by Nicolas Doumenc Comments (293)

The Corporate Finance Career Path: From Analyst Monkey to CFO

Corporate Finance Career Path

What better way to understand a typical corporate finance career path than to hear from a professional who has been there and done that?

Nicolas was a Financial Analyst at General Electric where he explored the world of Corporate Finance. He is now a CFO and Partner at Wild is the Game.

You’re sitting in front of your computer reading your 102nd rejection email:

“Thanks for your interest, but we have already hired for this position.”

You start to feel desperate, when out of the blue a friend calls. “If you’re in interested in a corporate finance career, I have an opening for you at a Fortune 500 company for an Analyst position. What do you say?”

You answer, tongue in cheek, “What’s corporate finance?”.  Or maybe slightly stronger: “Are you joking? You know that it’s banking or bust for me!”

If that’s you, you need to rethink what you just said.

No, corporate finance is NOT as “prestigious” as investment banking, and it doesn’t give you as many exit opportunities.

It’s a different world altogether.

But it’s also a world where you can still make hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even into the millions if you’re at the right company in the right role.

We’ll give you a complete breakdown of the world of corporate finance careers here, including:

  • How the corporate finance department is organized at a Fortune 500 company.
  • What you do on a daily basis in the Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) division.
  • Why accounting is not (always) just a 9-to-5 job that bores you to death.
  • Why Treasury roles are crucial and why they can mean life or death for a company.
  • How you can make it to the top of the ladder and become a Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

The King of the Castle in the Corporate Finance Career Path: The Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Let’s start at the top. In every corporate finance department, the “King” is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

You could argue that the CFO is ordered around by the CEO, but at the end of the day if you work in finance, you are doing whatever your CFO asks of you, period.

We’ll focus on the CFO and the team directly under him first.

Every corporate finance department is different, so the exact team depends on the organization, the size of the division, the industry, and plenty of other parameters.

But despite that, most corporate finance departments at large companies are similar.

Here are the corporate finance jobs that report directly to the CFO:

  • The FP&A Manager: Heads the management accounting department.
  • The Controller: Heads the financial accounting department.
  • The Treasurer: Heads… the treasury department!.

Corporate Finance Career Path #1: Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)

FP&A stands for “Financial Planning & Analysis,” and some companies also refer to it as Management Accounting.

This department is in charge of the company’s Profit & Loss Statement (P&L), and forecasts the all-mighty “bottom line”: Net Income, which is literally the bottom line of any company’s or division’s P&L.

If you work in FP&A, your job is to give the CFO a good idea of what will happen to the different line items of the P&L during the quarter, year, and next five years. For example:

  • Based on your projections, will Net Sales grow more quickly or more slowly than expected?
  • Is the increase in Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) or Sales & Marketing expenses out of line with the increase in revenue over a certain time period?
  • Will there be certain “one-time” expenses that you anticipate and that will throw off the bottom line in a certain period?

You also give every operational department, including Sales or Production, a target to reach in terms of revenue and expenses. Then you collect information along the way to see how far away the departments are from their targets.

Corporate finance jobs in FP&A involve a lot of data consolidation and variance analysis to see what went wrong or right in the previous quarter.

You also produce ad hoc reports on key metrics such as sales volume compared to the plan, or the employee compensation expense compared to projections. This department is one of the most strategic ones because you define where the company is going to be in five years.

Organization

Three or four Analysts are led by a Senior Analyst, who is in charge of a specific product. The Senior Analyst then reports to the FP&A Manager on their respective product.

The FP&A Manager is at the top of the pyramid and reports directly to the CFO.

Lifestyle

During normal weeks, expect to work approximately 60 hours per week with weekends off.

Quarter/year end closes and planning sessions are your busiest weeks, and it can even approach investment banking hours in extremely busy periods.

FP&A Salary and Compensation

Compensation varies widely depending on the size of the company and the size of the P&L, but here’s what you might expect at each level:

  • Entry-Level Analyst: $70K USD base salary.
  • Senior Analyst: $100-130K USD base salary, with a 10% bonus in a good year.
  • FP&A Manager: $200K USD for a smaller P&L (e.g., the German division of a global company); can go up to a 7-figure salary for a Global FP&A Manager.

Bonuses are heavily tied to the health of the company and the managers’ ability to forecast performance accurately.

It might take you 4-5 years to reach the Senior Analyst level, and then another 4-5 years to become a local FP&A Manager.

Moving beyond that is tricky and uncertain, and the timing varies heavily based on the company’s growth and your performance.

Corporate Finance Career Path #2: Controllership

Controllership or financial accounting usually has the worst reputation in the world of finance: many people think that working in financial accounting means a boring, mundane, accountant job where you’re inspecting journal entries all day.

But that’s only one side of the story.

The other side – the interesting one – is where you are in charge of the integrity of the Balance Sheet.

Whenever an accounting problem arises, you have to make a decision so that your financial statements clearly and accurately reflect the state of the business. Your work as an Analyst is to be a liaison between the accountants’ world and the other financial departments.

Here’s the difference between what an accountant does and what the CFO does:

  • Accountant: Avoid screwing up and making errors so that the company doesn’t have to restate its financial statements afterward.
  • CFO: Hit his Net Income target… even if he has to “take some liberties” along the way.

A CFO is incentivized to be more “aggressive” with his accounting in order to hit that Net Income target. So, he might argue for policies that result in potentially misleading financial statements:

  • He might try to classify more spending as Capital Expenditures so that it doesn’t hit the Net Income line (e.g., capitalized R&D spending).
  • He might try to change the timing of certain expenses, or the company’s revenue recognition policy, so that Net Income looks better.

As an accountant, you have to manage both sides and make sure that the CFO is happy, but that the financial statements are also accurate and don’t mislead investors or company management.

You have to make sure that when auditors review them, they can understand everything and won’t ask you to restate results.

Audits are also a big part of corporate finance jobs here since you’ll be providing auditors with the necessary accounting documents.

Organization

Traditional accountants are divided by product or region, and you have to coordinate their work so that they book entries properly.

The “finance-oriented” side, where non-accountant profiles work, is made up of 3-4 Analysts led by a Senior Analyst. Financial accountants are in charge of producing the financial statements and dealing with all the tasks and responsibilities discussed above.

The Controller – the head of this department – reports directly to the CFO.

Controller Salary and Lifestyle

If you are on the traditional accounting side, congratulations! You’re the very definition of “work/life balance.”

You work 40 hours a week – no more, no less – and you’re paid accordingly: $40-50K USD for an entry-level position.

If you are reading this article, though, you are probably more interested in the “dynamic” side of controllership: the royal path to becoming a CFO.

In that case, your hours, salary, and promotional path will be very similar to the ones quoted above for FP&A roles.

An annual closing can turn into a nightmare and make investment banking hours look like a primary school teacher’s schedule, though!

Corporate Finance Career Path #3: Treasury

Treasury deals with everything related to cash and cash flow.

If you’ve studied accounting, you know that Net Income can be manipulated in many ways: you can change revenue and expense recognition, re-classify expenses as capital expenditures, and so on.

But you can’t fake how much cash you’re generating or losing.

If, at some point, you have no cash left and no credit line available, your company is dead. That’s why Treasury is so important.

As a Treasury Analyst, you forecast how much cash your company is going to need in the future. You then have to make sure that this amount of cash is available when it’s required.

In order to do that, you have many tools at your disposal: you can emit bonds, raise equity, borrow through commercial paper, or negotiate credit lines with banks.

You’re in contact with banks and investors on a weekly basis to secure funding and support – and this is one of the reasons why you work so closely with Debt Capital Markets (DCM) groups at banks.

You are also responsible for equilibrating the cash position of all the company’s accounts to make sure that none are negative and costing you extra in fees.

On the other side, you also have to invest short-term funds so they don’t stay idle in your accounts and so that you get at least some interest income out of them.

You can learn more about this type of financial modeling, including cash flow projections and 3-statement modeling, in our Excel & Fundamentals course:

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Organization

The size of the Treasury team depends heavily on the industry. It’s more important for a bank to have a larger Treasury team because the bank must deal with liquidity and capital ratios and heavy regulations.

But an industrial company would have a much smaller Treasury team, since their liquidity and cash positions are a bit less important on an ongoing, everyday basis.

Each Analyst has a specialty, ranging from bonds emission to cash position forecasting, and the Treasurer coordinates all of them.

The Treasurer is also the main contact for investment banks and investors.

Lifestyle

If everything goes smoothly and the company generates a lot of cash flow, being a Treasurer can be a breeze.

On the other hand, if your company is in a tight spot from a cash point of view, the Treasury team will meet with the CFO daily to find solutions.

So, the hours vary widely, and depending on the state of the company, you could find yourself working anything from a normal 40-50 hours per week all the way up to 70-80 per week if you’re in “crisis mode.”

Treasury Salary

People working in the Treasury department are usually more senior than those in FP&A and Controllership positions due to the intense contact with investors and banks – and their salaries reflect that fact. Here’s a summary:

  • Analysts: $70-90K USD
  • Senior Analysts: $100-170K USD with up to a 15% bonus
  • Treasurer: He tends to be one of the better-paid members of the “corporate finance jobs” team, and he often earns the next most after the CFO; that translates to a range between $200K USD and $4MM USD.

Yes, that is a very wide range because so much of it depends on the company’s size, health, growth rate, and how senior the Treasurer is (e.g., divisional level or for an entire multinational company?).

It’s the same issue as in investment banking careers, where Managing Directors could earn a bonus of $0 or a bonus of millions of dollars per year.

What About Other Corporate Finance Jobs?

There are a lot of “core” functions I didn’t mention here because they are not always part of the CFO’s team.

For instance, Pricing can be a marketing role or a financial role depending on the company.

Internal Audit and Risk are usually part of the CEO’s responsibility to avoid any conflict of interest (COI.)

I didn’t mention Tax because it’s a very specialized job, and I have never witnessed someone moving from a Tax position to another corporate finance function.

So, How Do You Become a CFO?

Good question! The chief financial officer (CFO) of a decent-sized division manages between 25 and 200 people and earns $300,000 USD and above (bigger company and bigger division generally equals higher pay).

At the end of the day, 80% of the people in corporate finance want to become the CFO… and, of course, very few succeed.

Being a CFO requires a wide range of skills and some heavy internal networking. At a Fortune 500 company, you don’t get promoted to the CFO role just because you’re doing “a great job.”

You also have to know the right people (and play the office politics game well), and make sure that they like you enough to trust you with a P&L.

In that way, it’s very, very different from what it takes to succeed at a hedge fund or asset management firm (or prop trading and so on), where advancement is more merit-based, and it’s arguably quite different even from investment banking.

Decades ago, the “standard path” to becoming a CFO was to be an FP&A Manager for a while to learn everything about hitting your Net Income target – and how to coordinate with other groups.

But things have changed a lot, and regulators are now the CFO’s main focus. Thanks to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US and similar legislation in other countries, CFOs can now go to jail if they certify incorrect financial statements.

So, strong controllership skills are now essential if you want to reach the CFO level. Controllership isn’t the sexiest department, but you’ll have to get used to it!

If you have a Big 4 background, you will have a serious advantage.

Once you’ve learned how to manage a P&L by working in Management Accounting for a few years, you have a good shot at moving toward the CFO role as you move up the ladder.

For more about this topic, please see our article on Chief Financial Officer (CFO) vs. Managing Director to learn the trade-offs and key differences.

Corporate Finance Career Path: The Exit Opportunities

There’s a lot of “controversy” over exit opportunities within corporate finance. Based on what I’ve seen in real life, here are the most common paths:

  • 60% stay in corporate finance but move to another firm;
  • 10% move to investment banking or venture capital;
  • 20% move to consulting;
  • 10% move to sales & marketing or risk.

Yes, you can transition to investment banking or private equity… but it’s also much harder than if you started out in one of those.

The skills are relevant because doing planning sessions in FP&A will teach you a lot about how to model revenue and expenses for a company – you’ll be more grounded in reality than bankers who have never seen what all their fancy spreadsheets mean in real life.

Controllership will give you a perfect understanding of the Balance Sheet. But in a tough economy, you’ll have to be very talented and very well-connected to make the move.

If you want to follow that route, it’s almost easier to re-brand yourself with a top MBA degree and make the switch after that.

You can also transition to management consulting because Financial Planning & Analysis teaches you a lot about strategy, but you’ll probably better off in operational consulting, where you’ll be able to show-off your “execution and implementation skills.”

If you feel more like a sales guy or girl, you should definitely consider sales and marketing in a big group. Forget all the hassle of regulators and audits, and embrace the world where the bottom line is all that matters.

A background in finance won’t hurt and could even put you ahead – sales teams often have a hard time understanding the financial impact of their actions!

Any Questions About the Corporate Finance Career Path?

I hope you enjoyed your tour in the world of corporate finance, and that you no longer think of it like the back office anymore.

If you have any questions or experiences, please share them in the comments!

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About the Author

Nicolas Doumenc was a Financial Analyst at General Electric where he explored the world of Corporate Finance. He is now a CFO and Partner Wild is the Game.

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Comments

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  1. Hi Brain,
    I’m branch manager of financial service and done with business administration. I would like to know which fields better for me . economist or corporate finance. and I have 6years of experience. i would prefer to be COO than CFO which field should i go for.

    1. I don’t really understand your question. COO and CFO are completely different roles, and we don’t cover COO positions on this site at all.

  2. Avatar
    Parantap Bhu

    Hi Brian,
    I am a business analyst with three years of experience in SQL,EXCEL,R and python. I am applying for an MBA this fall for the batch starting next fall. My post Mba goal is to work in corporate finance in a FP&A role. I come from a quantitative heavy background of engineering and have a passion for working.in finance. I have acquired knowledge on accounting and corporate finance through online courses. I am also a regular investor on a personal level. Just wanted to know what can be done to transition in a corporate finance/ FP&A role ? Is Mba the way to go ?

    1. I don’t think you need an MBA to move into a corporate finance role, it’s not that competitive. You can probably just network your way into interviews if you already have that type of experience.

  3. Thanks for the interesting article. Do you have any advice regarding alternatives for a senior banker looking to leverage a wholesale credit background outside of banking?

    1. Not really, sorry, it’s outside our area of expertise.

  4. Avatar
    Seb Larson

    Hi Brian,

    Fantastic article – thank you for sharing. I am currently in Big 4 Audit and after reading this article a couple of months ago, I am inclined to a role in Treasury.

    Would a move to the Corporate Treasury division of a BB IB be a good next step/stepping stone for a future senior role in Treasury for a Fortune 500 company? What kind of exit opportunities does this kind of ‘middle office’ area of IB produce?

    Thanks once again.

    1. Potentially, yes. You could move to other areas of corporate finance or Treasury roles at other companies. I think DCM/ECM etc. would be a bit of a stretch coming from there, but you never know.

  5. Hi I was wondering then what is the fastest rout to cfo. Im just about to start university or an apprenticeship next year. Management accounting or financial accounting? If so what roles later on in that category will help me become cfo quick

    1. There is no “fastest route.” It takes years, sometimes decades. There are some tips here: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/chief-financial-officer-jobs-vs-managing-director-jobs/

  6. Hi Brian,
    How does this compare to Corporate Finance advisory job at boutique firms? Are exit ops and salaries/on-the-job duties similar?
    Are you better positioned for Grad school and/or certain types of exits?

    Thanks for your help!

    1. What are you referring to with “this”? “This” as in the broader category of corporate finance jobs at Fortune 500 companies, compared to corporate finance advisory at boutique firms?

      If so, corporate finance at Fortune 500 companies is completely different because it focuses on budgeting and internal projections, not advising on deals (assuming that “corporate finance advisory” means advising companies on M&A, debt, and equity deals).

      Exit opportunities are weaker from CF at F500 firms because you don’t gain the deal or investing skill set.

  7. Hi Brian,
    In FPA roles, how does learning VBA and macros help with some of the specific responsibilities of the role? Could you please provide some examples so I can get a clear picture. (I’m in the final stage of an entry level FPA interview and considering improving my VBA skills should things progress)

    Many thanks

    1. VBA skills are not going to help you much at the interview level. They’re not going to give you a coding case study or anything beyond maybe a fairly standard Excel-based test that requires the use of INDEX/MATCH/VLOOKUP/XLOOKUP, etc. and some data analysis.

      On the job, VBA can be useful because it lets you aggregate and categorize data more effectively because you can loop through cells in ranges and automatically flag them, color-code them, etc., and you can keep re-running the macro to do that over and over again (unlike with conditional formatting).

      All our coverage of VBA and macros in our Excel course is geared toward “Here’s how to do X to speed up Task Y on the job,” where Task Y could be formatting, data aggregation, toggling formatting or formula options like IFERROR or anchors over ranges, etc.

  8. Hi Brian, after 2-3 years as an IB analyst at a BB or EB, would it be feasible to exit into a corporate finance manager role? How common is this type of exit among IB analysts?

    1. It’s possible, but far less common than the traditional exit opportunities because corporate finance roles tend to pay far less, and the skill sets don’t have that much in common (CF is more about audit/accounting/reporting issues).

      Also, you probably wouldn’t be able to enter at the Manager level, at least not at a large company. Maybe as a Senior Analyst? This is yet another reason why few IB Analysts choose to go into corporate finance.

  9. Avatar
    Christopher Solic

    Hello Brian,

    I recently graduated with my MBA from a well known regional school in New York (think Fordham, ST. John’s, Baruch) and graduated with Distinction. My career path has been solid I feel, i started out of college working for a Fortune 500 well known bank in New York as a financial analyst and was promoted to a senior financial analyst role and built my financial analysis skills managing three mutual funds and doing analysis such as NAV, evaluating fund performance & various accounting tasks

    I then moved into IB abroad for four years and moved back to New York to pursue my MBA and interned at various boutiques to see if I would like IB for the long hall and got a job at small boutique firm while attending my MBA during the night. Fast Forward i graduated with my MBA and my concentration was Finance with a emphasis on corporate finance/investment management even taking a honors course in asset management where students acted as financial analysts and provided investment recommendations to the board of trustees worth $3 million, this is where I knew I wanted to be once again a Financial Analyst in corporate finance/FP&A

    My main reason for getting my MBA was because I knew eventually as I got older (just turned 37 over Christmas graduated with my MBA at 36) was that wanted to pivot out of IB to a financial analyst role.

    My question is this career move possible to go back to a corporate finance role? And is my skill set transferable? if so could you give me any advice?

    I would like to settle down not work the monster hours, any advice on what to say during my interviews?
    I feel people are intimidated my Resume because it is a very good resume with loads of experience not to mention my graduate GPA is above a 3.9 and all the academic achievements I received during my MBA. Also, I have great letters of recommendation from my boss (Managing Partner of the firm) and two from graduate professors one of whom I have known for a really long time.

    I am looking for a new challenge, why people go back to grad school to pivot into a new career right? & as I feel I do not want to do IB for my entire life, just don’t have the drive to do it after being in it for a while now.

    Can you please offer me your pears of wisdom and tell me if this is all possible? and how should I go about it?

    Thank you!

    1. I think you can do it, but a lot of people in CF will be skeptical that you would spend so much time in IB only to move back to something that pays less. The IB and CF skill sets don’t really have that much in common besides basics such as the need to know Excel and accounting.

      Maybe just say that you want to work at a single company over the long term and build a team there rather than constantly working with new clients and on new deals.

      If they question you, point out that it would actually be easier to go back to IB with your current experience, so you’re making a clear decision to pursue CF instead.

      1. Avatar
        Christopher Solic

        Hello Brian,

        Thank you for your reply

        I wanted to ask you on the financial modeling front how comparable/different is it to IB type of work?

        I have seen samples from FP&A and it looks rather basic using VLookup & Pivot tables mostly and sourcing & compiling data and presenting it to management.

        Is that what FP&A people refer to as “financial modeling”?

        Can you explain that in depth? and how should I answer/phrase those questions if asked during the interview process?

        Reason I am asking is because the type of modeling I have seen in FP&A looks much more teachable/learnable than in IB and it seems anyone can fully grasp Excel once given experience

        Also, is FP&A modeling able to quickly be grasped if you have practice with Excel formulas?

        Thank you again Brian!

        1. Corporate finance/FP&A modeling is quite different because it is mostly budgeting and comparing actuals to projected numbers. You do not work on M&A deals, LBOs, divestitures, etc., and you don’t even value companies or assets. So yes, it’s mostly about using Excel to find and present data. If you have a good understanding of Excel (INDEX, MATCH, INDIRECT, XLOOKUP, macros to automate things, etc.), it should not be difficult to learn. I really don’t think you need to justify it in-depth – it would be like asking someone who’s studying Calculus to prove that they know Algebra first… they assume that if you worked in IB, you’ll know how to do those things.

  10. Avatar
    Walt Grace

    Hi,

    I work at a large (Fortune 75) firm in corporate finance. I’m a junior manager (2 steps above entry level, 3-4 steps away from junior executive).

    I’m pursuing corporate development exit opportunities, and the group is arguing that I should take a step down in hierarchy as part of the move. I’m torn because a lot of blood, sweat, & tears have gone into my corporate finance years, but I’m not sure it’s where I want to spend the rest of my career. Do you have any guidance?

    1. If your long-term goal is to work on deals in corp dev or to use the experience to get into IB/PE, I would go along with the group and accept a step down in the hierarchy because corp dev is significantly better for exit opportunities and general career/salary progression.

      And if you don’t want to spend more time in CF, then it’s just a sunk cost at this point.

  11. Avatar
    Gowtham Gnanasambandam

    Hi,
    I am working executive in manufacturing company also my qualifications is MBA Finance

    I want to become a Perfect FP & A.

    What are the things to follow my work level may improve

    Ultimately I will reach to MD level

    Kindly guide me

    Reg
    Gowtham

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question. FP&A is not that difficult to get into compared with other fields on this site like IB/PE. If you have manufacturing experience and an MBA from a good school in Finance, then you should be able to recruit or network your way directly into corporate finance roles at normal companies.

  12. Avatar
    bhavna dudeja

    Hi! Fantastic article! I am intrigued about the line where you mentioned you have not come across anyone switching from tax to corporate finance. I am a CA (chartered accountant) and actually am contemplating the same and wanted to know if it is the right move? I have worked for couple of years in corporate and international tax in the Big4 and I realized it is not my cup of tea. How difficult will it be for the switch? I am especially inclined towards Treasury.

    1. I mean, I’m sure it’s possible, but you need to demonstrate some knowledge of what you do in Treasury to make it happen… otherwise Tax is perceived to be quite specialized. The line about Tax in this article was from the perspective of the original writer (Nicolas), but I don’t think it’s universally true.

  13. Thank you for such an informative article with detailed descriptions. I currently have two summer offers: one for an FP&A role at a global Fortune 100 company, the other as a credit analyst for a regional commercial bank. If my goal is to ultimately win an IB or PE internship offer in the future, which role would be more beneficial to take? Would the brand name of the F100 company outweigh the “banking” experience I may gain at a lesser know regional bank? Thanks

    1. Thanks. I would definitely go with the FP&A role at the Fortune 100 company because not only is the brand name stronger, but FP&A work is usually perceived to be closer to IB-style work, even though that may not be true in reality.

  14. Very good Article! I work in a different field, Product Management, and have little idea over CF. Was just curious and wanted to learn about it for general knowledge. Your article is very straightforward, structured, easy to understand, with no deep technical jargon. Thank you for sharing!
    (I am just wondering why you said ‘Analyst Monkey’ in the title though. I guess it was just a funny metaphor)

  15. Would you be available for a short conversation about some questions i am asking to myself about my financial career? It would be very helpful
    Thanks

    1. If you have signed up for our courses, feel free to submit your question on the BIWS site or via email there. Otherwise, no, we do not provide free coaching services at this time.

  16. Hi Brian, I am an MBA student at Rutgers Business School, we have recruiting ops in corp finance at major pharma and other companies in NJ. My concern is growth and earning potential since it is a support role. I know making CFO is very tough but after 10 or so years, is it expected and common that you can be earning over 200K in some capacity in a corporate finance role?

    Also are corp finance jobs very fluid? meaning if I’m not happy after a while can I easily obtain a job at another company in corp finance (perhaps in another industry like financial services, consumer product goods, telecommunications, etc.) to get me closer to a $200-250k plus salary

    1. We have a summary of these questions/answers here:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-finance-vs-corporate-development/

      $200K within 10 years in corporate finance is a reasonable expectation. Yes, you can easily move around and find different CF roles at other companies. But it would be much harder to move into IB, PE, etc. at that stage.

  17. Hi,

    I’m currently working in the Alternative Asset Management department of a prestigious investment bank and doing performance data management and reporting. I could have obtained the CIPM and become a performance measurement expert but I no longer have a deep interest in banking industry anymore and consider switching gears toward corporate finance although my previous skillets are investment related. What are the best way for me to break into this field and maximize my income

    1. Corporate Finance is not hyper-competitive to break into, so you can start by looking up professionals on LinkedIn, emailing them, and asking about open positions. Focus on larger companies that have well-developed corporate finance programs and rotations and try to spin your experience into sounding related to budgeting and variance analysis.

  18. Avatar
    Foram Shah

    Hi.. I have been offered the role of a Financial Analyst ( Financial Controlling) at UBS Investment Bank in USA.
    I have recently moved to USA and I have previous Big4 experience in tax consulting in India (4 years) and financial accounting experience in UBS India (1 year). I have completed CFA and CPA.
    1) If I do MBA next year from top tier uni in USA, what are my best options for roles given my background, if i wish to maximize salary?
    2) If i give up the MBA option, how can I leverage my background and current opportunity to better job opps in the future ( from salary & lifestyle point of view ), probably even the path to CFO in UBS ?

    1. 1) To maximize your total compensation, investment banking would be your best option out of a top MBA program. For work/life balance, corporate finance (FP&A or the other areas) would be better.

      2) The best way to advance quickly is to join a startup or other rapidly growing company and take advantage of that growth to move up. Reaching the CFO level at a huge bank is a long and painful ordeal, and it may not even be that great a job by the time you get there.

      1. Thank you for your advice. Waa very helpful.
        One last question – Given my background.. post MBA, would I have a shot at getting into Consulting at Top MBB or investment banking remains my best option ?

        1. You could do either one. It just depends on what you want (more variety/options outside of finance but also constant travel and lower pay –> consulting; higher pay and ceiling but fewer options outside of finance –> banking).

          1. Hi Brian,

            As of today, I have completed 6 months in the Financial Controlling role in UBS in USA and given up on the MBA option.

            I plan to network and move to another role in UBS 6 months down the line. My biggest consideration is maximizing my compensation and future growth prospects.

            I have options to move to Equity Research / Investment Banking / Private Wealth Management at entry level. My second priority after maximizing compensation is work life balance.

            What would be the most suitable choice according to you – given my consulting / accounting background with CPA and CFA qualifications ?

            Thanks

          2. You have contradictory goals, so I can’t give you an answer. You want to maximize compensation and future growth, but also work/life balance. But there’s an inherent trade-off because roles that offer one tend not to offer the other.

            If you want work/life balance, go to PWM. If you want compensation, exit opportunities, and future growth potential, go to IB. And I would recommend avoiding ER because it’s not a great field to stay in for the long term due to MiFID II, falling revenue/team sizes, etc.

          3. With Private Wealth Management – i meant the either the “Financial Advisor” role or the “Investment Professional” Role

          4. Thanks for the advice – thoroughly appreciate it.
            One last question – Whats your view about an Investment Analyst / Strategist role in the Chief Investment Office of UBS ? Keeping in mind only the goal of maximimizing compensation and future growth prospects.

          5. Don’t know enough about it to say, sorry.

  19. I was offered a summer internship with JP Morgan in a rotational finance program in NYC. Eventually want I want to do is social venture capital/impact investing and I was hoping that the operational side of this might be a bit useful because from what I understand often times these types of companies can use some operational help. However, I would worried that this will be too “accounting based” on the other side.

    1. Also which of the rotational roles financial analyst, project management, controller or business management tends to be the most “finance-y” and suited to my goals?

      1. Probably financial analyst

    2. I don’t think it would help that much for impact investing, so it’s probably not the best option for a full-time role. https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/impact-investing-jobs/

  20. I’ve been in commercial banking as a credit analyst and commercial lender for almost 10 years. I’m looking to make the shift into corporate finance as I completed my MBA and feel like corporate finance is a better fit for my career goals. Having a hard time gaining traction with interviews with top tier companies as they can’t seem to understand how my analysis skills can transfer over to say FP&A. Any recommendations? Should I be focusing on smaller organizations first to work my way into a bigger firm?

    1. Yes, either focus on smaller companies or aim for roles such as Treasury that are more closely related to credit.

  21. Hi Brian,

    I just dropped out of med school in the UK. I am 24 and will be 27/28 by the time I graduate. I am about to apply to university. I hope I get into a target. From reading your article on age and IB, I understand I will be too old to be an IB analyst. Should I study accounting and finance or engineering? I am interested in Corp fin, Corp dev/ Corp strat and asset management. Will I be too old to enter these professions? If so I will just study engineering and invest as a hobby. Also, I read that Corp dev requires IB experience. Is there any other field I can go into to prepare for Corp Dec. Should I focus on one career or try networking and preparing for all three of the careers I mentioned above. I feel a little lost to be honest. I want a well paid, interesting career. I guess I am asking you for life advice.

    1. If you don’t yet have any work experience, you could get into those fields regardless of your age. But you need to do internships at university first to test them out, gain the experience banks are looking for, and so on. It’s possible to get into corporate development without IB in some cases, but most firms look for some types of transaction experience. Figure out what you want to do in your first year and then focus on one industry. See:

      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/valuation-to-corporate-development/

  22. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article. I’m an entering senior in college, and I wondering whats the best way to search for corporate finance jobs. Should I search by company, or should I search by industry? Any tool to find this type of job would be great!

    1. Look on LinkedIn… find companies offering corporate finance rotational programs by searching for the keyword and finding matching profiles.

  23. Thank you for this article, very helpful and insightful. I’m 38 (top 25 MBA, no CPA) and Director of Finance at a $100M business unit of a $600M corporation and am looking to make a move. Do you ever see folks move from a senior position at a smaller company to a more junior one at a larger Fortune 500, and if so any advice on what level I would be targeting? I enjoy the FP&A aspect of my job the most and would be looking to continue that path.

    1. Yes, it could happen, but it’s tough because there’s relatively little turnover in corporate finance vs. what you see at professional services firms. Maybe go for roles just below the Director level.

  24. I’m just the opposite. I’m in sales and business development for 7 years. Did MBA from a top 30 school. Did financial analysis role in business development department after school. Loved it and decided to move on to corporate finance career but I couldn’t find the next finance/accounting related job. Started to be my CPA last year 2016 but still no luck of even getting a phone call to jobs I applied. I had to take another sales job while looking for financial analyst role. I’m getting paid ok for sales plus lots of sales perks. To go to finance, I’ll have to accept for an entry level pay and start from there. Ok for me. I’m determined. This is where I want to be in the long run.

  25. Avatar
    martinezd8

    Guys, I’m having a major job crisis right now due to the fact that I have to accept two different jobs tomorrow: one in IB and the other in Corporate Finance. The IB job is for trade support at a BB bank. The corporate finance job is for a Treasury analyst job at a lesser known company (for profit school). I’m torn between which route to go and which job would give me the best exit opportunities. Can anyone please help? I appreciate all the support in advance

    1. Trade support is not terribly helpful unless you want to do S&T. I would probably take the corporate finance job unless you want to do S&T in the future.

  26. I am torn between trying to win an IB internship next summer or win a corporate finance internship next summer. I’m entering my senior year but I delayed my graduation. 3.5 gpa non target school. Lately I’ve been debating on facing the facts and give up my IB dream and focus on a more attainable career such as going for an internship in corp finance then getting a full time offer in that field. I worry that if I go all out in IB and don’t win an offer then I’m left with nothing and will have to fumble around for anything.

    1. Also..I have no relevant experience whatsoever. Which is my biggest worry of trying to break into IB. What do you think I should do Brian?

      Thanks

      1. It is impossible to say because I don’t know your full background, past work experience, amount of networking, etc. Basically, if you haven’t had multiple finance internships before, you should just do corporate finance or Big 4 or something similar and attempt to move into IB later on.

        1. Update: Just landed an internship for this summer working for my university’s investment office. The office manages $2.5 billion in assets for the school. Now my job is just to take information that managers send me and plug it into the school’s software. Not much “finance” involved. My given intern title is “Investment Accounting Analyst”. Will this help me at all in future interviews. Will I be able to spin this opportunity to sound more than just plugging and chugging information?
          Thanks

  27. Hi Brian,

    Is it possible for a financial controller at hedger fund to move to treasury in a corp?

    I am offered an opportunity to work as fund accountant and expected to be the financial controller of the fund in 3 years time. Eventually I hope to be a corporate treasurer.

    Thanks

    1. Potentially, yes, but I don’t think it’s a common move.

  28. Avatar
    Michael

    brian– I am a corporate financial analyst for a fortune 500 energy company. My year anniversary came up last month and I am really pushing to get into a boutique firm given my experience. Should I be more patient or try to get something in IB as soon as possible?

    1. Get into IB ASAP because it will be harder to switch the longer you stay at your current firm.

  29. Avatar
    Johnny Nygren

    M&I,

    I am a CA, with Big 4 auditing and transaction advisory experience (around 4 years in total). Ultimate goal is to become a CFO of a small to mid-cap energy company. Currently have two separate verbal offers I am evaluating:

    1) Sell side ER at a boutique IB. Associate position covering oilfield services.

    2) Corporate finance position at a $2bn market cap oilfield services company that is growing (acquisitions and active capital program) and was profitable through the downturn. They are well positioned to grow over the next 24 months. Role would be a mix of 1) preparing the financials and MD&A 2) Working with divisional controllers on the corporate forecast model (i.e. FP&A) 3) investor relations (i.e. preparing materials, presentations, etc.) 3) working on any financing and M&A activity (they have been quite active). Would report to the director, who reports to CFO. Team has lots of mat leaves in the works above me so opportunity to work with CFO directly.

    Comp in the short term would likely not be materially different. In your mind, what would be the best route for CFO relevant experience?

    Cheers.

    1. The second one is much better. Hardly anyone becomes a CFO coming from ER.

  30. What are the exit opps for treasury? Do you think it’s realistic to move to investment management after an MBA in finance?

    Thanks!

    1. Probably not. You might be able to move into DCM, corporate banking, credit rating, or buy-side credit analysis roles, though.

  31. Avatar
    vanshika

    Hiii, Currently I am working in one of the Reputed NBFC in sales ( MORTGAGES LOAN)

    want to move in corporate Finance but in sales

    Is it easy to move?

  32. This may be a little out of the scope of this article……but I’m trying to break in to a CRE Brokerage career, yet would like to get experience in the industry first. If I have equal opportunity to get a job in Corporate Finance or with Research Analytics (more back office type), which should I shoot for if my end game is to become a broker, moving to the front office?

    I’d appreciate an answer from ANYONE with CRE experience or knowledge.

    1. Corporate Finance is probably better, but please note that CF is still technically “back office” since you don’t interact directly with clients. If you really want to get into CRE brokerage, find a sales role or something where you interact with clients or potential clients.

  33. Thanks for your insight in this article. I had a question regarding early education. I am a sophomore undergraduate studying business and will pursue my MBA in the future. If I want to eventually work in Corporate Finance, should I pursue my undergraduate business degree concentration in Finance or Accounting?

    1. Accounting is better because, despite the name, “corporate finance” mostly consists of accounting (analyzing financial statements, journal entries, etc.).

  34. As I’m reading this with my fairly new interest in corporate finance I really began to worry. I’m a sophomore finance and business double major but fear I won’t get a job in corporate finance without an accounting major. What are your thoughts?

    1. I don’t think it matters as long as you know accounting. So, take a class or do a minor in it.

  35. I love FP&A and have experience in sell-side ER at a BB. My firm has been acquired by a private equity shop after restructuring, and it’s incredibly interesting.

    How would you describe the dynamic between private equity owners and their portfolio companies’ FP&A/finance teams? Assuming the C-suite is replaced, how can the “survivors” in FP&A work with PE to help them maximize their ROI while also ensuring the business’ respective long-term vision remains intact?

    Having never worked in PE and coming from a sell-side FO background into a very unique position in FP&A, I anticipate this is going to be an “it depends” answer. Still, I’d be curious to hear input, however.

    1. We will cover this in a future article on corporate development/finance at PE-owned portfolio companies. The short answer is: “Help them get deals done and integrate acquired companies successfully, and you’ll survive.”

  36. From what position should a recent graduate guy make a career in corporate finace and what are the required skills to get into that position??..(mail-everything is in small.letters)

    1. ??? I’m not sure I understand your question. Look at our other corporate finance articles to get an idea of the required skills. Most Fortune 500 companies offer corporate finance rotational programs that are good options for getting into the industry.

  37. Hi! I am currently working as a financial analyst in the Treasury department of a bulge bracket bank. I’ve been in this role for half a year but I can’t see myself being in this type of role in the future. What advice can you give if I am looking to transition into investment banking or asset management or hedge funds? Thanks!

    1. Get started networking and learning about the industry… don’t apply to all 3 of those at once, narrow it down to 1 specific industry. Begin contacting everyone you can find in that industry via LinkedIn and your bank’s internal network, start setting up informational interviews, and follow the other networking tips on this site.

  38. Hi – Good insights.
    I’m a chartered accountant. I did 3 years of audit but have been in FP&A for the most part of my career so have lost touch with the accounting side of things. I am thinking of doing a certificate in treasury (ACT) . Do you think thay will add to my CV and help in a “step up”? I feel that I have stagnated within FP&A simply because iv moved companies at the wrong time.
    Thanks

    1. It will make a marginal difference.

  39. Avatar
    FormerhedgefUndie

    Hi Brian, I’ve read all of your FP&A pieces so far and have very much enjoyed your insights. Would like to get your opinion on a job offer decision I have in front of me. I am currently enrolled in a M7 MBA program and have received two full-time job offers:

    1. FP&A manager at fast-growing tech firm ($1B in rev and growing by double digits)
    2. Corporate strategy manager large mature tech firm ($50B in rev and stagnant)

    Which opportunity would you recommend for career growth? I am very torn because corporate strategy is generally seen as a step up from finance, but the fast growth trajectory is appealing as well.

    Thanks!

    1. Like many questions, this one comes down to “What do you want to do in the long term?” If your goal is to become a CFO, option #1 is better. If your goal is to get into consulting or win some other C-level executive position eventually, option #2 is better.

  40. Hi,

    I posted this before, but forgot where I posted it. When someone works in corporate finance, what does this mean? What is corporate finance? Is being a Finance Analyst the same thing as being a corporate finance analyst? Is a Finance Analyst at Amazon for example, a corporate finance analyst?

    Ian

    1. Yes, they are generally the same thing. “Working in corporate finance” corresponds to the categories here – FP&A, Treasury, and Controllership. To see what a person does, you have to ask him/her for the group he/she is in.

  41. Thank you for the detailed article. I have a question – I am a part-time college student obtaining my degree in Business/Finance and I plan to obtain my MBA after. I work full-time as the Deputy Treasurer for a school district. Should I stay in my current job after I obtain my 4 yr degree, get my MBA and then move to corporate, or should I go for it after my 4yr and get my MBA there? When I graduate with my 4yr I’ll be 25 with 3 years of experience as the Deputy Treasurer.

    Thank you!

    1. No. Always get several years of full-time work experience first before doing an MBA.

  42. Great article! What is your perspective on different FP&A roles? I work at a fortune 20 company and we have two primary segments within the healthcare industry of which each segment is a conglomerate of a number of different businesses. The way our FP&A roles are structured give you an option to do FP&A work within a business unit (with your business partners being sales & marketing, Ops, sourcing, etc) or we have the option to work for a “Center of Excellence” which is a team that sits in between our segment CFO and the business unit finance leaders to consolidate the business unit results and craft the story of the segment performance (to the general managers, segment CEO, segment CFO, investor relations, etc). Both seem to be interesting I. Their own right. Thanks!

    1. I don’t think there’s a huge difference. It really depends on what you want to do in the future and if you want to move up within the company (the second options is better) or go into a different department first (the first option is better).

  43. Avatar
    bluellullu

    Thanks for the very insightful article. I have a question. Currently I’ve got two job offers: one is a three-month contract position with a large corporation as a financial analyst; and the other one is a permanent position as an internal Asset Review Analyst for a top bank, where the main job duty would be reviewing loan portfolio for commercial properties. I am more interested in the route of FP&A, but the three-month contract position is very short. I’m not sure if it will look good on the resume or help me with my career builder. Could you share some of your opinions on my case? Thanks a lot!

    1. If that’s the role you’re most interested in, you should take it. 3 months of experience still helps. And you could always move to a different role or rotation later on.

  44. Hi,

    Thanks for the details above and the comments are just as useful as the article itself.
    Now I humbly come to this community for advice.
    I have been living in Asia for the past 6 years where I completed my MBA (gen bus. admin.) and have 4 years experience in corporate banking.
    I was a relationship manager where I also served as the underwriter for my loans (expertise in credit and financial analysis of MNCs).
    Now I am in the US and am not sure where I can generate the most value.
    1) FP&A for my analytical skills? Big-picture thinking and familiarity with line item analysis?
    2) Treasury for my cash flow knowledge, risk management experience, and with my banking background (Tier-1 institution) the knowledge of debt markets and working in that field…
    Both areas I am interested in but not sure how to proceed. As its stated above that Treasury is somewhat of a niche. What should I consider when planning my next step and which path makes more sense to start off with?
    I am targeting F100 companies.

    1. Probably Treasury. It is more niche, but your skill set is more relevant there than it is for FP&A.

  45. Hi,
    Thanks for the detailed information above. I had a quick question as I am preparing to find a job in corporate finance. I know discussion was regarding F500 positions, but I recently found a startup tech company that started just under 10 years ago. It seems to have good growth/outlooks and the business interests me, but it is still a private company. Would there be anything that would adversely affect my career if I were to transfer later on to a bigger company? I’m assuming the responsibilities may be quite different since private firms don’t have to submit SEC filings and the regulations aren’t as strict.
    Thanks!

    1. Other than what you said, no, not really. Most of the role is the same, but regulation is lighter for private companies (though that is starting to change as private companies have to disclose more and more information if they raise funds from a wide set of investors).

  46. Avatar
    Rastignac01

    Dear M&I team,

    I would like to have your advice on the career prospects of the 2 following job opportunities I have to choose from:

    One is a strategy role, mostly about leading internal consulting projects and pushing key initiatives
    One is an FP&A role

    Both companies are in e-commerce related field; established with strong growth. I am considering the interest of the 2 jobs as well as my fit within the role, the interest of the position and most importantly evolution perspective.

    I am in Europe, I have an MBA (top 10), with 5 y. pre in VC and energy pre sales role, and post MBA 2 y in consulting MBB.

    For me, trade off is between a more strategic, project based role involving many different stakeholders with a large PMO component VS a financial, more quantitative but maybe more repetitive job.

    Prospects are also more becoming GM in the long term with the strategy job VS CFO or Senior finance VP with the finance job. I am also a bit afraid of being pigeonholed with the FP&A role, even so the company encourages a lot horizontal move.

    In my consulting MBB job, I tend to prefer more quantitative jobs rather than project based / transformation cases which led me to consider a finance job, though I had never worked in corporate finance before (VC is more of a networking job with big picture strategic consideration).

    However, opportunities offered by the strategy role seems broader and could give me more control on initiatives rather than being more in support of the business. It fits more with a GM path to actually impact the business

    Could you please give me your advice on a internal consulting role or FP&A can give their take their day to day jobs and their evolution?

    Many thanks!

    1. I don’t think we can give you a universal answer because it depends on where you see yourself going in the future. If you want to stay in finance and target CFO roles in the future, the FP&A job is better. If you’re not yet sure what you want to do, or you want to leave open more options, the strategy role is better.

  47. Avatar
    Tyrone Thorpe

    Thank you for giving great insights into this issue.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome.

  48. Avatar
    Michelle

    Hi Nicolas,

    Great article! I would like to get your opinion as i am faced with a decision: Apply for an internal audit position (not certain if i get position), or accept a financial analyst position & not apply for internal audit(cant do both). The fact is that i like FPA more than auditing and i dont know if it is worth it to get into audit(min 2year commitment) and then try to go back to FPA. For the background, I am a qualified chartered accountant without having previous experience in audit field. If i dont do the audit and go for the FPA role will this impact negatively my future carreer path? or is it worth doing it?

    1. It makes more sense to go for the Financial Analyst role if that’s what you’re interested in. Yes, audit may be important if you want to become a CFO, but you can still advance without previous internal audit experience.

  49. Hi! I enjoyed reading this article. I am an MBA student and currently I do enjoy the corporate finance course. More so I like the prospect of working in a field where we need to study financial statements , keep an eye on the cash flow etc. Such nature of work appeals to me . I have a legal background and have experience working in loan recovery in a bank. I am pursuing the MBA to move in a different field. Can you please share with me a way to move into corporate finance ?

    1. Network prior to the MBA starting, contact alumni from your business school, and find firms that offer corporate finance/rotational programs for MBA students.

  50. Hi
    I was in the capital markets department as a trader. I am now working in the financial department as part of a restructuring team in a construction company. I am going for my MBA a top ten school. I was wondering what is best path to take after an MBA to become a CFO. I want to go for rotational program in a fortune 500 company.
    Hoping for your insight and advice. I am a CFA level three candidate.

    Thank you in advance
    Regards

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes working for a company in their finance division would help. You can then progress from such position to become a CFO.

  51. Hi Nicolas,

    Thanks for the good article. Just wanted to ask you / M&I team is internal audit considered a part of corporate finance? I have just finished my MSc in Finance from a top B-school in France, have an offer in internal audit, would it be good to start off there and then move into treasury/corp fin or even better banking/consulting? I think I am more inclined towards management consulting than the traditional finance roles but I would like to have a first experience in a field close to finance before moving to consulting, both to get to know the field better and to back up my degree with relevant work ex. Thanks in advance for your replies, I would be immensely grateful if you can sort out my confusion.

    1. Internal audit is generally separate from corporate finance because corporate finance is more about budgeting and making projections and managing the company’s cash/cash flows, as well as making higher-level accounting decisions that impact a company’s results.

      If you have an internal audit offer, yes, it could be reasonable to start off there and then move into corporate finance or potentially banking/consulting, but I think you would probably have to move to some intermediate role first, such as valuation or investment banking advisory at a Big 4 firm.

  52. Hi,

    Thank you for doing this Nicolas. Definitely one of the better insights to the world of corporate finance. I love the idea of ER because of what goes into studying an industry/company and making a projection based on your research within the vibrant world of finance. I did not get an ER offer but did get Corp Fin at a Fortune 200 company so I was wondering if there are any sorts of roles that are linked with the capital markets within corporate finance or could eventually lead to ER opportunities. Looking forward to your response!

    1. Hi Brian,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Some roles in Corp Fin are closer to Capital Markets, for instance internal M&A roles or internal strategy positions. The other roles that I describe in the article would make it difficult for you to move to ER afterwards.

  53. Avatar
    Corporate 'Fun'ance

    This is a very accurate description of Corporate Fin on description and pay. I work at a Fortune 25 as a senior analyst in their MBA rotational program. Make a good buck, about 100k all in. I’m 25yo and live in a 2-3rd tier city so cost of living is cheap. The toughest part is it is hard to move up like in banking. Promotions are a dime a dozen, although you do get yearly pay increases they are relatively small ie. 2-3percet during a good year. Lifestyle in the group I work with right now is great, roughly 45hours a week but this can vary from group to group. If you do happen to move up in a reasonable amount of time you can hit 200k plus in your thirties, plus stock options so its really not too bad. However, Corp Fin can be pretty damn boring. Budgets and variances, budgets budgets budgets….

    1. Avatar
      Tyrone Thorpe

      I wish I was fortunate to be in a positon where I can get that type of experience. I’m a 38 year old who with the MBA and have been trying to get my foot in the door since 2001. The recessions and the bars for entry have done a number on a lot of us.

  54. Thanks for the article! I have been in the audit department for 3 years and in the transaction advisory dept for 8 months in a big 4 firm and have been in a supervisory position for more than one year. I want to transition into Corporate Finance and have been offered a job in a multinational company as an entry level for FP and A. Any ideas on that or on what I should do further since I am exploring to be a CFO in the near future?

    1. Not really, take that job, do as well as you can, and maybe work in a few different areas in corporate finance since controllership is more important than FP&A in some ways.

  55. Thanks for the article. This was really informative.
    What’s the typical interview structure like for treasury positions (Sr analyst)? Is it mostly behavioural or are technical questions expected?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I am not 100% sure but I believe you may want to expect some technical questions.

      1. Very technical, including knowledge of investment and debt products a company can use. It seems the general direction for my interview with a F100 was about short term financing.

  56. Hi nicolas, i will be finishing my economics b.a next year, what should i learn on my own/what steps should i take to land a job in corporate finance prefereblly in a high tech company?

    Thank you!

  57. Avatar
    ldnibd1990

    Hi Nicolas, I am an ex-investment banker with 3 years of experience from a top 4 BB. I am joining a successful Asian media / tech start up (a business model along the lines of Monster Worldwide / LinkedIn as director of FP&A). I have valuation skills but I don’t really know how to prepare for my new managerial role – where I have accepted the offer . My new responsibilities will include

    – Budgeting infrastructure, monitoring/controls and variance analysis (monthly)
    – Spending and P&L forecast accuracy
    – Metrics and KPI definition and tracking (provide “headlights”)
    – Business analytics and modeling (e.g. make vs. buy, M&A, OEM/partnerships)

    Any tips on how can I prepare for my new position? Advice would be appreciated.

    1. I’d recommend you read ahead on the sector and think about how to service the CEO/CFO with your analysis and how you can influence the strategy of the company. It’s going to be hard to prepare for the technical side so focus on that instead!

  58. Avatar
    Vinny Manes

    This is what I had been looking for since last week. Beautiful written article with all the necessary details. I can’t thank you enough for sharing this with us.

  59. Avatar
    Angelia

    As a fresh Finance graduate without working background, what is an ideal way to start off a career becoming Corporate Financier? Like what area of job should I aim before I can move the ladder to Corporate Finance
    Thanks

    1. Angelia, you can start directly in Corporate Finance with an internship at a big firm for instance.

  60. Hi, Thank you for the great article. I’m currently a graduate student of accountancy and will be writing the CPA exam soon. I have 4 years banking experience(Operational role). My passion is accounting and I want to be a CFO that is why decided to take the career change by going for masters in accountancy. I would like to seek your opinion and advice on how best to becoming a CFO. As I do not have prior accounting experience, would you suggest a FP&A role after graduating?

    1. Yes, an FP&A role can certainly work. But you’re probably best off aiming for rotational corporate finance roles at large companies, such as the one offered by GE (covered elsewhere on the site). That way, you get exposure to all areas within CF in addition to just FP&A.

  61. Hi there. What is your opinion on making a swap from the insurance industry (or more specifically, a qualified actuary) into a consulting or investment banking role? Are there any demand for a qualified actuary in these industries?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d say yes it can potentially work but I’d look at roles that are more quantitative such as trading, etc. If you want to move into banking, you may want to demonstrate your valuation experience.

      1. Thanks for the reply Nicole,

        I would like to also ask, would starting in a smaller firm for 5 years be seen as a disadvantage in the future to join other larger firms i.e McKinsey/JP Morgan?

        1. Yes, it can be somewhat of a disadvantage, so you’re better off making the move earlier (1-2 years) rather than later.

  62. Hey, as a management trainee at a Fortune 500 company, I get training in both Financial accounting and Treasury.I am wondering which department can provide me a better career path. e.g. salary, lifestyle…
    FYI, I am a licensed CPA without experience in big4.
    Thank you!

    1. I think the article is a pretty good resource to answer this question. But overall treasury is more of a “niche” and it’s hard to go back and forth between Treasury and other departments whereas accounting is more open to FP&A etc.

      1. Thanks a lot. Look forward to reading more articles about corporate finance. Your article really inspires me.

  63. Avatar
    Teow Yong Zhen

    Hi there! Is it necessary to have a degree in accounting or to become a certified accountant to work in corporate finance? Or to become the CFO? Thanks!

    1. It’s not necessary. Being a certified accountant certainly helps and will help you build your credibility in the Controllership department. But a lot of CFO who climbed the ladder internally are not certified.

  64. Hi Brian,

    Excellent article, I have found it really useful in planning my career path. I’m a Bookkeeper/ Accounting Clerk (Accounts Receivable/Payroll) at a fortune 500 company. I wanted to know what steps I can take to get into FP&A. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Financial Economics. And an Associate’s degree in Accounting.

    Thank you!

    1. I would say internal networking to start with… reach out to people in the FP&A group via the firm directory, start networking with them, and ask about openings in the group. Then, be able to prove that you have the required skills, such as budgeting and forecasting, which you will presumably learn on your own.

  65. Can you break into corporate development after being an analyst at a BB firm? If so, would you go do a top-school MBA first or could you apply directly? Thanks

    1. BB firm to corporate development is a common path pre-MBA since a lot of the skills are transferable. The MBA would only help to get at a higher level or functions which are between corp development and strategy.

  66. Hi Dan,
    Equity research is the opposite of investor relations. So your bridge role is going to be build little relevant network and some interesting skills but not that much. This role is not going to hurt your story when you want to transition to equity research but it’s not going to boost it either.

    1. Yeah it’s interesting to see it from that perspective, I would have the opportunity to add a few levels of the CFA to my ACA and I was hoping to leverage the work they do on competitor analysis and comparison of equity research reports. Is there a cut off in terms of time for moving into ER? I’ve been in the workforce for 3 years and was looking to do a year or two of this before transitioning.

      Thank you!

      1. If you really want to do ER then go do ER. There’s no formal cut off but any job you add in between you and your ER application will make the question “why not applying to ER sooner?” more difficult. Equity Research is really a work of passion and few people have the mindset for it and if you delay again and again they’ll doubt your passion.

  67. Hi, I’m at the final stages of interviewing for a role that is a bridge between FP&A and Investor relations for the group team of a global bank in the UK. I wanted to know what my potential exit ops are? I have a big 4 audit background in banking.

    Ideally, I want to do equity research in the future, do you think that is something I can get into after a year or two of this?

    Thank you!

  68. Avatar
    Patrick Burke

    Hi. I have a little over 4years of Big 4 experience, mainly in Financial Service Advisory doing process/performance improvement for information reporting and withholding. I also have my CPA and am currently doing my MBA. I am extremely interested in getting into Corporate Finance. What is the best course of action I should take as I am in my first semester of my MBA and it is November. How does one go about landing an internship, what type of internship or full time job is of the appropriate level for my background, etc. All information and help is extremely appreciated!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I’d network with people in the industry through LinkedIn. I’d try to get an internship in corporate finance this summer first.

      1. Hi Patrick,
        The issue you’ll face is that unlike Investment Banking, Corporate Finance is quite “disorganized” for MBA interns. That means you’ll have to build relationships with people in the industry, understand where are their main issues and then try to design an interesting internship for you and for the company.
        Try to get a “cross-functional” internship where you’ll build on your CPA / Big 4 experience but also use your MBA / strategy skills.

  69. Avatar
    Krishnakumar

    Hi
    I am a CMA and in the process of getting a CPA. Joined as a Senior Accountant in the company and in 18 years have risen to the post of Group Financial Controller. Once I get my CPA, would you feel that would be enough to apply for a CFO position or I will need more quali ??

    1. That will of course really depends on your company. The best thing to do is to look at the profile of the last 10 CFOs and see what qualifications they had. My bet is that the CPA stuff is not holding you back…after all you are the Controller! What you really need to get the job is a way to show that you can really own the P&L and deliver on the numbers. So maybe apply for a small CFO job and work you way up or take a position in FP&A.

  70. Can you use “she” to balance out the gender bias? I work under a fantastic female CFO, and it’s about time we see a more even ratio of female to male senior executives in Fortune 500 companies.

    1. Paco, I could use “she” only but that wouldn’t make up for the fact that less than 20% of CFO are women. I worked for amazing female bosses and would love to see more in the finance world but me writing “she” everywhere would just mislead the readers into thinking that gender equality is already here. It’s not yet but there’s a big push for it, especially at F500 companies so hopefully in 10 years my articles will have “she” throughout!

  71. Very helpful article indeed.

    It is a wonderful write up on the roles in corporate finance jungle..

    Kudos to you!! :)

    1. Thanks for reading! There’s more coming out today about the corporate finance jungle so stay tuned!

  72. Hi James,

    Data consolidation is the art of taking financial data from plenty of different sources and consolidating it in one place. This means eliminating all the double counting in your statements and intercompany stuff made between divisions.

    The income statements are different in FP&A because the granularity of data is 100 times higher. Instead of doing depreciation as a % of revenue you know about the depreciation schedule of every single asset and can be very precise. It’s more about getting the right people to give you the data than about doing a quick and dirty P&L to have a look at a company.

    Hope that helps!
    Nicolas

  73. Hi Brian,

    I was reading the article and I wanted to ask 2 questions. First, what exactly is Data consolidation? I was trying to find what it is but couldn’t find anything relevant. Second, are the income statement projection different in FP&A role different than the ones you do in banking? Thanks

    James

  74. Again, excellent article that I find myself coming back to all the time for reference.
    One final question: What about risk?

    Specifically in Financial Services firms, I hear risk is very transferable to Finance (Ibanking, etc). Maybe less so Operational risk and so on, but portfolio risk and others.

    Can you clear up what you think of risk compared to a Finance dept career in F500 Fin serv or non-fin serv firm?

    It seems to be very very quantitative, with physics/engineering/math majors entering this. Much more quantitative than Finance/accounting. Hence why possibly good career opps.

    What do you think of the career and opportunities? What kind of person will like risk? etc.

    1. Hi Nick and thanks a lot for your comment.
      So for risk you have two options. One is very quantitative with market risk / portfolio risk etc which is not very relevant/transferable to finance. The other side of risk is credit risk if you are in investment / real estate firm for instance where you go in and do due diligence on potential acquisitions or investments. This side is more relevant (and less quantitative).

      You have less competition in Risk than in finance (because people are less driven or type A), the teams are usually smaller but overall I think it’s less interesting than finance because the exit opps are more limited. Risk people can maybe go to operations, sometimes finance whereas finance people can even end up CFO. If it sounds like your deal go for it but if it’s just a career decision I would recommend against it.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Thank you very much for this Nicolas.
        I’m very much on the fence about this to be honest.

        When I look at it from a career perspective…For example in Retail & Business banking, I find that risk positions are more “present/forward” looking than Finance dept which I see as more of back-office support function (the accountants).

        At the same time…Being CRO sounds less interesting than CFO, because CFO looks at the more financial side of things (treasury) aswell as the controllership side of things.

        On the investment banking or Asset management side of things, I do feel that Risk is more interesting than finance department, at least apart from the F/O roles in such industries (which we all covet here).

        The main point is that I dislike the “recording financial data” or accounting part of the finance department, which I feel is really found in controllership or FP&A (although in FP&A you do analysis aswell of course). This is what I am trying to avoid.

        Essentially…Pending transfering to really F/O position…I am trying to find the next best department that would be relevant to such a transfer.

        Finally I will say that whether in fin serv or not (say a F500), there are certainly some parts of Finance department I really like: Treasury dept , corporate development, investor relations aswell. But this is quite another side than controllership and roles feel much more limited.

        Essentially right now am entry level, and am wondering the ideal place to focus my skills for the longer term.
        Its interesting that you mention Portfolio/Market risk is less relevant for Finance…As I always imagined it to be an important component to be aware of (as investor for instance).

        In any case I will continue my research,
        And it will be my pleasure to report back here with some actual work feedback on these areas to help others out.

        1. Hi Nick,

          A few thoughts on your comment:
          I agree with you on the CRO stuff being less interesting. You “own” a very small portion of the P&L compared to the CFO which makes your scope quite narrow.
          The “recording financial data” is not the issue in Cship or Fp&A, the issue is more “reporting financial data” on a weekly/monthly/quarterly basis. If that parts bother you, Corporate Finance is not going to be a good fit, even in treasury or investor relations.

          Best of luck with your first career moves and let us know how it goes!

  75. Hi Nicolas,
    I’m posting here but my question also has to do with other articles you’ve contributed to.
    I’m French, about to finish my Bachelor at a tier 1 school. Next year I’ll be doing a master of finance (same school). My ambition is to pursue a career in corporate finance. Is a Big 4 background relevant to land an FP&A position?
    How does a big 4 background compare to a company’s graduate trainee program in terms of advancement pace? Say I’m targeting.a fp&a manager position at a company that has a good grad trainee program, should I go for that program or do a few years in a big 4 and switch after 3-5 years?
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes a Big 4 background can potentially help, though the company’s graduate program maybe a better bet. I’d go for that program and ask for a role in that division after training. Of course, big 4 can potentially provide you training that is useful for FP&A though I think trainee program is a faster route, especially if you know you want to work for that particular company’s FPA division

      1. Hi Thibaut,

        I agree with Nicole here. If you want to become a Controller then Big 4 or graduate program will get you there in the same time frame. Actually big 4 is better because you’ll have less “company specific” expertise so moving to another firm will be easier.

        If you target FP&A though, a grad program is better. FP&A jobs can be filled in from the outside but that’s really the core corporate finance function and companies like to hire internally for this.

        Hope that helps,
        Nicolas

        1. That definitely helps. Thank you.
          I’ve been told that people with a few years of experience in Big 4 auditing tend to be approached by recruiters quite often. So, that mostly has to do with positions in financial accounting, rather than management accounting?
          In general, if you want to work at a normal company, it’s probably better to look at what the companies you are interested in have to offer in terms of “fast track” positions rather than spend a few years in a Big 4 and then make a move?
          Thanks anyway for your time and advice!
          Cheers

          1. Big 4 people get a lot of attention yes because it’s a transition industry so headhunters know most of them are going to get out sooner or later. And yes the natural fit is financial accounting.

            Fast track positions in “normal” companies are equivalent to Big 4 in terms of career progression with usually a more interesting job but less flexibility to change companies.

  76. Hey brian,

    I’m still going through IB recruiting w no offer (but still interviews to go) but an internship offer with a F100 company w/ a top post-grad rotational program (tech). the internship is in treasury, however, I was told if I had a passion for another department I may be able to switch. My ultimate goal is 1. apply to ibanks next year if this year doesn’t work out 2. get into corporate development. With these goals in mind, would a switch to a different department be more beneficial and which department would be optimal.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes if you can switch into Corporate Development at the company this will help you applications to banks

  77. Hi! Terrific article.

    I am soon to start at the big 4 in the UK (Audit), and have a few questions if you wouldn’t mind! My goal is to hit VP level of a mid- large company by the age of 32, I am currently 20.

    From the big 4, what is the fastest route to attain my goal of reaching VP, CFO. When should I leave the big 4. From what I have heard the fastest route is leaving as a manager to go for a controller role, then work up?

    I really don’t mind what job i have to do within corporate finance as long as it all sounds good! I just want to be high up and earn a lot! :)

    Do you think my goal is realistic?

    Thanks a lot!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      It is challenging to answer your questions because there are too many factors at play. I think you will find this article useful: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/myth-career-path/

  78. Again, excellent article.
    One potentially (dumb) question: At my firm (financial services F500), we do have a couple of “financial analysts” roles which do not seem to be attached to treasury, controllership, or other “accounting” type of role.

    What is this role and how do you get to it?
    Im pretty sure they arent in corporate development either…They do really finance specialized things from what I hear, including valuations through DCF, scenario analysis, sensitivity analysis, etc.

    Reason being I am quite interested in that type of role and less in the accounting part.

    1. Hi Nicolas,

      I didn’t mention those because it really depends on the company. Sometimes they report directly to the CFO or even the CEO and run analysis, stress test and valuations if there’s an acquisition.

      They can also be “marketing analysts” between finance and marketing.

      The thing is that most of the time it’s impossible to break into those roles directly since they are quite senior. You need to do something relevant for a few years (internal M&A, FP&A) and then you can apply internally.

      Hope that helps!
      Nicolas

      1. “Sometimes they report directly to the CFO or even the CEO and run analysis, stress test and valuations if there’s an acquisition.”

        You nailed it. It’s exactly like that at my firm and I was truly wondering how these elusive analysts got to where they were.

        They often seem to be one man team that partner with a part of the business to support them, they fall under a senior “career band” and report to higher echelon.

        Interesting…
        I believe I will then go into FP&A as the M&A scene (here in London) is highly competitive/saturated and try to naviguate myself to that level.

        This was very helpful.
        Nicolas

        1. That sounds like a plan.
          Best of luck with FP&A, take a look at the week in the life of a FP&A manager before you make the move (https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-finance-fpa-manager-week-in-life/)!
          Nicolas

          1. Nicolas,
            You identify a great point. If Nicolas and others are looking for 9-5, then they must identify if they really want any leadership role. FP&A poses a route to influence, plan & monitor the primary strategic objectives – certainly an important input to leadership. The article highlighted is during the 3 year Strategic Planning product production which should certainly be a high operational tempo period. One should find themselves thrilled to be a part, or look somewhere else. What a great training ground to witness CxO leadership and decisions in preparation for more responsibility – and then the justified compensation.
            My 2 cents…

          2. Hi Jeff,

            Thanks a lot for your comment. This is exactly what I meant. Sometimes at the analyst level it’s a lot of grunt work but at the end of the day you see some very interesting stuff…sitting with CFOs to see how they pitch to F500 CEOs for instance.

        2. Avatar
          BobLeSponge

          Hi, Nicolas, Brian!

          Quite old topic but I hope you check it occasionally.

          This may sound ridiculous but I was reading the post just to identify myself in the FP&A world (any thoughts, anyone?).

          I am the type of analyst you mentioned so I can share I couple of thoughts on what my team does and how to get there.

          So yes, we are performing valuations regarding to organic and inorganic growth (much less inorganic since we have saparate cor.dev team). And yes, this valuations include DCF, sensitivity analysis, some sorts of RM and decision making (think monte carlo). We report directly to CFO but we a sort of… pretty much separated from “traditional finance” guys so most of our work is “just approved” by CFO but reported to whole senior management.

          My title is Sr investment analyst and I think it’s qute similar to what CapEx analysts do.
          My team consists of quite few analysts with finance background as most appreciated is engineering or mixed finance-engineering

          Please do not hesitate to ask futher questions and yep, guys, sorry for my English.

          1. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Thanks for your input!

  79. Avatar
    Chelsea B.

    Hi Nicolas,

    This article was very informative. Thank you for explaining FP&A.

    I’m currently a senior finance major at the University of Houston. I am really interested in FP&A. I’ve talked to a few companies at career fairs and academic/career advisors at school, and they told me that if I want a career in corporate finance that I would need to take a couple of accounting courses in addition to my finance courses. They said that I would need to take up to Intermediate Accounting I. Would that be enough to get my foot in the door for this career path?

    1. Hi Chelsea,

      I’m glad you liked it.

      Accounting is definitely something you want to study before applying for Corporate Finance. First because it’s going to be useful, but also because it shows commitment.

      It’s not enough to get your foot in the door though because 90% of the candidates will have some kind of accounting classes. But that’s a good start!

  80. Avatar
    Matt Dalton

    Hi Nicolas,

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this article which gave me a greater perspective into how the corporate ladder is created. I am currently 18 and pursuing my Business Admin. degree with a concentration in finance at USC’s Marshall. As I move forward with a passion in finance, I am constantly searching Forbes/BussinessWeek for an articles that can explain to me how to break into a F500/F100 company out of college, and climb my way to my dream of becoming a CFO. I greatly appreciate you taking the time to write this article, it was exactly what I have been searching for.

    Best,

    Matt Dalton

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Matt, thank you very much for your comment and I’m glad you find our article useful.

    2. Hi Matt,

      Thanks a lot for your comment. If you are 18 and reading this I can at least tell you that you are in advance on me when I was 18.

      Nicolas

  81. Hi all,
    Extremely good article and especially relevant for me as I am in the career move stage.

    I have a straightforward question which I feel did not get answered here.

    Concretly: What do you do EXACTLY in a FP&A, or controllership, or other role?
    I mean the article talked about the concepts, which I understand. But I mean on a granular day to day basis. What does an analyst do?

    How is the 9-5 spent, how is the week spent?
    Would you say its 95% excel, business objects, etc? If yes what do YOU DO in those programs exactly?

    Would love to hear at granular level an average example of this.

    Also as a bonus question: Same as above for the Tax team. What do they do on a REAL day to day basis. As a sales/marketing kind of guy, it all seems like things someone could complete in a week of hard work, so am really curious what is done over an entire year in these roles.

    Many thanks guys…
    I could ask my finance department but afraid to intrude :)

  82. Avatar
    shawn meme

    I just got out of the military and am trying to break into IB or corporate finance but the downtown area of ft lauderdale isn’t exactly known for finance I would like to start networking as soon as possible before I start school but can’t seem to find potential contacts any help ??

  83. First of all thanks for this extremely helpful article. It’s definitely a field I want to break into, but until not too long ago, I’ve been only focused on IB that I don’t even have a clear idea of how to break into these different finance careers. How would you describe the interview/recruiting process for corporate finance jobs? What kind of questions would I be asked and how will the studying I did for IB help for those interviews?

    Additionally, I’ve seen websites similar to yours that focus on S&T, IBD, consulting, etc and give articles/tips about those careers. Do you happen to know any helpful websites or sources for corporate finance?

    Thanks.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You may find these articles interesting to you too:
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-finance-fpa-manager-week-in-life/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-recruiting/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-on-the-job/

      In terms of questions, I think you’ll have to focus on why you want to make the switch, demonstrate your finance skills as well as knowledge of the industry the company is in. I’m pretty sure they’ll ask you questions like why are you interested in this role, your strengths, weaknesses, your finance skills etc. The studying in IB may help if they ask you technical questions.

      I’m not sure of other resources, perhaps readers may have suggestions!

  84. Avatar
    CigarXO

    Tom:
    Great summary of career fields in CFO/Finance progression – every college should utilize it to help accounting/finance/generalist in career goals as most regions of the country do not offer opportunity to go IB, PE/VC, or high-glamour Wall Street roles. I wish I’d found it before months of trying to reverse-engineer career paths from jobsite titles.

    I’m a mid-career sales professional and military veteran conducting a career pivot. I just finished a top 10 MBA, but did not walk out of Corp Finance, Managerial Accounting or FP&A with the clarity you paint here. Yet, it’s a must to navigate discussions with hiring managers and recruiters who’s first question is “What do you want to do?”

    In this, I’ll ask a similar question someone else posed – aligning personality & skills/experience with Finance. If my strengths lie in planning, reporting, problem-solving and people/staff management?

    Thanks,

    CigarXO

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      You may find ww.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-finance-fpa-manager-week-in-life/ interesting

  85. Thanks so much for this informative article. I’m a rising junior, and I’ve enjoyed studying finance at school and wanted a quantitative job but I’ve been hesitating to consider IB because I felt that it didn’t really match my personality. You’ve said that banking gives you a lot of exist opportunities and gets you into top MBA programs, and that’s part of the reason I looked into banking as well.

    Back to the point – Is it normal for analysts in corp fi roles to leave after 2-3 years to get an MBA (like in banking)? And I’ve heard about some companies that actually discourage their employees from leaving for b-school – how true is this for corporate finance roles in fortune 50 companies?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, quite a few analysts go back to do the MBA. I’m sure some companies discourage employees from leaving for b-school if they want them to stay on. Readers may have more insights on this front.

  86. Hi,

    I have been thinking the corporate finance route for some time now as my ideal pathway. I in fact will be attending a top grad school this fall for a Masters tn Accounting to pursue that route. I have since given IB some thought (after getting into top school I realized it opened other recruiting doors) and appreciate this article’s clarity for re-grounding me! I am looking at Big 4 Audit opportunities, as well as financial rotational programs at F500 companies. Any insight as to which might be more appropriate to my career? Appreciate any feedback!

    1. If your ultimate goal is to get into corporate finance. ie the FP&A Route, than big 4 auditing is the better place to start – many more exit opportunities. UNLESS you know that you want to do FP&A style work specifically for one firm and start with them in a rotational program. Also if you ever want to make it to CFO level than people are probably going to want someone with some external audit experience, preferably big 4. So probably do big 4. You’re at a masters of accounting program after all. I am a rotational development program graduate but in hindsight would have more strongly considered big 4. More options for your career long term.

      1. Interesting. Really appreciate the insight. Does your opinion hold true even if I were able to get a Rotational Development Program job in one of the premier programs – say GE or Johnson and Johnson?

        Continued Thanks!
        DH

        1. Even if I did get an offer from one of those programs, I would not want to lock myself into a specific company – still would like decent mobility/exit ops.

      2. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Jim, thanks for your input!

  87. Great article, and definitely one that resonates with me. I have a relatively niche question but that might be of interest. I am currently in the corporate finance division (corporate finance to be taken as it is in this article) of a bulge bracket IB in London, but would be looking to move to the investment banking teams, in partiuclar DCM. What are your initial thoughts? Is this possible?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Moving from banking to DCM – yes it is possible you just need to demonstrate your knowledge of debt products, the capital markets and why you want to move

  88. Since corporate finance largely consists of accounting roles, can you provide some distinction between “having a career in corporate finance” and “a career in private accounting?” Right now, it seems to me that the career descriptions are extremely similar, except that corporate finance may be a little broader, and accounting also encompasses public accounting and auditing.

    Also, how does corporate finance differ from corporate development?

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      In corporate finance, you’ll be focused on transactions and be very involved in the pitching process – drafting presentations, building models and attending client meetings. I think the two are actually pretty different, and work in corporate finance will be a lot more faster paced and hours will be longer
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-analyst-life-worst-day/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/week-in-life-investment-banking-analyst-sunday-monday/

      In corporate development, you work for a corporate, focus on M&A and acquiring other companies as well as setting up joint venture deals. You’ll still be doing M&A in corporate finance (for a bank), but you’ll be working for a bank so you will be focused on helping clients like a corporate make acquisition decisions
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-recruiting/
      https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/corporate-development-on-the-job/

      1. Thanks. But I was more wondering about corporate finance jobs at a company (hence the title of this article “Corporate Finance Jobs Hierarchy at a Fortune 500 Company”), not corporate finance as in investment banking roles. Could you make the distinction between corporate finance and corporate development at normal company?

        1. Hi Bryan,

          I’ve spent some time in many “private accounting” roles and now work in corporate finance or FP&A, both at a F100 company. The roles are very different – FP&A is very much as described in the article and you’re essentially responsible for understanding everything about one or more of the companies businesses P&L. Forecast, budget, variance analysis, and “steering” the business. You need to understand accounting concepts but its not really an “accounting” role to be honest. (However be prepared for some engineers and PhDs to roll everything in this article into “accounting”).

          Private accounting or corporate accounting is more high level, responsible for the balance sheet for a whole region, you will be the main point of contact with external auditors come year end, hence this area attracts a lot of ex-big4 ppl.

          Corporate development will be internal M&A for a company and I’m sure the experience there can vary wildly from company to company and industry to industry.

          1. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Jim, thanks for your detailed response and insights. Greatly appreciate your support of M&I.

          2. Thanks so much! To me, it sounds like your FP&A role deals much with the topics in managerial accounting. Is it alright to link together FP&A with managerial accounting, or is FP&A broader than that?

            Furthermore, would it be ok to group together your definition of private accounting with financial accounting?
            (I’m still a student in school)

          3. Hi Bryan,

            Yes, if you were to try and map your courses to the lines of work described in this article.

            Financial Accounting would most closely resemble Private/Corporate Accounting.

            Managerial Accounting would most closely resemble FP&A style work.

            As with most courses though, they will typically cover more material with less depth than you would find in an actual FP&A role.

            Especially as the firms get larger, each FP&A Analyst or Private Accountant can become more specialized in what they’re doing.

            As an example, you could work for one business, of one division, of a large company, focus on one of their 2 main products and work with sales, manufacturing, engineering, and capital spending groups related to that one product to create, analyze, and understand that specific products P&L forecast (and understand deviations from forecast, etc).

            Or you could perform FP&A duties for a whole region (i.e. North America) for a large firm, and have 6 or 7 businesses that operate in that region “roll up” their forecasts and analysis to you so that you can perform FP&A work for the region as a whole.

            It really depends on the layout of the organization, it’s size, the industry, and what layout makes the most sense to help the businesses (revenue generating activities) make/steer/understand their business making decisions more effectively.

            Remember, in these roles, you’re “customers” are the internal management teams at your own firm. You don’t necessarily have external clients that you’re performing your work for. You aren’t making the firm money per say, just helping them to make it more efficiently or to save them money.

            It’s similar to how people in different industry groups for IB focus on different metrics and financial ratios for modeling and valuation – some mean more to certain industries and do a better job of telling the story of the businesses. It’s the same concept in FP&A roles, and that’s why they can be very different and varied depending on the firm itself or your role within the firm.

            Private Accounting work can get slightly varied and detailed too, but you find less variance here because this area is tied so closely to regulations and external reporting (especially if you’re working for a company that is publicly traded).

          4. Avatar
            M&I - Nicole

            Thanks for your detailed input!

        2. Hi Bryan,

          I’ve spent some time in many “private accounting” roles and now work in corporate finance or FP&A, both at a F100 company. The roles are very different – FP&A is very much as described in the article and you’re essentially responsible for understanding everything about one or more of the companies businesses P&L. Forecast, budget, variance analysis, and “steering” the business. You need to understand accounting concepts but its not really an “accounting” role to be honest. (However be prepared for some engineers and PhDs to roll everything in this article into “accounting”).

          Private accounting or corporate accounting is more high level, responsible for the balance sheet for a whole region, you will be the main point of contact with external auditors come year end, hence this area attracts a lot of ex-big4 ppl.

          Corporate development will be internal M&A for a company and I’m sure the experience there can vary wildly from company to company and industry to industry.

        3. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks for clarifying. I think Jim has already answered your question, and I don’t have anything to add to that. Please let us know if you have other questions though.

  89. Preface: I am a tech marketer but a recovering accountant. I do not understand an iota why in a company exit CFO´s are so highly compensated. In the last exit I was a part of, the CFO and head of sales each made seven figs on a $100M+ deal and no one else made any real money… CFOs I have seen do not add value commensurate with this kind of payout.

  90. Nicolas / Brian,

    Thanks for the great article! I have a quick question. In a public company, what does the CFO usually care about the most when making decisions that will impact the Company’s forecast? NI, EPS, FCF, EBITDA?

    Thanks!

    1. Net Income and EPS are most important because public company investors pay so much attention to EPS and P/E, even though they’re actually borderline irrelevant in my opinion (due to tax rates, one-time charges, capital structure, etc.).

  91. Thank you very much for this article, it is nice to finally see the finance division getting some recognition! I am currently on one of the aforementioned finance rotation schemes at a BB IB in London, and this has certainly shed some light on future options for me.
    My question would be whether working in this role in a bank would make it any more likely to transfer to an IB role? And given the skillsets in the FP&A teams whether there would be a particular IB role that would suit more than others? I am thinking in particular about equity research, potentially sales.
    Thanks,
    Tom

    1. I think it would be relatively tough to move straight into IB at the same bank because the skill sets are somewhat different, though it is possible. You would probably have the most luck with research because you’re creating projections and analyzing the internal workings of companies in both cases.

  92. Hi Nicolas,

    I am an MBA/MSF candidate at Boston College (expected May 2013 graduation) in corporate finance that is looking to transition to private equity. First, I wanted to let you know that this is by far the most helpful article I have read at outlining potential exit ops for corporate finance (and I’ve read, A LOT). Most articles about transitioning to PE or IB gloss over the corporate finance transition as one lump group of people, if even addressing them at all (which is annoying but admittedly somewhat fair since there are only a few of us trying to make the jump).

    Anyway, aside from letting you know I appreciate the article, I am also wondering if you have any advice on how to make the jump. As I stated, I am a MBA/MSF candidate for 2013. I am doing school part time, however, and I currently work in the controllership (which is also a very heavy FPA role) of a $3B privately held company in the consumer electronics/home audio space in MA as the Sr. Financial Analyst for a large operating division. My prior work experience includes 2 years in FP&A at a high growth consumer electronics/home audio company (~100% YoY from $80M to $350M while I was there) that got $150M in PE funding and was headed for exit when I left.

    I will spare you the generic “how difficult will it be to transition to PE” question, because I know it will be difficult and I’d rather just get specific. My thought is that if I target PE funds investing in consumer electronics companies, I may have a shot, given my background. Is this a reasonable expectation?

    Further, in your article, you say that Mgmt/Operational Consulting may also be a viable option for someone coming from the Controllership or corporate in general. My end goal is PE, so might a more logical step be mgmt/operational consulting -> PE?

    There are also treasury roles that I’ve thought about pursuing. Would it make more sense to work in the treasury for a year or so, then work to move into PE?

    Apologize for the long email, but wanted to cover all the bases. Overall, the most direct and immediate path to PE is what I’m looking for… Appreciate your thoughts.

    Regards,
    Pete

    1. Yes, you can have a shot if you target the right funds, network your but off, and attempt to get some time of part-time / unpaid PE internship first.

      Consulting to PE is possible but it wouldn’t help you much unless you get into one of the top 3 consulting firms. Do not think treasury would help much more either.

  93. Wonderful article; thanks Nicolas /Brian!
    It is great to find some material on Corporate Finance @ M&I. Hopefully this shall mark the beginning of more to come!

    Personally, I am probably not cut out for IB (maybe PE in later years if I play the cards right). However, at some point in time, I came to M&I and have been hooked for the sheer No BS Candidness and depth of its content–and for that, I have always found it offer some takeaways that could be applied to other professional scenarios as well! So it is only exciting to learn of such new content being developed in topics that are (further) aligned with one’s professional interests!

    Now, only recently did it finally dawn upon me that Management Accounting (MA) is what I should have been doing all this while, given my interests+competencies. So wish me luck getting into FP&A folks!

    A point that I would like to stress upon in terms of MA is that if you really want to enjoy and perform in that role, it seems imperative that you do possess good people skills and inquisitiveness. This is because, a lot times, when it comes to addressing those variances, you need to consult as well as work with people from across divisions and spheres. This is when the role–in many a organizations, esp. in European ones–treads on borderline internal consulting for performance (of sorts). So communication as well as strategic management skills are important–and not from networking and getting-ahead perspective alone. (Or at least so is my understanding!)

    Cheers!

    1. Thanks for adding that, I definitely agree that the people skills are important even in MA. Good luck!

  94. First of all, really great article – thanks for writing about corp fin!

    Just a quick question, but would the corporate finance division of a large investment bank have jobs/roles that basically fall under the same categories? Just curious since I’ve seen a number of finance rotational programs (like at JPM and Citi) that seem to be very similar to a lot of F500 FLDP programs.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      The programs are probably structured a bit differently since F500 programs are generally not finance-focused.

    2. Just to add to that: yes, large banks do have these roles as well, but the focus is probably a little more on Treasury since liquidity and capital ratios are so important for banks.

      Not sure how the pay would compare, but it’s probably about the same; the type of work might be different because of the Treasury focus, though.

      1. Thanks a lot!
        From what I’ve seen (only a couple of 1st year analyst salaries) the pay seems similar. Around 60k first year with a 10k signing bonus. Not sure about actual year end bonus though.

  95. 60 hours a week is definitely too high, certainly from my experience working for one of the big oil & gas majors. almost no one works a consistent 60, and the hours are fairly even across the different groups. in fact, the accountants are more likely to stay late due to month ends etc. though they’re schedule is extremely predictable.

    in the uk at least, you’re looking at $40-55k for true entry level roles

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input!

  96. Ok makes sense, the program I am looking at is entry level FA position with a F500 and there is the option to join FP&A right out of undergrad as well as other areas of corporate/functional finance. Salary is right around what you mentioned.

  97. Great article! I was wondering about the FP&A salary as it seems a tad bit high than what I have encountered in the recruiting process for F500s out of undergrad. It seems you are typically starting off at 50-55k as a financial analyst in F500 regardless of department. If you are in tech or health care you can earn 60-70k. From what I’ve seen though entry level FP&A positions were paid as much as the other functional finance and corporate finance positions to start.

    1. After a rotational program (1.5 yrs) with same company: FP&A analyst salary of 68k with 8% – 12% of annual salary as bonus (mixture of companies and your personal performance). F500 in chemical industry.

      So technically not entry level – although it’s difficult to get into F100/F500 companies FP&A departments as an analyst straight out of undergrad, or at least these rotational programs seem to be a common method.

      For the program right out of school though, it was 55k and 5k signing bonus with same 8% – 12% of annual salary as bonus.

      Hope that sheds some light.

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for sharing!

    2. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Thanks for your input!

  98. Avatar
    MBA Student-Canada

    First of all, thanks for the AMAZING article. Only last year, I came into the MBA program with the “IB or bust” attitude. It was also when I started following the articles published on your website. IB certainly is “sexy”, but thanks to the articles on this website coupled with a little introspection, eventually I was able to realize that I just was not cut out for the IB world. The next step was to figure out how I could integrate my accounting skills with the MBA to make it “big”. This article is pretty much confirms what I found through my own research. I just wanted to throw in few add-ons to this topic from a Canadian perspective. My observations indicate that the slow professional growth in corporate finance (specially in Canada) is partly/mostly due to the slow turnover rate in the departments themselves. People who get into corporate finance usually do not come in with an aim of retiring by 35. They are more in the “marathon” mindset and keeps chipping away at it till they reach the top. However, as the article mentions lateral movements do tend to happen but not usually after reaching a mid-management level. Also the latest trends in FP&A recruitment has been greater emphasis on database skills (MS Access, SQL etc.) and familiarity with well-known ERPs in the market, SAP to be more specific. To put it in a nutshell, nowadays just knowing accounting (or having a designation CA/CPA/CMA) isn’t usually good enough. Currently accounting knowledge is treated more like a basic requirement and then the odds for getting hired gets reduced with additional software skills and familiarity with the specific industry. Everything said, knowing the “right” people still helps more than anything else!

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes networking is very important. Thanks for your input!

    2. Everything you mentioned is spot on!! I started my Mba program with the IB or BUST attitude. After getting rejected from GS and other banks.. I sort of lost hope. But oddly, I worked within Finance in internal audit and corporate compliance for my Mba internship at a tech company. Then I targeted corporate finance positions and received an offer for a corporate finance analyst position. During all my interviews, they did focus on databases and softwares, and did not even ask one technical accounting question. I think if you have the degree and go to a good school, they will just assume that you know the stuff.

      1. Avatar
        M&I - Nicole

        Thanks for your input!

  99. Hi, Sorry this comment is a little off topic; but i was wondering of your say regarding FT IB recruiting from undergrad at this time. Do you think its too late to look around for such opportunities or there is still a chance of landing a gig? I know some BB are not recruiting, but i was wondering what you think about this and what to focus on at this time. I did a summer at a BB bank of over the summer and graduating next year.

    Thanks for the great articles,

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Maybe a bit too late for some deadlines if you are a senior but you can still network and see if something out there fits you.

  100. Hi Brian,
    1ST of all youre doin such a good job with this website- thanks a million.
    my major fear is case studies during interviews, I’d lyk you to do case studies for entry level IB interviews. I’d like you to give examples or even exercises we r likely to meet during interviews…

    Regards

    1. If you sign up for the interview guide, you’ll receive several examples of case study questions via email. Also, in the modeling courses we provide several case study bonuses that will be useful for more modeling-intensive tests.

  101. Very interesting topic. What ib role would you suggest for a personality like ; less talkative, less effective in client meetings ; but with immense drive to succeed.

    1. For someone more introverted I’d go for things like Equity Research or Risk Management. Corporate Finance could also be a good fit.

      I wouldn’t limit myself to IB if I were you. Keep your options open and find a job that suits your personality.

  102. Hi Nicolas,
    Very informative article.
    Could you “paint” something similar for the Risk Management world. What’s the hierarchy? possibility to jump into other industries?

    1. Hi Ilir,

      Risk is a bit different since there are not as many functions inside the department. It’s harder to jump around jobs and companies because you have more of an “expert” profile.

      Depending on your specialty you could move to a HF but consulting/IB would be a lot harder.

      The hierarchy would be pretty similar with a CRO on top instead of a CFO.

      If you have any specific question let me know but I’m not a big risk specialist!

      Nicolas

  103. A lot of members on WSO talk about Corp Fin and Corp Dev. What exactly is the difference, will you do an article on Corp Dev?

      1. Thanks Brian for sharing the links.

        In a nutshell:
        Corp Dev= Internal M&A
        Corp Finance= Everything in this article: financial planning, controllership, treasury

  104. I worked in FP&A for 3 years before getting my MBA and moving into strategy/business development.

    I can attest that everything in this article is almost 100% spot on with my experience.

    I would disagree that with exit opps numbers though. I’m speculating they are much, much lower – particularly for banking and consulting.

    Also, one big thing the article fails to note: to move up in corporate finance is an unbelievably slow process.

    When businesses grow, they typically ramp up sales, operations (i.e. “line” roles), and maybe marketing. As a result junior people can potentially move up fast as the business grows just because they were there first and they know the game.

    In a finance group, as the business grows, you just increase the number of zeros to the numbers in your spreadsheets, not headcount. There is more paperwork, but you hire A/P and A/R clerks to handle that. Bottom line — you won’t get to participate in the companies growth the same as people in the business units.

    Ultimately, you will be waiting in line for the people above you to burn out, retire, or die before you are promoted. If you’re lucky there will be a regime change (heads roll, especially senior people) and you can align yourself with the new CFO and make a big jump (which is how I became an FP&A manager) — in the end it was just too much of a grind. Waiting 10, 15, 20 years to become a CFO — not for me.

    My advice — do it for three years MAX learn the game and bail. The skills you learn will be valuable. Thinking like an analyst is a great skill to have in “line” roles if you can combine it with people skills, and domain knowledge.

    If you’re going to shoot for CFO prepare to be between 45 and 52 before you get the title (unless you’re at a start-up). Which, brings up another point — most continuity committees have specific age ranges they look for in CFOs along with experience. Therefore, no matter how good you are — you’ve got almost zero chance of becoming a CFO unless you meet “The Criteria” (age 45-52, CPA, MBA, 20-30 years experience, previous CFO experience, Sarbanes Oxley, Big 4 pedigree, transaction experience, … good credit, a wife, two kids)

    1. Hi George,

      Thanks a lot for your very detailed comment.

      I’m glad we agree on most of the points.

      Regarding the progression in Corporate Finance though I think it heavily depends on the company. Yes it can be painfully long but in some companies which have accelerated programs for top performers some CFOs are as young as 30-35 and earns above $300k (some even get $1MM or more). Sure, they’re not CFOs of the biggest divisions but it’s possible.

      You just have to find a company that’s the right fit for you in term of career expectations.

    2. Awesome, thanks for adding all that and glad to hear that the article is accurate for the most part.

      1. Fantastic article and responses to questions. It’s very refreshing to hear all of this explained in one comprehensive article, even though I work in FP&A.

        I agree with both the original comment and response well.

        My experience as an FP&A analyst would align more closely with George’s experience, but as Nicolas mentioned, it could be very dependent on the specific company.

        1. Avatar
          M&I - Nicole

          Thanks for your input Jim!

    3. Thanks Jim very insightful,

      My only question to Nicolas and the others is, If you have IB experience: 1 year and 3 years FP&A, is it easier to switch to PE or Project Finance afterwards. Or you still have to do some learning?

  105. Great article! I been looking to read one of these! I have a few questions in regards to entering the field:

    1) How does one break into this field, since most of the job postings I see requires 3-5 years of “financial analysis experience”?

    2) Would starting in private accounting, and moving into a FP&A role be doable? Or would working in public accounting and getting the CPA be the best path?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi KL,

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      1) Of course they require 3-5 years of previous experience in the field. It’s a good way to filter people + you can make candidates feel guilty during the job interview and negotiate the salary down. So apply anyway, if you have a finance/accounting degree and some relevant experience you’ll be considered. Rotational graduate programs are also a good way to break in if you can get a good one.

      2) Public accounting would definitely work best: more exposure, more stimulating environment. If you do private accounting, people will tag you as “the accountant” during interviews and as I describe in the article, pure “private” accounting is another world…

      Hope that helps,
      Nicolas

      1. KL and Nicolas,

        Very accurate response. I started in a rotational program at a F100 manufacturing firm out of undergrad geared towards “private accounting” but I networked my way into a FP&A analyst role out of the program, because you most certainly do get titled the “accountant” in those roles if you stay there. So KL yes it’s very doable to make the move.

        Also, my company pushed the CPA during the program so I did that as well. Although, now that I’m in FP&A and Corp. Finance it’s not much more than a feather in the cap, oh well.

        Thanks again for a great article.

        1. Oh also, almost all the positions in our Corp. Accounting department do prefer Big 4 Public Accounting experience to reiterate Nicolas’ point. So that is just something to keep in mind. But if FP&A is the goal, I would just go straight for that from Big 4.

  106. Great article, but I’d like to know where corporate strategy and where I am, investor relations could go. Are there any IB exit opportunities in your experience?

    1. Hi Nick,

      Corporate Strategy is big for consulting, because that’s what it is: internal consulting. If you happened to work on M&A deals as part of the external growth than IB is also on the table.

      I must admit I don’t know much about investor relations though. Could be interesting because you have the shareholders perspective and probably are a pro at creating pitches etc. Depends a lot of your orientation, finance vs PR, I’d say.

  107. Another great article! Thank you for sharing.

    Brian, how transferrable are the technical skills from corporate finance to investment banking and/or PE?

    Is it easy to leverage learned/studied excel modelling to land IB/PE offers?

    1. The skills are somewhat transferable but not especially so because you don’t work on deals in the same way in corporate finance (corporate development is different and you do work on M&A deals there). So I think in general, it would be fairly difficult to switch over directly without gaining deal experience or studying on your own first. The skill set is probably more relevant for PE since a deeper operational understanding of companies can be essential there depending on the type of fund.

      1. Cheers, Brian

  108. Loved the article, guys – thanks Brian, I’ve been hoping for a primer on corporate finance!

    Nicolas, would you mind telling us the likely career progression in terms of years worked? For example, how long does it take for an entry-level FP&A analyst to become a senior FP&A analyst?

    Also, does promotion at any level require business school? And does one have to work at one company their whole career? Or do, say, good senior treasury analysts get poached to become the head treasurer by other firms? Lastly, is there mobility between these three divisions?

    1. Hi Jay,

      There’s a lot of mobility between the divisions (Treasury, FP&A, Controllership) which means you do 2 years as a FP&A analyst, then become a senior analyst in Controllership, then come back to FP&A as a Manager etc. If the company is big enough you can move every two or three years and stay at the same company for 20 years. Very few people switch firms every 2 years because your internal network is the most important factor for your career.

      In terms of progression, I’d say 2/3 years to become a senior analyst, then another 3/4 to become a manager and then 4/5 at least to become a VP/CFO. It varies a lot depending on companies though.

      Hope that helps,
      Nicolas

  109. Great article. I just accepted an offer in corporate finance with a large consulting firm doing internal controls and P&L. Since I have a corporate finance role in consulting and not banking, will that greatly change my exit opportunities as well as my path up the corporate ladder?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The article wasn’t about Corporate Finance in a bank, it’s about Corporate Finance anywhere (industrial companies, services companies…)

      So yes, exit opportunities are pretty much the same if you’re doing Consulting. The only difference between the industries would be that if a lot of Mergers are going on and you’re involved in the process, you’d get a better shot at M&A/PE.

      Good luck with your new job!

  110. I currently work as an analyst in FP&A and I think people would enjoy an article on how exactly to “exit” into IB/PE/VC. How easy is it to get into top 10 MBA with a corp fin job (Compared with an IB analyst)?

    1. Thanks for your suggestion, I’ll see if we can cover that in the future. I think you would still have a good shot at top 10 MBA programs but it would be significantly harder to get into IB/PE without prior transactional experience, VC would probably be more do-able.

      1. Hey Mike,

        Thanks for the idea. It’s a tough subject since it’s definitely not the biggest “exit” in Corporate Finance but I like the challenge.

        Regarding MBAs this is definitely possible if you were a good performer and worked on interesting projects. It all comes down on how you sell it.

        Nicolas

  111. That was a great article. Could you also share an article about the Corp Finance department in a bank?

    1. Thanks! I’ll speak with Nicolas and see if we can cover that in the future.

      1. Hey Mayank,

        That’s a great idea thank you. This is definitely going on my “to write” list.

        Nicolas

  112. Great article! Nicolas, how would someone from an engineering background be able to make a switch to a corporate finance role?

    1. Nicolas may drop by later to answer that one, but I think he would probably say, “Focus on tech or engineering companies that match your background and try to move into more of a product management / marketing role first and then move over from there.” But he’s the expert, so we’ll see what he says.

      1. Hey Nilay,

        Depends on plenty of parameters like which type of engineering etc. But in general if you want to make the switch like Brian said focus on products/fields/companies that you know because they match your background.

        If you want to make the move internally, get involved in cross-functional projects. FP&A is always looking for people in the different functions to design new models etc. If you are that “key” person, the useful contact, then they’ll start using you for bigger and bigger projects until you have a solid network in Corporate Finance.

        Hope that’s useful, if you give me more details I might be able to help more.

        1. I’m working as a process engineer in a refinery at a very reputable company in canada that specializes in plastics production. Is that better?

  113. As someone who has made the jump from BB investment banking analyst (with deal experience in LBOs, M&A, and capital markets products) to a hybrid role of FP&A, corp dev, and strategy associate, I can say with confidence that the financial data you attempt to interpret and model as a junior investment banker are extremely neatly packaged.

    If you think you’re “getting granular” just because you’re forecasting revenue growth and EBITDA margins for multiple business units and 100+ retail sites, think again. There’s a whole other world of complexity that determines what shows up in your historical P&L.

    1. Yup that is very true and a great point. If you want to see a horrible mess of financial data, you should see my own P&L for this site…

    2. This is so true. If you have a crazy FP&A manager, the granularity of the 5 years outlook model is going to be ridiculous (think “hours of training cost forecasted on an employee by employee basis”).

  114. Is the storm as awful as the media’s making it out to be?

    1. Where I am in NY currently, no, Internet and power are still working but everything is closed so it’s annoying. My answer may change if I wake up tomorrow and my building has collapsed.

    2. I spoke too soon – power out completely through much of the city and massive flooding downtown. Giant pain in the ass as I have to run all over to find open coffee shops now…

  115. Really glad you wrote this article. Corp Fi. gets a bad rap since it’s not as glamorous as ibanking but it’s still a very interesting and influencial field to be in.

    1. Thanks! Agree that it’s a great field to get into and a solid alternative to banking.

  116. Good article. I would like to see a bit more like this in the future. I have finally got into IB as an intern and suddenly realised there are more pathways I haven’t considered yet. Articles like this help a lot. Thanks.

    1. Hi Bruce,

      Thanks a lot for the comment, I’m glad you liked it.

      IB is very different from Corporate Finance that’s true. Some fields in finance are better depending on your personality I hope people will see that there are many paths to “greatness”!

      1. Since you touched on it, is there an article summarising all jobs in finance world and personalities suitable for each job?
        I see myself as passive, modest and merit-focused, but IB’ers are known to be aggressive right?

        1. Most IB’ers would be like that yes. I’m not saying that you can only succeed in IB by being a type A fresk but most people are.

          Your personality would be a good fit for an “expert” role in Controllership for instance where you are a specialist with a deep understanding of one area. People fighting for the CFO spots in Corporate Finance are pretty much like IB.

          I don’t remember any article like this on the website. Brian might drop by and give you a definite answer though. I’ll think about it!

        2. See: https://www.mergersandinquisitions.com/finance-investment-banking-jobs-tradeoffs/ for a summary of your options. If you search for other areas such as private banking some of them have been covered since then.

          1. Thanks. I read the article. It is very informative.
            To a very different direction, what do you think about academia? I used to think it’s a boring field and they are the people who couldn’t get an offer from top banks. But after reading so much about go-to monkey and repetitive pitch book I start to think again. What is academia like in an IBer’s eyes?

          2. It just depends on your personality. If you don’t mind slower-paced work and more bureaucracy it can be good, especially if you like teaching. Pay can actually be quite good for tenured professors, but tough to make it there.

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