Best stepping-stone from FP&A to PE?

I already feel like the answer is Corp Dev, but I want some different opinions.

I've been in accounting and FP&A for 10 years, and I'm trying to move towards M&A, ideally at a PE fund. I have decent modelling skills and I've worked with PE-backed companies through acquisitions, but not in a banking or Big 4 setting.

Which of these would be the most realistic target for my next role, with a long-term focus on PE?

  • Corporate Development in-house to build deal experience on the buy-side
  • IB, if I could still get in as an analyst at this late stage
  • Go straight for a PE fund as an analyst
  • Continue with FP&A to a more senior level i.e. commercial finance director, then move
  • Switch to Big 4 advisory or MBB consulting with a focus on M&A
  • Something else that I've missed out entirely?

Thanks guys.

Comments (6)

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
May 15, 2022 - 10:45am

How old are you? About 33-35?

Don't think PE will be an easy route for you, you're a bit too senior and this is a huge career shift. No one is going to take someone in their mid-30s as an analyst. IB may take you as an associate (would need to be either a boutique that doesn't have formal MBA recruiting, or network and see if you can find a associate 1 lateral at a MM). You could eventually get to LMM PE from there. I'm assuming you don't want to do MBA, but that's always a surefire route into BB/EB IB and UMM/MM PE from there.

If you just want to do M&A, consider corp dev for long-term. Might be possible to move to your internal corp dev and try to lateral up to a bigger company from there. But corp dev to PE is not a common road especially with your seniority/no prior IB or PE experience

  • Manager in CorpFin
May 15, 2022 - 11:06am

Nailed it, I'm 33, so although I'd be willing to take an analyst IB position I don't think it's likely. Is associate 1 ever possible without having experience and a deal sheet already?

Also how much of a sure thing is an MBA for IB or PE in London? If it was a guaranteed entry route I would definitely consider it, plus as a chartered accountant I'd get some module exemptions from some schools. 

Thanks for the honest reply! I know its not going to be an easy task, but it's got to be worth taking a shot.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
May 15, 2022 - 3:31pm

Don't know London market, but in the US it's very hard to go MBA -> PE without doing PE previously. M7, or top 15, MBA to IB is a total cakewalk with a finance background.

Associate 1 is like 6-12 months post MBA, so you wouldn't be too far behind your peers (most of whom will not have finance experience pre-MBA). If you networked a lot and spun your intimate knowledge of finance/modeling experience to make up for lack of deal experience, could be of interest to some IBs.

  • Associate 3 in Consulting
May 15, 2022 - 11:35am

OP do you mind sharing your salary? I'm very similar profile (& same age) - big 4, FP&A, consulting and now exiting back into FP&A/CorpFin manager role at £90k/25% bonus after failing to get into PE. Just wondering how potentially far behind I am. Seen some people my age be "CFO" of businesses with double- triple digit m revenue (£10-100m) ...personally aiming to get to Head of FP&A type position in 2-3 years at £120k type salary which I think is doable...

To answer your question I still get hit up for IB associate positions (decided to skip it cos the money for time commitment no longer makes sense at this age / stage in life) so I'd have to assume doing that for 2 or so years then jumping as investment manager at LMM/MM fund would work best and wouldn't be unreasonable, although no doubt you'd be working at same level with people who are 10 years younger. 

  • Manager in CorpFin
May 15, 2022 - 3:05pm

Well you're way ahead of me, but I've had an unusual career so it's probably not comparable! I was in minimum wage jobs until 25, put myself through college for CIMA, worked in accounting for a PLC then moved to Finance Business Partnering, so I've only just hit £70k/25% bonus (outside London).

I know all this makes IB/PE even more unlikely than someone with a Big 4 background which is why I'd be happy to drop to analyst to make it happen, if that was even possible. Otherwise climbing the ladder in commercial finance/FP&A is the backup plan, which I suppose isn't too bad considering where I started...

It blows my mind that people our age are already CFOs, every CFO I've worked with has been late 40s or 50s. 

I'm interested that you still get approached for IB associate roles, is that as a result of your consulting stint rather than FP&A work?

  • Associate 3 in PE - LBOs
May 15, 2022 - 10:16pm

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