by Nicolas Doumenc Comments (254)

The Corporate Finance Jobs Hierarchy at a Fortune 500 Company: From Analyst Monkey to CFO

Nicolas 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.

Human resources and corporate hierarchy concept - recruiter complete team by one leader person (successor, CEO) represented by icon.

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. “I have a job for you, it’s a Corporate Finance Analyst position at a Fortune 500 company, what do you say?”

You answer without even thinking: “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.

Here’s what you’re going to learn in this comprehensive breakdown of the Corporate Finance world:

  • How the finance department is organized at a Fortune 500 company
  • What you do on a daily basis in the Financial Planning 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 become a CFO and make it to the top of the ladder

CFO: The King of the Castle

Let’s start at the top. In every 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 a finance department 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 all that, most corporate finance departments at large companies are similar. Here’s who reports 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!

FP&A: Got Strategy?

FP&A stands for “Financial Planning and 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.

Working in FP&A involves 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 is one of the most strategic departments because you define where the company is going to be in five years.


3 or 4 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.


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 hours can jump up to the investment banking range – sometimes close to 100 hours of work per week.


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

  • Entry-Level Analyst: $60-70K USD base salary
  • Senior Analyst: $90-130K 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 range 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.

Controllership: Accounting Without a CPA?!

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 might do and what the CFO might do:

  • 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 your job since you’ll be providing auditors with the necessary accounting documents.


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 or 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.


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 and your salary will be very similar to the figures 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! (On the upside, at least you won’t have to deal with quite as many crazy people)

Treasury: The Most Important and Overlooked Department?

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 making 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.


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 you have to deal with liquidity ratios and heavy regulations.

But an industrial company would have a much smaller Treasury team, since managing their liquidity and cash positions isn’t quite as important.

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.


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 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 investment banking hours if you’re in “crisis mode.”


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 salaries reflect that fact. Here’s a run-down:

  • 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 department, and 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 pay depends so heavily on the size and health of the company – it’s the same issue you see with Managing Directors in investment banking earning relatively little all the way up to potentially millions per year.

What About the Rest of the Corporate Finance Department?

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 the finance department 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.

Ten years 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 now and for the foreseeable future, strong controllership skills are 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… as long as you get everyone there to like you.

What About the Exit Opps?!!!

There’s a lot of “controversy” over exit opportunities within corporate finance. Here’s the rough breakdown of where people go afterward, based on what I’ve seen in real life:

  • 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 actually model revenue and expenses for a company – you’ll be much more grounded in reality than bankers who have never actually 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?

I hope you enjoyed your tour in the world of corporate finance, and that you no longer think of it like the back office – where front office careers go to die – anymore.

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

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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  1. 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.

  2. 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).

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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?


      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?

  11. 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.


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

  12. 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.

  13. Johnny Nygren


    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?


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

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


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

  15. 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?

  16. 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.

  17. 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.).

  18. 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.

  19. 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.”

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1. It will make a marginal difference.

  23. 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.


    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.

  24. 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?


    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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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).

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

    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).

  30. 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.

  31. Tyrone Thorpe

    Thank you for giving great insights into this issue.

    1. M&I - Nicole

      You’re welcome.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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

    1. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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. 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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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. 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.

  40. 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!

  41. 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!

  42. 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.

  43. 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

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

  44. 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.

  45. 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. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

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