanding stock in Market Street in a deal valued at about $21.3 million.

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