by Brian DeChesare Comments (92)

How to Break Into Corporate Development and Make Bank Without Selling Your Soul

While other exit opportunities get more attention – it is hard to pass up moving into PE or hedge funds and buying your own country, after all – corporate development presents many attractive benefits, such as having a life and building value for customers rather than destroying the world.

Today we’re going to speak with a reader who works in corporate development at a pre-IPO tech startup (yes, you would know the name) on the West Coast of the US.

Inside, you’ll learn:

  • What the recruiting process is like for corporate/business development and related fields.
  • What types of people go to work at normal companies, and how to move in from banking/consulting.
  • How recruiting might differ at larger companies and non-tech companies.
  • How to ask your MD to hook you up with a job without getting fired.

Walk Me Through Your Resume

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into corporate development?

A: Sure. I was from a non-target university and worked at a middle-market investment bank after graduation, focusing on Internet companies there.

I was promoted to stay on for a 3rd year, but around that time I was also getting interested in moving on – I stuck around mostly because the economy was in a nosedive and we were just entering a recession at the time.

A few months after that, a company we had worked with before came to my MD and said they were looking for a corporate development Associate, so the MD referred me, I went through the recruiting process there, and had an offer a few weeks later.

I didn’t want to follow the typical PE or HF path, and at this startup I would have a chance to work directly with the CEO and other senior executives and get a much better work-life balance, so I decided to take the offer.

Q: Right, sounds like a good move – you were actually employed throughout an entire recession, which didn’t happen to too many other bankers.

You mentioned “corporate development” just now – terms like “business development,” “corporate strategy,” “corporate development,” and “corporate finance” are lumped in the same category, but how are they different? What do you focus on?

A: It depends on the company, but here’s how I think about the differences:

  • Corporate Development: You focus on M&A and acquiring other companies as well as setting up joint venture deals.
  • Business Development: It’s less about M&A and acquiring companies / stakes of companies and more about setting up partnerships.
  • Corporate Strategy: This is like management consulting, only internal to the company. You focus on planning their big-picture strategy, solving specific operational problems, and competitive analysis.
  • Corporate Finance: This is more like FP&A (Financial Planning & Analysis) – you maintain the company’s finances, plan their budget, and make sure all the right controls are in place.

Of those, corporate development is most similar to banking/PE, and corporate strategy is most similar to consulting; corporate finance is closer to accounting or auditing work and you don’t need to understand deals to do it.

My job is a combination of corporate development, business development, and corporate strategy – since it’s a startup you have to do a bit of everything.

Q: Sounds like a good deal, you get to acquire companies and advise the CEO while avoiding all that boring internal budget stuff. Why did you want to do corporate development rather than PE or HF?

A: A couple reasons:

  1. I wanted to go to a top business school one day and I could set myself apart by doing something other than the typical “track.”
  2. Since I was from a non-target school and didn’t work at a bulge bracket bank, I had almost no chance of getting into the top private equity firms and hedge funds.
  3. Corporate development offered a better lifestyle and more responsibility than what you’d get at a typical PE firm or hedge fund – at a lot of those places you’re still an Excel jockey pulling all-nighters.

Even though it’s a startup, the company itself is very well-known and so I also received the benefit of branding by working there.

The downside is that you don’t get paid as well and bonuses are much lower, so if you’re 100% focused on making as much money as possible, you’re better off following the traditional path.

Recruiting

Q: What’s the recruiting process like for corporate development?

A: As I mentioned, my MD recommended me to the VP of Corporate Development at my company and so I got interviews right away without having to go through a resume screen.

Here’s what I went through:

  1. After my MD recommended me, the VP of Corporate Development called me to chat and find out more about my background.
  2. I did 3 phone interviews before I flew in to meet with the company.
  3. On the interview day itself, I met with 10 people across all divisions at the company, from managers and VPs all the way up to the CEO himself.
  4. Right after meeting in-person, I heard back fairly quickly and accepted the offer.

They focused on my deal experience in interviews but did not go into extremely technical questions as you would get in some IB/PE interviews – they cared more about what the rationale behind each deal was, how I contributed, and the main issues we confronted.

They also asked more general questions such as what companies I admire, what I like about them, and what I thought about the strategies different companies were using.

There were a lot of questions on why corporate development over the typical PE/HF choices, so you need to have a good answer there (hint: don’t say “lifestyle,” say that you want to build value over the long-term and spend your time contributing to a single company’s growth).

They tried to gauge my maturity and see how well I could think independently, because the perception is that banking analysts follow the herd and do what they’re told – which is a big problem at a startup, or any normal company for that matter.

Q: I guess that’s not too difficult if you follow the news and have your own investment / strategy ideas, though.

Are they mostly looking for former bankers and consultants, or can undergraduates and people from different industries break in as well?

A: It’s very rare for undergraduates or people in other industries to get into corporate development, unless they’re already working in a similar role at a similar company.

When the VP of Corporate Development here began searching for someone to fill this position, he was only interested in investment bankers and management consultants.

I guess theoretically an undergraduate might be able to break in if he had previous internships in the field, but if they weren’t even open to it at a startup I doubt it would be easier at Fortune 500 companies.

Q: What about if you start out at the post-MBA level in banking or consulting? Can you still move into corporate development?

A: Honestly I am not 100% certain since our hiring process is more random than what you see at big companies.

But I have seen post-MBA bankers and consultants move in – it’s certainly more possible than getting into PE or HF, since they’re looking for younger candidates.

It’s still more difficult if you already have an MBA and you’re moving into corporate development because you’ll have higher salary expectations, but it is possible – you just have to be more discreet because you don’t exactly want to go around telling senior bankers that you’re leaving.

Q: Right, that makes sense and confirms some of the other stories from readers who completed MBAs.

Are there any differences in resumes compared to banking/PE, and do you need to talk about your deal experience differently?

A: Not really, just use the investment banker applying to buy-side resume template on this site and that works equally well for corporate development jobs.

Talking about deal experience is the same – focus on how you saved money, earned money, or improved a process – and follow everything in the PE interview guide here.

Making the Ask

Q: Most people would be afraid to approach their MD and ask for a recommendation – how did you do it and how much pull did he have?

A: A lot of it depends on your bank and the group you’re in. At most bulge bracket and middle-market banks, they are used to analysts moving on after 2 or 3 years so it’s not awkward at all to bring up the topic.

I would just shoot a quick email to your MD or whichever senior banker knows, likes, and trusts you the most and ask for 5 minutes to chat about the next steps in your career.

When you work with headhunters, specificity helps and they will be able to help you much more effectively if you can say exactly what you’re looking for (e.g. “$500MM – $1B PE funds that invest in Asian real estate assets”). But with MDs and other senior bankers, you shouldn’t be quite as specific – just say generally what you’re looking for (“corporate development”) and see if he knows of anything.

Headhunters have hundreds of opportunities coming in all the time, whereas bankers hear about far fewer job openings – if you’re too specific they might not be able to help you at all.

A lot of analysts are scared to ask senior bankers for buy-side referrals, but it’s silly because senior bankers benefit by helping out their analysts – if they help the analyst get a job at a normal company or PE/HF, their chances of getting business from that firm are higher in the future.

You could even ask MDs if their friends at other firms know of anything – if they like you, they will help you out.

Q: OK, but let’s say you have an MD who’s more like Patrick Bateman. He doesn’t like you, everyone in your group sucks, and it’s an awful work environment. What do you do then? Go to headhunters?

A: No. Unlike private equity and hedge funds, headhunters are extremely rare in corporate development.

I actually talked to some headhunters when I was getting ready to recruit, and no one had any opportunities in corporate development.

At normal companies, recruiting happens via connections, networking, and even via job board postings.

There are far fewer corporate development jobs than PE/HF jobs – to even have a corporate development division, a company has to be fairly large. You don’t see 10-person small businesses recruiting for corporate development roles.

Whereas an analyst or associate would be critical even at a 5-person startup hedge fund, he would be completely useless at a 5-person Internet startup until the company got big enough to make acquisitions.

If your group is not helpful and there’s an awkward culture there, network yourself and contact alumni, friends at other banks and firms, and even former clients to see what’s out there.

If you don’t know anyone, you can go to LinkedIn, Doostang, and other job boards online and apply there – that’s less effective and you shouldn’t spend all day doing it, but sometimes it does work.

Q: What about the timing for all of this? If you start out as an investment banking analyst or associate, when should you start recruiting for corporate development roles?

A: Unlike private equity and hedge fund recruiting, which follows a specific schedule and can finish more than a year in advance of when you start, corporate development recruiting is much more random.

If you’re set on moving on after your 2nd year, you don’t necessarily need to start 18 months in advance as you would for PE – you can wait until you get your first year bonus and then start recruiting in the fall. You definitely want to start 6 months or so in advance at the minimum, but normal companies hire year-round and job openings don’t follow a set schedule.

So I don’t think there’s an “ideal time” to recruit – just make sure you get your bonus before bouncing, and that you start looking well in-advance of when you’ll be leaving.

The Road Not Taken

Q: We’ve been discussing the recruiting process at a pre-IPO tech startup – how do you think it would be different at a much larger company, or a non-tech company?

A: I have a friend who just started in corporate development at a Fortune 500 company – his team there is more like 7-10 people rather than the 2-person team we have here, and he interviewed with everyone on the team but did not speak with executives in other divisions.

They still ask the same types of questions, but interviews may be more technical and formal and your job description would be narrower – at a company with tens of thousands of employees, they don’t need you to do corporate strategy and business development and corporate development.

So your role would be more focused on one area such as just M&A deals, and you wouldn’t be interviewing with the CEO and all the senior executives as I did.

Q: That CEO interview must have been tough – what did he ask you about?

A: It was actually one of my easier interviews, because it was very high-level – similar to interviewing with Managing Directors in banking.

He spent a lot of time asking about my career vision, why I was interested in corporate development rather than investment banking, and what ties I had to the local area.

They wanted people with connections to the city I’m in, because they want you to commit to living here for an extended period – it’s not like being sent overseas with the expectation of returning home after a few months to a year.

He also asked about the main challenges of corporate development compared to investment banking, because they wanted to assess if I understood how growing a company is different from working with clients, finishing, and moving onto new clients.

Q: On that note, let’s say that you have a change of heart and want to go back to making bank or trying to buy bottles with Starwood points. Can you move back into banking or consulting FROM corporate development?

A: I don’t know anyone who has done that – just like moving from PE into banking, it’s rare because the perception is that the exit opportunity is always “better” than where you started, so you need a good story to justify your move.

If you wanted to do that, you might be able to pull it off if you have lengthier experience in banking, went to corporate development for only a year or two, and are OK moving back into IB but receiving a “demotion” for the time you spent away.

Business school may be a better idea if you want to move back into finance or consulting.

Q: That’s your secret plan, right? What are your next steps after this?

A: Wait, don’t we cover that in part 2 of this interview?

Q: Right, I forgot. Need to give everyone reading something to look forward to.

A: Agreed.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.


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  1. Thank you M&I for this great article!

    Is it possible to get into Corporate Development straight out of undergraduate school? What about getting into one of MBA programs without any experience then give a shot at corporate development?

    And, how hard it’s going to be to move from Corporate Development to PE?

    Thanks,

    1. Both of those are extremely unlikely. You almost always need some sort of experience working on deals first. Moving into PE from corporate development is almost impossible unless you’ve had prior IB or PE experience before corporate development.

  2. I am currently working at a bulge bracket as an IB summer analyst. This doesn’t seem to be the job for me. Corp dev is something that really interests me but, it seems like from your article, that it is not really an option for undergrads. Are there alternatives to IB in finance outside of banking that offer a similar amount of prestige (and possibly compensation)? Thanks!

    1. At the entry level, no, not really. You could try to skip IB and move to the buy-side early or possibly do corporate finance at a normal company. But both of those options would pay less and offer fewer exit opportunities.

  3. Hello,
    I am sumit i have done my mba in finance and i am pursuing my last semister of mba .
    I have done my internship at SBICAP SECURITIES . My topic was Mutualfund analysis & portfolio management .
    I wanted to enter into corporate world of investment Banking ,and majorily in Asset Management so could you help me out how to get jobs of it .

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Sure, please go through the articles here https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/hedge-funds-asset-management/ for tips

  4. col mustard

    Hi M&I,

    I come from a niche background, specifically six years in the business valuation services field. I only have an economics BA from a higher tier state university. Business valuation services are typically a value-add service line attached to a CPA firm or to a broader management consulting firm. Services include the valuation of entire businesses or of specific debt, equity, and derivative instruments within a business for litigation or reporting purposes (think tax and GAAP). The upside to this background is substantial valuation experience in a variety of companies but the downside is that I do not have live-deal experience. All my work is done after the fact and usually involves reverse engineering of deals.

    Given this background, what do you think is the best way for me to position myself for a move into corporate development? Should I try to obtain a FA role in a large company with a corporate development group and attempt to move internally, or do you think its possible for me to find a job directly in this field? How would you structure a resume given this experience?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I think the first option maybe an easier bet. You may also want to read https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-on-the-job/
      I’d talk about the valuation work you’ve done if you’ve done any.

  5. Just a catch on a typo: on this page (https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-corporate-finance/), your content headers list “consulting” when it should be corp dev/finance.

    1. Thanks, we just fixed that.

  6. Hi,

    Please advise ways to approach a Corporate Development role? I’m a junior banker doing M&A in IB. Through our networks, I have a Corporate Development VP’s contact of the company I’m interested in. However, I’ve never met in person, only know that his nationality is the same as mine and from public sources, there’s a big project they’d bid for in our home country. Since it’s a conglomerate, I thought it’d be a good idea if I can get in touch with him to learn more about this particular project and see how suitable I am. Should I cold-call/contact directly? Talking to my manager is not an option at the moment. Alternatives I have in mind are generally inquiring their HR addressing the VP or asking the headhunter that got me my current job to refer. Time wise, it’s not urgent as I feel I may need more experience in M&A and this deal will only commence after a few years. Please also let me know if there are things I should be careful of with such matters.

    Thank you.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Does he know your manager? If he does, cold calling may not be the best way because word may go back to your manager. Can you try to meet him through another person’s referral? If he isn’t too close with your team, I think it shouldn’t be a problem to approach him directly.

      1. Yes, but they’re not close. Referral I think it’s a better idea. It will allow me to obtain more info before talking in person. Thanks for replying Nicole!

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Anytime!

  7. Tri Nguyen

    Hi

    I do really love your great post! really helpful to all starters in investment/finance career path. May you let me know what type of job we should start 1st before becoming an Corporate Development?
    How’s about starting from Investor relations or business development?

    Many thanks

    1. Tri Nguyen

      (I meant business development is sales/marketing in any firms.)

    2. M&I - Nicole

      Yes this can help, or you can gain IBD experience

  8. Brian!

    I am learning tons from your site! Thanks a bunch. Here is my question for you:

    I am currently on my second internship and going into my Junior year at a top 20 undergrad b school. My major is Quantitative Economics – my first internship was in supply chain and my second in operations, both at different Fortune 500 companies. I would love to intern and hopefully be hired full time somewhere within Corporate Developement/Business Developement/Corporate
    Strategy. My question to you is, how should I leverage my experience within supply chain and operations to possibly land an internship within m&a/ib/consulting. Or what might be the best road to take in order to give myself the best opportunity for a job in those fields.

    Thanks!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Going from supply chain/operations to M&A/IB/Consulting can be challenging. It may be easier for you to transition into consulting. If you want to break into IB/M&A, you’ll have to gain relevant finance experience. Perhaps joining an investment club would help you

  9. Hi brian,

    Once one gets to corp dev m&a is it difficult to switch to a hedge fund or PE?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      It may be easier to transition into PE because some of the experience (i.e. interaction with company management, deal experience) is transferable to PE roles. It may not necessarily be relevant for HF roles because HF roles are more market focused (i.e. experience with following the markets).

  10. Thanks M&I for this wonderful site and all the time patience u put in to answer all queries.

    One from me: i work at a mid market PE. but looking to move into Corp Devlpmnt (M&A). Any idea how the pay packages compare between the two sides? if i switch to Corp Dev, would it (normally) incur a salary cut?

    Thanks,
    VS

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes in general, most likely, though I may be wrong. It also depends on the group and the firm so it is hard to say.

  11. Christopher

    First off, this site is fantastic, I can’t thank M&I enough for all their hard work in
    demystifying the world of finance! If I had only known then what I know now…. But I digress!

    How can someone 2+ years removed from undergrad (Top 20 undergrad business school, 3.4 GPA) go from a corporate finance role (in the sense described above – FP&A type work, not corporate development) at a F75 manufacturing firm TO CORP. DEVELOPMENT? (also have a CPA if it matters at all).

    Is it better to try and make the move internally or externally? Is externally even possible? What would be a path there? I assume corp. development is largely more probable than getting into banking at this point.

    Thank you for your time and advice!

    1. M&I - Nicole

      Yes. I agree with your last statement.

      Moving internally maybe easier than moving externally

  12. The words ‘Corporate finance’ and ‘corporate development’ are used to interchangeably , i must say
    Sometimes working in the internal acquisitions dept of a large bluechip company maybe also called Corp finance dept.Plus it depends from country to country.
    What the interviwee said cannot be taken as athumb rule

  13. What do companies need investment banks for if they have corp dev arms?

    Whats the difference in the work that these groups do?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      They still need IBs to execute deals and help them find institutional investors. IBs also have the “legal status” to help them do the deal, though I may be wrong

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/what-bankers-do/

    2. CorpDever

      John,

      Corp Dev will help define the strategic vision for the firm’s acquisitions. Banks will then send us lots of Teasers (1-pagers), CIMs (powerpoint decks) for different potential targets. If interested the corp dev team indicates interest and joins several other bidders in an auction managed by the bank. The bank will present different financing options for the deal.

      For some deals banks will prepare Fairness Opinions/Valuation Validation/Financing support/Underwriting/etc.

  14. Nathaniel

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for posting this. Do you know what the recruiters are looking for during a resume screen for a corporate development position?

    1. M&I - Nicole

      I’d think GPA, your past experience and skills? Its hard to say because it depends on the company!

  15. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article. I have a hard time choosing between two job offers: one in corporate development at a very big firm, the other as associate in a BB (I have previous IB experience). I am lacking confidence in my ability to step up to associate, so was thinking of using the corporate dev role to get an opportunity to re-learn the basics (modelling / due dil, etc) before moving back into IB. Does that sound stupid to you? Is there a risk that I won’t be able to move back into IB?

    Thanks for the help

    1. You could do that but there is a risk you may not be able to move back to IB. Whereas you could always move from IB to corp dev.

  16. Hi,
    I so love your website. I hope that it will continue to remain a successful source for students.

    I recently cold-called a broker-dealer company and asked to speak to the President.To my great surprise, the receptionist transferred my call and I asked the President if they offered internships to college students. It’s not a large firm, so they don’t really have an established internship program.

    The president told me to send him my resume, and he will keep an eye open if something comes up for me. So I am about to send my resume, and I will ask me to tell me a little bit about his position. Other than that, how could I build a mentorship relationship with him even thought we don’t know each other? I was thinking that even if his company doesn’t have internship, he could always refer me to some of his counterparts.

    1. Yes, ask about friends elsewhere who might need interns, ask for career advice, ask for how he got to where he is now, etc.

      1. Hi,

        I was wondering if you could explain on this further because there is this 1 person whom I would like to build a mentor relationship with, but am quite clueless as to how to proceed with it. Could you kindly explain a bit further?

        thanks,

        1. M&I - Nicole

          Email that person. Tell him you’re interested in [XX] and you’re interested in seeking his insights. Then set up a time to speak with/meet him. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-informational-interviews/ should help.

  17. Hi Brian,

    Fortunately, I was able to land a post-mba corporate development role with no banking/consulting background. My ultimate goal is to join a corporate development group in financial services or hi-tech (I’m currently in the automotive industry). How common is it for people in corporate development to switch industries?

    1. Not sure actually – you can do it but you need to tell a convincing story and have some evidence of interest in those other industries. Probably easier than getting into banking or consulting from corp dev.

    2. Hi TM,

      I’ll be looking to land a corporate development role when I finish my MBA and like you, I won’t have any banking/consulting experience. Could you let me know how you went about getting your job? Was it mainly through networking?

      Thanks in advance.

    3. Hey TM,

      I am also looking to do Corp Dev after my MBA. I have finance (investment management) background before MBA and will be doing an internship in investment banking this summer. Can you please give me (and Dave who has the same question) some advice on how to recruit for Corp Dev for the full-time position after my internship?

    4. CorpDever

      Also interested to know how difficult it is to switch industries in CorpDev.

  18. What sports are most common among bankers?

    I have some spare time now, so I’m trying to decide if I want to work on my golf, tennis or squash game this spring. Something to do for fun and also a social opportunity with co-workers and clients if I get better. What do you think?

    1. Not 100% certain but I think golf and squash are probably the most common

  19. Hi,

    This is similar to the question above. I currently work at a central bank and will be attending a top mba program in the fall. I was accepted into the accelerated mba program and I worry that with no time for a summer internship (as I will be entering straight into year 2), my chances to move into corporate development will be hurt. Any suggestions on what I can do to make up for this?

    Thanks

    1. Try to get a part-time or unpaid internship during the school year – might be hard at large companies but plenty of smaller places need help year-round and can’t afford to implement formal internships.

      1. Thanks! Can’t wait to read part 2.

  20. post mba (top ten program of course) will a lack of a true finance/banking background (mostly accounting/controller roles) impede on the ability to move into a corporate development role?

    1. You’ll be at a disadvantage next to bankers but it’s not a huge issue since the competition for corp dev roles is lower to begin with.

      1. what would be the best internship to go for during my first summer? Would pursuing a banking internship or a management consulting position be the best start, or are there defined internships for corporate development?

        1. Banking or consulting are still your best bets – companies rarely offer corp dev internships.

          1. Thanks!

  21. Hey Brian,

    what about internships at Central banks? Are they considered any valuable with the prospect of joining BB IB?

    Thanks

    1. Those could be good – probably not as helpful as IB experience but at least the brand name is solid.

  22. Now, time for some video interviews!

    1. Nice idea but no one wants to reveal themselves… non-anonymous interviews tend to be boring / not insightful since no one can speak the truth for fear of getting fired.

  23. Hey Brian thanks again for everything!

    I know this may be a little out of scope, but as you mention more managerial roles in Corp dev and senior roles, VP in some capacity/ CFO, how do you find experience at a bank translates if you work your way up through the ranks of corp dev, especially for CFO since it seems to move more into the realm of corp fin/ accounting? Is it realistic to move all the way up that senior of a role or is a higher degree/ certification a necessity, say, with only IB analyst experience? MBA vs. CPA for CFO?

    Thanks Brian

    1. You will probably need some kind of accounting background/certification such as the CPA to become a CFO though there are exceptions. Overall bank experience doesn’t translate that well unless you’re strictly doing corporate development i.e. internal M&A – actually managing a company’s internal finances is totally different and is more related to accounting than transactions/valuation.

      1. I’ve noticed alot of CFOs have a CPA. But isn’t the CFA more relevant for CFO and the CPA should be for Chief Accounting Officers?

        1. Not necessarily CFOs do a lot of accounting work e.g. trial balances

  24. headpanda

    Hi Brian,

    I am in the pre-employment background check process and realize that I have exaggerated my roles for one of the work experiences on my resume in order to have it more investment banking sounding. It is technically not a lie but when they call my reference I fear that his description of my responsibilities might not match what I wrote on my resume, or worse yet, when asked if I did the things on the resume, he’ll be confused and say no.

    I am in good terms with my reference but don’t want to pressure him into bending the truth for me. Should I just email him and ask him to only respond to questions regarding my dates of employment and my title? How would you phrase such an email?

    Thanks

    1. No don’t do that, in the US/UK that is all people will say anyway… beyond dates of employment is just asking for a lawsuit. Let it go and don’t draw attention to yourself

  25. Great timing for this post. I’m currently an analyst at a boutique investment bank, working in public finance and recently got offered an interview with a large company for an analyst position in their corporate development department.

    I’m curious about hours, pay, and future mobility. It seems that working on internal M&A restricts your networking a bit and could hinder future career growth. The pay that this position offers is more than what I’m currently making, and I imagine that my hours would be less(I’m currently working ~70 a week).

    What is the typical career path for someone who starts as an analyst in Corporate Development? What types of things should I heavily review before my interview? Any further information would be very helpful. Thanks!

    1. That’s coming up in Part 2 in the next few weeks, but most people stay on the corporate development side and move up the ladder within the company, occasionally going back into pure finance in IB/PE/HF as well. But most people really just stay there or go to another company and continue in corp dev (CFO or VP of Bus Dev/Corp Dev being the ultimate goal). For interviews, your story and deal experience are the most critical points so make sure you can speak about 2-3 deals very well.

    2. CorpDever

      Have been working in CorpDev for 4 years. Teams are usually really small so there isn’t a huge grind to get up to the top…I’m pretty junior and there is only 1 boss between me and the CFO. To give you an idea our EVP or Corporate Strategy and Development has just “retired”, his previous titles were COO, and VP of Strategy while at different firms. On the earnings call the got the third most airtime after the CEO and CFO. Most companies that position would come lower in the pecking order but it depends a lot on if the company’s growth strategy.

      I haven’t worked in IB but I think networking is ok in CorpDev if you want to stay in the field. You get to know folks at the bigger companies by working on divestiture deals, which happen kinda frequently in my experience. When I got laid off last it wasn’t networking that helped me land the new job as much as it was my portfolio of work and the fact that other firms had known of the measurable results of those acquisitions.

      1. Thanks for adding all that.

  26. Hi Brian,

    What’s your opinion on doing a Corporate Finance/Dev internship prior to securing an SA position in IB(vs. internship at a PWM/HF/PE firm)?

    Also, any insights on what a corp fin/dev intern might do?

    1. First off it’s pretty tough to get internships because they don’t focus on undergrads, but it would be similar to an IB internship where it’s not much “real” work but rather a lot of helping others, doing random tasks, and so on. I think if it’s corp finance/dev at a well-known company it’s probably about the same as a PWM internship, not as good as HF or PE though.

  27. Hey Brian,

    Any insights on the possibility of levaraging an internship in corporate development (investment banking doesn’t look like it may be on the horizons this summer) into an investment banking decision after graduation? Or should I be looking for something more “financial services” for an internship. I’d appreciate your insights.

    Thanks!

    1. I think you could do it but it would be much tougher than if you had an IB internship. You would probably still get at least some FT interviews but you would have to network more / possibly focus more on smaller banks with that kind of background. Though if it’s at a brand-name firm (F500) then it’s less of an issue and you’ll probably still get a lot of IB interviews anyway.

  28. Hi Brian-

    Unrelated to the post, but what resources would you recommend looking into to learn more about the Japanese market/business (esp. in comparison to the US market/business).

    Thanks!

    1. Honestly not the best source there but I would start with Nikkei and the WSJ Asia edition. These days most people are so focused on China that Japan knowledge can actually set you apart (assuming you have the means to get in there somehow and are fine working there).

  29. Medium Pimping

    S’up Brian,

    I’ve heard from seniors in M&A at BB here in the UK that for a CA (big 4), other than the more typical route into the finance function of a FTSE 100, PE (on the deal side of it) is a definite option too. I’ve seen it happen awell. Moves into IB are less than typical.

    What’s the situation (yes, everyone here hates him too) stateside, is PE limited to IB Analysts and Mgmt Consultants?

    Cheers
    Cheers

    1. Yes PE is extremely difficult to get into in the US if you’re not from an IB background, even from consulting it’s quite difficult. Sometimes you do see corp fin/corp dev analysts and so on moving in, but mostly at smaller firms.

  30. Hey Brian,

    This is an absolutely fantastic article, just like the dozens of others you have written and shared with us on this website.

    I just wanted to express my appreciation towards all your hard effort and time you put into researching and creating such practical and useful articles. Your website has been one of the most important and useful resources I have used in planning/deciding where I want to pursue my career. I believe I speak on behalf of thousands of other users of this website.

    I wish your business complete success Brian because you deserve nothing short of it. I am sure people you work with will realize that you are highly intelligent, capable, and diligent. Best of luck to you Brian!

    Thank you so much,
    Mark

    1. Hey glad to hear it and good luck!

  31. I appreciate all of your articles, but this one in particular. I am looking to move into Corporate Development or Corporate Strategy and look forward to Part 2. Thanks!

  32. Thanks for a great article Brian !

    Quick question regarding PE – what area of IB would you say is most relevant – Product groups like M&A and Leveraged Finance, or an industry group (then naturally you would go for a PE firm that focuses on that industry) ?

    What are the pros/cons of the M&A and Leveraged Finance team product groups and the industry groups ?

    Thanks very much,
    Gekko

    1. Most would say M&A/LevFin but honestly you can still get in from solid industry groups (and yes, usually focus on that industry). You won’t necessarily get more technical experience or responsibility in M&A/LevFin as it’s very random, so I would pick based on the people in the group / your interest in the industry.

      1. Brian,

        You are a legend ! Thanks for all the constant advice and articles.

        Any news on Sydney – still forecasting a late March arrival ?

        And would you contact me when you get there (I assume you can see my email when I make posts) ?

        Cheers,
        Gekko

        1. Yeah still looking like late March, keeps getting delayed due to random problems and the government but at least I have a visa now. Will let you know when I arrive.

  33. Hey Brian, just one question. Are you planning any interviews with someone who moved to a HF??? It’s the only uncovered exit opp, and actually the one that interests me the most since I’m in trading and I don’t think moving to PE/VC/CD is an option.
    Thanks

    1. Yes I do want to cover HF at some point – so far no one has volunteered but I have someone helping with interviews now so hopefully we can have some HF coverage soon.

  34. Corp Dev M&A

    Glad to see this interview on corporate development. I have been working in a similar role with a PE-owned firm in the manufacturing space- really an add-on platform for our PE owners. I work directly with the CEO, CFO, unit presidents and our PE owners through the entire acquisition process from sourcing deals all the way through due diligence, closing, and to a lesser extent, integration.

    I came into the role right after my MBA with atypical work experience- working in wholesale lending and with a PE firm buying distressed debt, and then a VC internship while I was in grad school. These corporate development roles are few and far between, and I found the opportunity through a headhunter. My career search was focused on i-banking, but one of the bankers that I had been networking with gave my name to a headhunter who was trying to fill a corporate M&A position. The headhunter called me, and once I learned about the position, I knew it was the ideal role for me at this stage in my career. They were looking for an MBA with finance/M&A background, and I was able to leverage my VC internship and a case competition from grad school to demonstrate my skills and understanding of the type of deals we do here. After 6 interviews with the exec team, I received an offer.

    When we are in the middle of a deal, the hours can stretch into i-banking territory, but in between deals when it is more about sourcing and researching, it’s averaging 50-55 hours.

    It’s definitely a great exit option, but for me, I never would have had a shot without the MBA and a strong strategy perspective that came from being 8 years out of undergrad. I think the fact that I DIDN’T have the typical banker background was an advantage. You can’t forget the EXTENSIVE networking I did during grad school, otherwise I never would have heard about the opportunity.

    1. Interesting, thanks for sharing. I’m surprised you went through a headhunter but I guess that does happen sometimes, even in corporate development – in this case I’d guess it was because your company is PE-owned.

  35. *interviews

  36. these are the interview i’ve been waiting for – when is part 2?!

    1. Soon – next few weeks.

  37. volunter

    Dont really wanna get into the ‘definition’ debate ,but was having this info interview with an alum at BB.He started as an Corporate Strategy associate at this bank – Over 2-3 years,he worked on the bank’s internal M&A deals,infact gave a few examples on how his bank made acquisitions to grow to what it is today.Later was transferred (he didnt ask for it) to IB .Now he is a Director in one of the industry groups in IB.

    1. Yeah I think it’s different at banks – corporate strategy there is not exactly like it is at normal companies that sell products to people. But yeah definitely possible to move around more than people acknowledge.

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