Q&A - Big4 Accountant to PE Corp Dev Team

Not the typical finance path but I think it can be relevant here in the PE forum and a unique example of how a career can progress. Still figuring out what I would like to do in the very long term, but the near term is looking good so far! Ask away here or feel free to PM me ...

Background:

-heavy math/science interest from a young age

-done obtaining certifications and currently diving into quantitative finance and trading advanced options in my free time

-Accounting (business school) and Data Science (engineering school) majors at a top 50 US university located in TX

-first job out of undergrad at Big4 had me doing big data projects for mega-cap corps

-at same Big4, I moved into a technical accounting group working on live deals (SPACs, IPOs, traditional M&A)

-before promotion at Big4 I jumped ship to an Energy PE/AM firm in TX where my role can be best described as corporate development strategy & special projects with line of sight/exposure to the founders and a variety of front office functions

Comments (8)

Dec 27, 2021 - 12:11pm
anothergodammasian, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for doing this,how does your work differ from someone who did 2 years of banking and then came in, how's the career trajectory that you have at you're current firm,did you develop an interest in PE after working or you've had it from before,why not banking/consulting after undergrad,feel free to not answer any or all of the questions above, and congratulations! it's amazing what you've achieved.

Dec 27, 2021 - 6:23pm
mind the GAAP, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think these can be answered in three distinct parts:

Difference - someone doing IB for two years out of school would have a leg up on industry knowledge and general sell-side deal proficiency. My work in Big4 spanned multiple industries and focused on the financial reporting and technical accounting issues (ex: embedded derivatives in warrants in a SPAC deal). For me, this experience has led me to currently seeing projects that get into the weeds of fundamental business inputs for financial services, which can get quite intangible.

Trajectory - very much up in the air but I wanted to take this chance leaving the structured ascent of Big4. I could climb the corp dev side given successful growth in the business or with internal connections move to a buy-side/IB arm of the firm.

Interest - the big data work was fun but really back office on the decision-making side. I followed the action to the deals group. Worked on a few PE Portco projects (which IPO'd and SPAC'd) and found locally the kind of firm I had on the client side to go work for.

Dec 27, 2021 - 11:17pm
mind the GAAP, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Trajectory- see answer to another question, but to specify it would be CFO/COO or Operating Partner with a transferable skill set across firms like mine and operators in the energy industry. Not counting out going over to the dark side though (buy side)

Projects- without giving too much away, my projects revolve around two focuses: 1) process and 2) forecast. I'll lay out some of the questions I'm tasked with answering. The fun part is these are generally open-ended.

1) Process: what are the blind spots in our current process coverage? Where can this be more efficient? What business lines need to be linked/included in communication?

2) Forecast: given an investor scenario, what do these cash flows look like (can go down this PE rabbit hole)? Where on the calendar are we weak in the cash cycle for next year (can we reinvest in the business consistently)?

Most Helpful
Dec 28, 2021 - 12:05pm
Lester Freamon, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thanks for doing this! I'm a fellow CPA who transitioned into data (currently in analytics consulting at the Big 4). My questions are:

1. What data tools/languages (i.e. PowerBI, SQL, Python, Alteryx, etc.) are you using in the PE side for your data work? I'm interested in getting into a PE Portfolio role of some sorts that combines finance/data and am curious what skills they're looking for. From my limited time in data (made the transition from CPA to analytics about 4 months ago), I taught myself Python but have personally found it to be pretty overkill because there's a lot of no-code stuff that can do the ETL portion and most of the stats is relatively basic. This, however, is mostly on the business analytics side, where companies are less sophisticated or have less of a need for crazy quant stuff for most business questions. I'm curious if this is true in PE as well

2. What type of process work have you been involved with on the finance side and where do you see these needs evolving from a data perspective? Long story short, I personally think there's a ton of opportunity for people who are both data and business savvy going forward because a lot of the corp fin "Modeling" finance professionals do is fairly rudimentary. That coupled with the fact that there's so much data to be extracted that can help with decision-making makes me think someone who is proficient enough to work with large datasets and can understand business needs/sift through a lot of noise (i.e. more data isn't always better) would be extremely valuable down the road. I'm curious if you feel the same.

Thanks again!

Dec 29, 2021 - 12:18am
mind the GAAP, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Generally, and I think this will answer both of your questions, I am not using any crazy data tools. We do have folks on the investments teams using energy industry-specific platforms and there are many great data points to grab and implement to something like Alteryx to get to an A or B or Do Nothing business decision. Because my work requires some out-of-the-box thinking and connecting rather disjointed "data points" I do benefit from my time spent programming in SQL and studying topics like linear algebra. Being able to ID key data points through the noise is where I am driving value in our processes. Most importantly above any one platform to solve data needs is having interdepartmental communication and mutual understanding of responsibilities. After that you can bolt on any enterprise software solution and scale up that efficiency.

Jan 4, 2022 - 1:34pm
mind the GAAP, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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