AMA - F500 Director of FP&A

I've been asked to do an AMA a few times over the past few months and it's dead in the office so I figured I'd open myself up for questions.

Brief background:
- BS in Accounting from no name college with 3.0
- MS in Accounting from Indiana
- 1 year in Big 4 (I knew I was going to hate it)
- 1.5 years as an analyst in Valuations/small business M&A
- 5 years at F500 Healthcare/Pharma Co. SFA and Manager in a few different roles.
- 3 years at F500 Industrial, Dir of FP&A for a business and now a GBU at corporate

I'm pretty open on WSO so I'll likely answer just about anything. Feel free to ask away.

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Comments (85)

Dec 20, 2017

If you're opening to everything then how big is your pe...

In all seriousness,

-what do you see yourself doing going forward? CFO, biggest business unit head?

-what made you change from M&A to FP&A and how transferable are those skills? (I'm hoping to do the reverse)

-how do you keep the work interesting? I've been in for almost a year and I find it quite boring.

Thanks!!

Dec 20, 2017

-what do you see yourself doing going forward? CFO, biggest business unit head?

I should be a business CFO in the next 6 months or so. It would require relocation, which gets complicated with the family (and is irrelevant for this discussion). So, CFO should definitely be in my near future pending resolution with the family. Going forward beyond that I'm still not completely certain, but I think eventually I'll see if I can transition to being CFO for a PE portfolio company. I'd like to get a reasonable chunk of equity in something and grow it's value.

-what made you change from M&A to FP&A and how transferable are those skills? (I'm hoping to do the reverse)

I was not in a standard M&A position. I was in a small arm of an accounting firm where we did a lot of business valuation and tried to do some sell side work for clients. One of the reasons I left was because our M&A was pretty sad.

In retrospect, I'm glad it happened that way. Had I been at an investment bank I probably wouldn't have left M&A because I thought M&A was "cool" at the time. However, I'm very happy that I am where I am now vs. IB.

-how do you keep the work interesting? I've been in for almost a year and I find it quite boring.

The truth is that sometimes it's not. I think having a variety of experiences helped me here. To me, the shitty parts of FP&A are better than the shitty parts of Big 4 accounting and being an analyst/consultants. Especially at the low levels, there is always going to be some boredom and crappy/menial tasks.

What I have done though is always focus on the business and learn where I can. When I was an SFA, closing the books wasn't exactly fun, but I got that done in a few days and then would spend the rest of the month trying to work on business problems and involving myself where I could.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for doing this, appreciate your candidness. +

1) has industry played a large part of your career, or have you mainly just wanted to be in CF and rise the ranks?

2) How do you see the new tax legislation impacting your industry and/or company? I've noticed that it really depends on how your current company sits in tax strategy and what their business model is structured around.

3) I'm guessing by you're stated experience and that you didn't do an LDP that you are a very young Director for external hires. How did you see your career evolve and what do you think contributed most to your success so far?

Thanks!

Edit: I wrote country....no idea why....

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Dec 20, 2017

1) has industry played a large part of your career, or have you mainly just wanted to be in CF and rise the ranks?

This answer would be different depending on when you asked. When I was in Pharma, I thought it was the only place to be and I didnt imagine myself being in any other industry. However, I ended up jumping to my current company in industrials and I actually like it more. I've come around to the belief that the company, opportunities and day-to-day position are all much more important than industry.

2) How do you see the new tax legislation impacting your industry and/or country? I've noticed that it really depends on how your current company sits in tax strategy and what their business model is structured around.

I honestly haven't given it a ton of thought on a macro level. As someone who is invested in the business I work for, I certainly hope that it frees up capital and allows us to accelerate investments in our portfolio. From a business and career standpoint, growth in our portfolio is what I'm looking for.

This is an interesting question that I might have to come back to.

3) I'm guessing by you're stated experience and that you didn't do an LDP that you are a very young Director for external hires. How did you see your career evolve and what do you think contributed most to your success so far?

Correct, I did not do any sort of leadership program, although I managed them at my previous company and highly recommend those programs. The years given above are definitely rounded, I probably made Director ~9 years after graduation.

What contributed was hard work, personality (internal networks), intelligence, calculated risks and some luck. The main reason I left the pharma company was because it was going to take too long to make Director even though my reviews were stellar. It wasn't me, it was the company's culture and log jam for promotions. For that and a few other reasons, I took a chance at a lesser know F500 which has a very different culture. My current company has definitely allowed me to thrive and contributed to my "success".

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for #3, really appreciate that insight. If you may, is your comp (and expected comp at the VP level) going to be comparable to the larger Pharma company?

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Dec 20, 2017

I believe it's comparable, but it's not apples to apples. There are always nuances to comp at Director level and above, but my current company is an outlier in a specific area. I know thats ambiguous, but it's such a specific outlier that I don't want to state it here.

I will say that I believe my take home pay is similar to the larger pharma company, but incentive compensation can vary so much even year to year that it's impossible to say.

Assuming I transition to a business CFO next, that compensation will be less than the very few VPs at the pharma company, but I'll have an opportunity to start participating in real equity rewards at a younger age than I would have there. So for the best comparable level, comp is lower, but it would've taken me 15+ more years to get their at the Pharma company.

Overall, when factoring opportunities for promotion with comp, the move is definitely a step up for me,

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Your comment on length of promotion makes a lot of sense, big thanks for your response.

Dec 20, 2017

Any chance you can walk us through your salary/comp progression from one role to another? Going through a similar career ladder and interested in what to expect. Thanks!

Dec 20, 2017

I'm not going to walk through my annual salary history, but I believe that my comp has generally been in line with the market for the position I was in. So, the increases at the pharma company felt slow and hard to come by, but now they've come fairly easily. I remember having a discussion with a mentor at the Pharma company who told me that Comp goes from hard to easy once you hit Director and above. I wouldn't say I'm at that easy point yet, but I've certainly past an inflection point.

Comp is important, but I always advise younger people to worry about their responsibilities and career path first and then the comp will come. A short-term decision that slows or changes your career path might net you a few $k this year, but could cost you a multiple of that down the road.

I remember what it's like getting a $3k raise or wanting to make $5k more per year. It sucks and I understand the desire for more. I will just say from first hand experience, that if you get (or are in the process of getting) to where you are wanting to go you'll be turning down much bigger raises in the future if they're not a good fit for your career path.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Really appreciate the response. Everything you mentioned reaffirmed my stance of focusing more on job fit than the job that pays more early on in ones career.

Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for doing this. Got a few questions:

1) How important is your degree/background when switching to an FP&A position? Do you need a Big 4 audit background or can investment banking/consulting/other finance consulting roles get you "in"?

2) Once you are in FP&A, how important is an MBA to move up if you don't have an accounting background? Are companies more lenient nowadays since MBAs really don't add much value, especially part-time ones?

3) Have you always worked for public companies? What's your advice for working in FP&A in the beginning - better to work at a large public company or large private company?

Thanks again.

Dec 20, 2017

1) How important is your degree/background when switching to an FP&A position? Do you need a Big 4 audit background or can investment banking/consulting/other finance consulting roles get you "in"?

You do not need any specific background for FP&A. I know of a Corp FP&A Director at a F500 that has an IT degree. I also know of a few who have degrees specialized towards their business (for example a chemistry major in FP&A at the Pharma company). So, while FP&A backgrounds are more diverse, it certainly is easier to get the job with a finance or accounting degree and experience in FP&A, Accounting, audit, consulting, etc.. experience.

Most good companies will let you move around once you display that you're good. However, it will likely be more difficult to be hired in off the street with a non-standard background. So, if your background isn't standard your first job at a company might not be FP&A, but if you can demonstrate aptitude in another role that could be your way to transition in.

2) Once you are in FP&A, how important is an MBA to move up if you don't have an accounting background? Are companies more lenient nowadays since MBAs really don't add much value, especially part-time ones?

Most companies I see now view an mba as a nice to have. It's definitely not bad to have, but other than a select few it won't hurt you if you don't have one. Generally, moving up internally is based on your quality of work.

I have chosen not to get an mba at this point (I still consider an executive mba every once in a while) and it has never held me back. However, some of the positions I'd look at external, especially pe portfolio CFOs, do seem to value it.

3) Have you always worked for public companies? What's your advice for working in FP&A in the beginning - better to work at a large public company or large private company?

In FP&A I have always worked at public companies. My advice depends on your options. If working for a F500 company is an option, I would definitely start their earlier in your career. a F500 will have more career options for you and generally better processes and brand recognition.

As you advance you'll frequently see smaller companies (public or private) that desire F500 experience, but you'll never see F500 companies posting a requirement that someone worked at a smaller or private company.

You can make it from anywhere and your career path will not be linear, but all things being equal I'd start at a large public company over a smaller or private one.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Not to hijack-I think this is a great thread for learning about an alternative to IB

Just wanted to add some additional color around #1

I'd been in CF for a similar length of time as OP before transitioning and have noticed that for people with Big 4 experience (audit, consulting, etc), all sorts of doors in F500 open up-so if you're able to start there I'd highly recommend it. From a competitive standpoint it's the only thing I personally feel is "missing" from my resume (non-traditional background and went the MBA route to close the gap). Just thought it worth mentioning as OP is also a Big 4 vet.

Dec 20, 2017

What kind of doors? More accounting related? I feel like a more finance focused background can give people a leg up since you actually understand a business while audit is just ticking and tieing numbers. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

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Dec 20, 2017

You're not wrong, but within the context of FP&A, general Corp Fin roles, and faster upward movement, I've found that Big 4 folks tended to slide into Director, VP, and CFO roles at a greater clip or get recruited/poached for those roles elsewhere-this in addition to the option of a Controller path.

Saw this at 3 F50s before taking my current role. I imagine finance gives you similar opps, but it's not as well represented (ex-bankers tend to settle into Corp Dev and M&A at the corporate levels mainly).

Dec 20, 2017

I think your points are valid and your experience is helpful. FP&A isn't quite the same standard career as Big 4 accountant, investment banker, consultant, etc... so the more opinions/experiences the better.

I'll just add some context, I'm not considered an "accountant" by anyone. I did do accounting in school because it was the only decent program at my undergrad and I went to Big 4 (even though I knew I'd hate it) because they pushed everyone there and it is a good place to start your career. I did 52 weeks and 1 day in Big 4 to not repay my sign on bonus and have not taken on another "accounting" role since.

All that being said, understanding accounting is very important. You do need to pick up a decent level of accounting knowledge to be an effective CFO. It can be done through work experiences, but that can put finance guys in a tough spot from time to time.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

This is an excellent thread. I got my MBA at a top program and wanted to do asset management but ended up taking a job in corporate finance at a FAANG tech firm. I was recently approached by another major tech firm for a FP&A role.

  1. My biggest concern with FP&A (aside from the role sounding boring) is that it will considerably narrow my exit opportunities. My goal is to transition into tech banking, tech equity research, or tech PE eventually, and it seems like FP&A closes off doors to "real" finance jobs. How accurate are my concerns?
  2. What are the most important skills required to do well in FP&A? Attention to detail? There doesn't seem to be that much financial modeling, mainly consolidation and variance analysis between various forecasts.

Thanks.

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Dec 20, 2017

What do you do today?

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Dec 20, 2017
accountingbyday:

What do you do today?

My role is hybrid finance and business development. I do help FP&A with various forecasts related to my specific business line, but most of my role consists of valuation of various deals we're working on, creating and maintaining P&L models, cost estimates, and working with various business groups (content, marketing, tech, product) to address ad hoc requests and other problems that need input from finance.

Dec 20, 2017

To be fully transparent, this is well beyond my area of expertise so take this with a grain of salt. The only people I know who have gone from FP&A to banking or pe have done it at the junior levels. I'd imagine it would be more difficult as you get more senior.

My though is that you could take 2 different lines of thinking:
1. Getting more exposure to FAANG companies is never a bad thing when it comes to tech banking or pe so the additional exposure and variety of job may help you.
2. The FP&A job is probably farther away from the roles/responsibilities you are actually seeking in ib or pe and that may hurt your chances.

If your objective is ONLY towards getting in to tech ib or pe, I probably wouldn't make that move. However, if you might be open to staying within the company long-term, then I'd give it serious consideration.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for doing this. I work in corp dev, so not FP&A, but I do regularly depend on our FP&A group for internal projections, WACC, etc., so I can definitely appreciate the role. Can you give some general advice of career progression? What would you tell someone at the analyst/associate level hoping to be a VP (assuming that your firm uses the VP title for the head of a group) one day

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Best Response
Dec 20, 2017

The standard FP&A progression is simply analyst -> Manager - > Director -> VP. Most companies will add Senior or Associate in front of some of these titles ( Senior Analyst, Associate Director, etc...)

Anyone who wants to be VP I would tell that they need to consistently put out quality work, be smart, work hard, etc... (all the usual stuff). Beyond that I would tell them to leverage any internal relationships that they have - get a mentor that's a VP or a Director and have lunch with them once a quarter. You'll learn the "game" more that way and they'll help you in the competition behind the scenes.

The other thing I'd add is that a variety of experiences is always good, within reason. I hate seeing resumes of guys who have spent 10 years in FP&A supporting their sales organization. Thats great experience, but what about Operations, Supply Chain, Strategy, Marketing, Corp Dev, etc... If you want to be a leader of a business you need to be able to work with all of those groups.

As an example. the job that I was least excited to take in my career was Finance Manager of our Purchasing Group. IT was nowhere near what I thought I wanted in my career, but my mentor convinced me otherwise. Now, when I'm trying to get a CFO position saying that I was on the leadership team of a centralized Purchasing organization representing over $1B is a huge selling point.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks!

Dec 20, 2017

Can you expand more on the behind the scenes "game" that is played in corporate? I have experienced a lot of this in my somewhat limited time in F500 companies, and especially at my MBA internship this past summer, but another perspective would be interesting.

Jan 5, 2019

Kissing ass and playing politics.

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

  • I know you've said that there are always parts that are boring / monotonous but does the work get better/more interesting as you move up? I'm currently a SFA at a public company doing budgets/month-end reporting that gets very boring very quickly.
  • What advice would you give to trying to move up the ladder? Are there certain things you looks for when it comes to promoting employees now that you are upper management?
Dec 20, 2017

I have found the work to get better. I'm still doing reporting, but I also "own" more. I am a part of the presentation to our CEO and CFO every quarter and in those meetings saying "We were unfavorable due to X,Y and Z" is not acceptable. We are developing strategies and taking actions to solve issues, so our discussion will focus more on that.

I'm sure you've heard this before, but the more you move up the more strategic you should be. I'm in more meetings about competition, business strategy, m&a, etc... than I ever was before. I am still doing FP&A work on a day to day basis, but I'm bringing that into these discussions instead of just passing along information.

Moving up is no secret. You need to be good at your job and show a desire to exceed and take on more responsibilities/new roles. I think a lot of people fall short in communicating with their bosses and mentors (find internal mentors if you can).

I think one of the biggest advances for me was after year end when I got a great review as an SFA and someone I knew who was just decent got a promotion. I asked for some time with my Manager and in a non-confrontational way asked why I wasn't in consideration for that position. We talked about my performance and anything else I might do to get promoted. It was still a little bit of time until I got promoted, but our conversations went from "you're doing well" to "you're earning the promotion" and I started to get clued into opportunities.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 21, 2017

Interesting, are you saying that even as a high performing SFA, you had to vocalize your want of promotion to be clued into that track?

Dec 21, 2017

Yes. The company I was at typically had people do 2 SFA roles and was generally slow with promotions. I would've gotten a promotion eventually (probably after another SFA role), but I had a pretty open conversation that unless there were items identified that I needed to improve before I was ready for Manager, I didn't have a lot of interest in being an SFA again.

It helped that I had a good relationship with my boss and got good reviews (I knew where I stood before the conversation), but we had a professional, but fairly clear conversation around expectations.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks again for doing this! You've touched on FLDP's a little bit but wanted to get your honest opinion. For landing an FP&A roll, which experience is better to have - FLDP or Big 4?

Dec 21, 2017

If your goal is simply to get into FP&A then I'd say an FLDP is probably a little bit better. Once you're an FLDP you have learned about the company and built a network so graduating into an FP&A role is nearly guaranteed at many companies if you're good.

That's not to say that starting in Big 4 will be a difficult transition, it won't. However, the straightforward answer to your question is the FLDP should be easier.

Where it could get more complex is if you think more long term. What are your longer term goals? IF it's to be a CFO or something similar, then a Big 4 background is probably an asset. So, in that scenario, it could be worth doing 2-3 years of Big 4 before transitioning into FP&A.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 20, 2017

Thanks for doing this!

Im considering taking a Controller position at my current firm. FP&A roles are not currently available at my company (BB bank). Are the exit opportunities somewhat similar if I were to leave at a more junior (associate) level?

My goal is to build on CF experience for 4-6 years then get my MBA to pursue a managerial role at a F500 perhaps in a more strategy oriented-role. For context my current role is very product specific and lacks transferable skills, so a move to controller would open more doors regardless.

Thanks again!

Dec 21, 2017

I'm probably not the best to answer this. I've posted on here before saying this, but I avoid professional services companies like the plague. They're obviously not bad companies or careers, but not something I'm in to. I only look at companies with a tangible product.

Can you give a little bit more context into what your doing now? My general guidance would be that if your goal is to move into FP&A then do that. However, depending on your experience a stint in Controllership could help you get there.

One of my main concerns for you would be that you say that you want 4-6 years experience before getting your MBA AND you seem to want FP&A experience. If you're already in 1 position and then move to Controllership your 4-6 year window is probably close to closing. How much FP&A experience do you plan to get? At what company?

It also seems that you're spraying to all fields a little bit here. That's not always a bad thing, but you seem to have firm goals that are opposing. If your ultimate goal is a strategy gig after MBA why aren't you going for the most strategic roles you can? What kind of company are you looking to do strategy for? If it's not financial services then I'd really question taking a Controllership role at a BB.

Sorry this is a jumbled response - I'm rushing to a meeting, but wanted to give you a few things to think about.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 21, 2017

No need to apologize, I appreciate your input.

Right now I'm a PB Analyst for a niche credit product team. This is why I mentioned that the role lacked transferrables.

As for the MBA, I realized 4-6 years isn't necessarily practical. It isn't a solid timeframe, but it's somehing I want to cross off my list at some point.

Ideally I'd take a strategy role with an Entertainment/Telecomm company. The reason I'm entertaining the Controllership role is that it'll give me some transferable skills to take to another company. Frankly I'm having a hard time landing interviews at other firms giving my experience isn't exactly applicable to other roles. Internal opportunities seem to be more open to taking with me.

Dec 21, 2017

Yeah, that makes sense. Your path will always twist and turn, but it's important to think through an "ideal" progression to give yourself guidance along the way.

Going from where you are now to Strategy at an entertainment company is going to require a few moves. It's certainly possible to go:

Current Role > Controllership at BB> Controllership at Entertainment Co > Other Roles at Entertainment Co, however that is a best case scenario so you need to be prepared ahead of time knowing those transitions would all be difficult (but possible) and your path may not end up that direct.

One of the challenges, that I'm sure you realize is that Strategy roles are usually filled by ex-consultants, top-tier mbas or people who have been with the company for a while. The path I showed above doesn't necessarily get you into Strategy in an efficient way. I'm sure this is one of the reasons you're looking at an MBA, but that adds its own complexities.

Anything you want is doable, but you'll have to perform very well, make conscious choices on your career path and perhaps get a little bit lucky along the way as well.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 7, 2018

So it sounds like CF is not a clear step on the way to a strategy role? For those who are in CF and want to get there, how have you seen that done?

CF -> Consulting / MBA -> Strategy?

Jan 7, 2018

CF to Strategy is a possibility, but not the norm. IF you get into a company and work your ass off, any door can open. However, if your sole goal is corporate strategy then I think some time in consulting (preferably mbb) should be on your radar to increase your chances.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Dec 21, 2017

Hi accountingbyday,

It's my first post on WSO and I'm glad someone in a non ib/pe role is posting about their experiences, as I do not see myself working in that hard-core industry.

I have just landed a big 4 contract in audit (London) which commences in Autumn next year and have been entertaining the idea of exit opps. I am thinking about transitioning to TS/Corporate Finance after my training for the experience before going into FP&A or I might just go straight to FP&A (anything can happen).

I admit I do not have a full understanding of FP&A yet but does a genuine FP&A role cover an element of month end analysis and whatnot? How can you distinguish a regular "Finance Analyst" role to a "FP&A" role both at a major listed corp? Could you perhaps share what you wouldn't do in a FP&A role that you would in a regular Finance Analyst role?

Many thanks

Dec 21, 2017

Your question is a good one. Especially at the junior level, there are few roles with the FP&A title, they are generally Financial Analyst or something similar. The day-to-day job also varies quite a bit. This is one of the difficult things for outsiders to wrap their heads around.

Like I said, at the junior levels you're more likely to be titled a Financial Analyst or something similar. You're also possibly doing month end close (maybe even making journal entries), managing spend, etc... Not usually any technical accounting, but there is often an accounting/transactional component to the job. As you advance, you'll be doing less accounting/transactional work and more strategic/business work. That doesn't mean you'll be completely out of the accounting cycles though.

For me, I stopped doing all journal entries or "accounting" when I hit manager. I stopped managing expenses when I hit Director. However, as I'm advancing I am definitely glad I have those experiences. I can't tell you how many times I've questioned something on the accounting side and glad I had that experience to rely on.

Although I'm outside of any accounting or transactional responsibilities, I'm still not completely out of the monthly/quarterly cycles. I still owe some reporting and analysis to our President, CFO and CEO on a monthly basis. Also, there are about 5 days where my quarter end SUCKS as I prepare a business review for our executive team and analyst calls

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 21, 2017

Thanks for doing this AMA, it's very insightful. I'm currently in a post-MBA corporate finance role so this is very relevant to me. I have a few questions I was hoping you could answer:

1) Are you in a divisional or corporate FP&A role? What do you think are the pros/cons of one vs the other?

2) Have you considered taking a product finance role? What do you think are the pros/cons of FP&A compared to product finance?

3) Have you ever considered moving over to the business side? Have you gotten opportunities to do so or have seen others make this switch? Specifically have you seen any finance people move over into GM roles on the business side?

4) I know you mentioned that you don't want to go through your entire comp progression, but would you be fine with disclosing your current comp range at the Director level? I'm currently an SFA so I have no clue what the current range for people that high up is

Dec 21, 2017

1) Are you in a divisional or corporate FP&A role? What do you think are the pros/cons of one vs the other?

My current company basically has businesses, GBUs and Corporate. I was last director of FP&A for a business, now a GBU. I have no desire to do Corporate.

I liked the business because it was really day to day management of a business. Our President valued Finance and me, so I was a member of the executive team who happened to do Finance.

I like the day-to-day of the GBU position less because I'm further removed from a business and deal with some extra crap, but I do enjoy the interaction with the highest levels of my F500 and even (very limited) with the Board.

At our company the head of Corp FP&A is completely removed from the businesses and is just IR and CFO's bitch. It's a good job, especially for the resume, but I have no desire to do it.

2) Have you considered taking a product finance role? What do you think are the pros/cons of FP&A compared to product finance?

At the Pharma Company I had a role supporting a product. It wasn't called Product Finance, but I imagine they were similar. I actually really liked it - I grew very close with the VP who owned the P&L and found it to be a good experience.

I am also a believer that a diversity of experiences is good, so if you can take a position that is more "product finance" then I think thats an overall positive.

3) Have you ever considered moving over to the business side? Have you gotten opportunities to do so or have seen others make this switch? Specifically have you seen any finance people move over into GM roles on the business side?

Sure. at the junior level I could have moved into Marketing or Supply Chain very easily, but wanted to see how far Finance would take me. At my current company I'm on the CFO path so no one really gets off that. However, I could call the President of the business I just left and I'm pretty confident that he'd give me just about any open job I wanted.

Moving out of Finance is always an option, but not one that I've really pursued at this point

4) I know you mentioned that you don't want to go through your entire comp progression, but would you be fine with disclosing your current comp range at the Director level? I'm currently an SFA so I have no clue what the current range for people that high up is

I'm pretty open, but dont want this to turn into a comp thread. I will say that there was a thread a while back where there was some good comp discussion. In that thread thread there was discussion of a guy with an offer as a Director who's all in was low (IIRC maybe around $140k). I believe that a real Director should always be over $150k all-in, probably over $180k all-in at a public company. At F500s I think you'll see most Directors all-in over $200k, which I am. The top range for a Director can be pretty high because you can have guys that specialize or are Directors for 20 years. With incentive compensation factored in, achieving Director at a F500 and staying their the rest of your career is not a terrible outcome.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 21, 2017

Any chance we can get you to give some more specific dollar figures around compensation? Maybe some ranges? Always helpful to hear. Thanks

Dec 21, 2017

Thanks for doing this. Any thoughts on the chances of international exposure/rotations within FP&A, or the finance function in general?

Dec 27, 2017

The chances depend on the company. My previous company sent all FLDPs on one international rotation, but then no one below Director went international once the were full time. My current company doesnt have an FLDP program, but I could go international at the drop of a hat if I wanted.

So, there are chances, but it is very company specific. If that's important to you, that's going to have to be something that you discuss with potential employers.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 21, 2017

Thanks for doing this, I actually just signed my offer for when I graduate with a F200 healthcare/pharma related company in their FP&A team. My junior year internship was also in FP&A.

I was hoping you could give some advice, besides the obvious Excel and accounting principles, on what I should do to best prepare myself to stand out, and hit the ground running when I start?

Dec 27, 2017

Congrats on the job! You didnt specify, but assuming your internship was with this company you're in great shape. They already like you and you're a known commodity, which bodes well for you.

The biggest thing coming out of school besides the obvious skills is actually how you handle yourself. I'll give a few examples:
- Feel free to ask questions, but ask smart questions. Try not to ask the same questions multiple times and try to figure it out first before you ask a question.
- Show an eagerness to learn and help the team however you can.
- Be personable and friendly
- Understand that you're going to have to do some crappy work. Every junior level position requires it. Even if you're a rockstar, just swallow your pride and get it done.

Too often new guys come in all amped up or scared. Neither is really ideal. The guy who is a 10/10 every day will wear down a manager just as much as the guy who's a 2/10. It just boils down to being a normal person that will work hard and wants to learn. If you come in every day between a 6 and an 8, it will be all good.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 22, 2017

Hi. thank you for taking the time in this thread.

What do you see as the key factor that warrants the promotion of an analyst/senior analyst to manager position?

At what point would you say that its better to move than try to continue fighting for that promotion?

e.g. if you have good human capital, visibility to the v.most senior of group management and are doing interesting work...but havent been promoted after 2 years despite having a very impactfull year in terms of contribution to the company, would you say its better to move to a similarly sized firm (reputation etc) but to a manager position with much higher salary albeit potentially less exposure to senior management?

wondering whether 3 years is too much to spend as an analyst when i see people my age group (late late 20s) being much more successful and advanced in their careers...

thank you for any response.

edit: to give a bit more context - when i had my review it was pretty much all praise and glory but they basically said now i need to stop being the all star go to person for work and instead be the manager & manage upwards in my top heavy team before i can be made a manager...which is fine if i had multiple grads / interns under me but im the most junior on my team on paper. i have been very vocal about my desire to progress fast and was the main reason why i worked like a beast all year...but seemingly to no avail....the only upside is that i might potentially be able to swing a move to Corporate Development internally

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Dec 27, 2017

You touch a lot of points. This will probably get a little long, but will hopefully give you some things to think about.

It's always tough to know when to leave. Honestly, it's something that I still think about a lot. I think my move definitely worked out for the best, but there was some risk involved...no way to know 100%. What I would ask is: 1. What gets me the promotion faster? 2. What is better for my career in 10 years?

I've seen too many people get frustrated but not getting the promotion NOW and lateraling, which lead to them ultimately being promoted slower than if they just stayed. I've also seen people jump to shitty companies to get a promotion in title, which can be a mistake as well.

You don't want to jump companies every 2 years (if you can help it), so make sure you use that move effectively. That doesn't mean never change companies, but don't do it haphazardly.

I was going to give feedback similar to your edit. At many companies you have to show that you can do the job before they give it to you. This can be challenging and might be your first time really "managing up". Even though its tough, you need to do it...it only becomes more important as you move on.

One example I have of doing this from my analyst days is trying to find out what everything is used for. Similar to you, I was on a team with no subordinates and we all had to give information to our Manager. He then turned it into a large presentation to Corporate. I asked him if instead of just giving him information if I could start helping with the presentation. Within 6 months I was literally doing his work and he was just editing it. Literally anything that you're giving your Manager or above is probably being used for something that requires work on their end....try to do their work.

One last note - you always want to be progressing, but don't benchmark yourself too much against people you "see". If you want to use me as a benchmark, I got promoted to Manager at 28/29, but then Director by 33 and I just turned 36 and should be a CFO soon.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 30, 2017

Thank you for your detailed response.

In my current search I am definitely very picky about role and pushing back on recruiters who just try and suggest any client. I definitely am aiming for a company of similar stature and sector visibility as well as manager role so that it will in worst case be a lateral move company wise and a promotion role wise.

I'll try this whole managing up thing for a few months whilst I look as well as trying to take ownership of the 2 grads in the wider team.

Currently nearly all the work I do already does get presented by me with some edits by VP or simply directly sent for use by exec team or Divisional group leaders for decision making so no opportunity to eg "cut out the middle man"

I think my main worry now is that promotions are being extended due to hiring freezes and no matter how much I try I'll have to wait till next year rather than eg hope for March etc.

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Dec 27, 2017

Very interesting thread. Thanks for doing this.

I'm also interested in moneytrails questions as I'm also in a 3 year FLDP.

I'm curious what's the structure of your team? I'm also in FP&A for a GBU at a F500 and my team has a VP, Director, Manager and Analyst (me) on our central team supporting the CFO for one of our business units.

Dec 27, 2017

For whatever reason many Industrials companies are structured different than most other F500 companies. So, for us, my GBU sits at corporate and is just a President, CFO, myself and leaders of a few other functions. Everything else sits at the lower-levels, which I vaguely call "business" here.

I have no direct reports at the GBU, but their are Directors of FP&A at each business that has a dotted line connection to me.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Dec 27, 2017

I'm a SFA in FP&A in a GBU as well. Couple of questions:

1) The way how i see FP&A developing is it moving towards the data / BI side of things outside of their traditional accounting / finance systems alone. This necessitates future analysts to be able to pull, crunch and present data in increasingly developed ways (SQL / Tableau / Python etc.). Would you agree with this, and how important is it to pick up said programming / BI skills?

2) As an analyst, and even for some manager roles, FP&A starts feeling very bland when it is the usual Monthly Reviews / Quarter Reviews. Especially at the global level, where it becomes akin to the constant consolidation of data, and developing of templates for use; one feels very separate from the actual business. What kept you going?

3) Thoughts of transitioning from FP&A into IB / ER?

4) How important is a CPA for progression?

Dec 27, 2017

1) The way how i see FP&A developing is it moving towards the data / BI side of things outside of their traditional accounting / finance systems alone. This necessitates future analysts to be able to pull, crunch and present data in increasingly developed ways (SQL / Tableau / Python etc.). Would you agree with this, and how important is it to pick up said programming / BI skills?

I definitely see FP&A going more towards Data/BI. I've seen a few IT/Data guys in FP&A and they can start to do some interesting things. However, from my perspective (for now at least) the data-management piece of the job ends around the Manager level. Once you hit Director you should not be doing much heavy-doing data crunching. The role should be more management, presentations, business problem solving, etc... I actually tell people that even my excel skills have atrophied. I'm still in Excel all the time, but not creating anything complex.

2) As an analyst, and even for some manager roles, FP&A starts feeling very bland when it is the usual Monthly Reviews / Quarter Reviews. Especially at the global level, where it becomes akin to the constant consolidation of data, and developing of templates for use; one feels very separate from the actual business. What kept you going?
This can definitely be true. I think 2 things kept me going:
1. I had done lower-level work in Big 4 and "M&A" Consulting and while the bland parts of FP&A sucked, I found them to be MUCH better than those jobs.
2. I tried to minimize my time doing those bland items and then find other, more interesting projects to work on. It really became a win-win for me - less hours on crap I didnt like and earn a great reputation helping on things I did like.

3) Thoughts of transitioning from FP&A into IB / ER?
I had some analysts at the healthcare company move into hc IB and hc consulting, but I'm not an expert on this. My guess is that it's possible at an entry-level, very difficult at a mid-level, and then possible again higher up. Having industry experience at an entry-level is good and then you can be taught the technical. I think mid-level would be tough without a mastery of IB technicals. I could see myself adding value again at some point at the higher levels just from knowing the industry and personal connections.

4) How important is a CPA for progression?
None of my experience would show a CPA to be necessary for progression; however, some people definitely value it. I'd think of it as a nice complement to a resume, but usually not a must

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Dec 30, 2017

Thanks a lot for doing this. Based on your experiences/interactions with others in FP&A, what are the more interesting industries to work in or where you can add the most value as a finance person? For example, I've heard that even though tech is considered the "sexy" industry, FP&A at software companies can be kind of boring and you essentially take a backseat to the programmers who are actually creating products. On the other hand, working at an industrial company, where controlling costs, supply chains, etc. requires more business acumen and finance people are viewed more as business partners versus a necessary back office cost of doing business.

Is this consistent with your views or does it vary too much to have any sort of rule of thumb?

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Jan 2, 2018

Thanks for doing this. I had a few questions for you.

1) How long does it take to make the jump from a finance manager to a finance director / VP, and what skills/abilities do top management look for in a candidate applying for those kind of roles?

Just to give you a brief background on myself, I joined a FLDP out of undergrad. Went from analyst (year 1) > sr analyst (in year 2) > financial controller (year 3) > finance manager (year 4). Now, I'm trying to gauge what I need to do in order to get to the next level and how long it would take. I'd assume there's a lot more emphasis on skills related to business partnering and communication as opposed to hard technical skills, but I'd like to get your take.

2) Would you recommend taking a "promotion" into a business unit with a smaller P&L or would you advise staying in a role with a larger P&L (and thus more visibility/facetime with senior directors and executives?

During year-end performance talks with my direct manager, we discussed the possibility of me maybe moving into a senior finance manager / finance director role of our parent company's smaller units. In my current role, I am on the team that reports directly to the CFO. If I move to the smaller P&L, I'd be further removed from corporate and thus I'm afraid I might fall into the "out of sight out of mind" pitfall.

3) How can one make the jump from Corporate Finance to Corporate Development?

My long term goal is to eventually be part of the team setting the strategic plan for the company as well as engaging in M&A and other such activities. I have experience in product finance, customer finance, supply chain finance, FP&A, as well as sales/marketing finance. What else do you think would be beneficial for me to gain experience in prior to applying to such jobs?

Jan 3, 2018

I hate to be that guy, but the answer to all of your questions are really "it depends". Unfortunately in Corp Fin every organization, manager, opportunity is different so there aren't always perfect answers. That being said, I'll give my experiences.

1) How long does it take to make the jump from a finance manager to a finance director / VP, and what skills/abilities do top management look for in a candidate applying for those kind of roles?

Look around your organization and see what other people have done, that's going to be your #1 template. As an outsider, it looks like you've moved up very quickly, which is great. You may continue that trend, but I wouldn't be too disappointed if you dont. It is possible to move up too fast and then get "stuck".

I always advise everyone to get as wide of a skillset as they can. Once you're a VP you can't go be a cost analyst, treasury manager, business development associate, Plant Controller etc.. You don't NEED each of those experiences, but they'd each be helpful for certain jobs (especially CFO).

At Director/VP/CFO levels it becomes less day to day Finance and Accounting and more strategy, execution, leadership and decision making. In my opinion these are all easier if you've built a broader skillset while getting their.

Back to directly answer your question: I wouldn't be too upset if you do 2-3 Manager roles in different areas before you make Director. Obviously, if your company will allow you to advance faster most people won't turn those opportunities down, but I wouldn't feel like anything is wrong if you're a Manager still in a few years.

2) Would you recommend taking a "promotion" into a business unit with a smaller P&L or would you advise staying in a role with a larger P&L (and thus more visibility/facetime with senior directors and executives?

Again, this is organization specific to some extent. Where you have a huge advantage is that you know the leadership so even if you go off site for 2 years you can keep a connection and come back pretty easily usually. Where this can be more difficult is if you're going to a new company and trying to make a name at corporate.

The smallest P&L I worked on (~$400M) is where I really made a name for myself. My CFO got fired and I got to roll up my sleeves and lead the organization. IT was the most fun I had working and I now have a president who recommends me highly for any job. Based on my experience and your situation, I'd recommend considering the smaller P&L if it gives you more responsibility

3) How can one make the jump from Corporate Finance to Corporate Development?
When you say Corp Development do you mean M&A or strategy as well? If your Corporate Development is M&A (like my current company) you really need to have robust M&A experience. If you want to get that, it's best to try as early as possible (they might take you with no experience as a Mgr, but not as a VP). Strategy is similar, but if your become an expert in the business, it might be more possible to lateral into Strategy.

Generally, both M&A and Strategy do tend to prefer outside experience in banking or consulting, but I haven't seen it absolutely required.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 2, 2018

Any books you'd recommend? I'm assuming it's more about managerial skills as you move up so I'm more interested in those types of books if you've got any.

Jan 3, 2018

The honest truth is that I very rarely read. Outside of work and family I try to prioritize my health so my days are pretty busy with a visit to the gym, work and then some family time. Once my little guys go to bed it's usually just a little bit of TV and then bed.

I have gone through periods of pushing myself to read, but it's very rarely business/managerial books. The closest that I get that I enjoy are a few biographies. For a leadership group I'm in I have a few reading assignments, I liked Shoe Dog and didnt care for Start With Why.

Reading is obviously very good (and my President does it a LOT), but I have a very high BS meter when it comes to most business books. I think my natural sense to challenge ideas helps me at work, but makes me a poor choice for business book recommendations.

TLDR - I'm the wrong person to ask.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 3, 2018

Hey! Thanks for doing this.

Do you have any words of wisdom about companies with/without a culture of promoting young talent? Specifically, is it worth it to stay at a slow-moving company just because the experience is good and the company is big? Or would it be better to jump to a company that is more willing to promote young talent?

My current company (defense) has very, very few managers under 30 and the absolute youngest directors are 39-40. The culture is very slow moving, and though I am learning a lot, I'm wondering how long I should stay and if/when I should jump ship to position myself for a more rapid rise. I'm a year and a half in, so even though I'm not expecting a promotion now, I can see the writing on the wall with this company it will be a very slow climb. Thanks!

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Jan 3, 2018

My previous company was similar. I was told I was early to be promoted to Mgr because I wasn't 30 yet (I was 28/29). It was a great company and awesome experience, but one of the main reasons I left.

It's tough to navigate because it looks bad if you leave too early, but dont want to stay too long and lose advancement opportunities. I'd say that you definitely want to stay a few years, in that time you'd hopefully get a promotion to at least SFA. From there you can't jump the day you get SFA so if you think you could get Mgr within a few years I'd probably stick around for it, if you wont then maybe start looking after being an SFA for 6-12 months.

The other thing to keep in mind is that not all titles are equal. Manager at Raytheon is looked at far more favorable than a Manager at a mom and pop company, so don't just jump for a title and $10k. Make sure you're staying on a "path" you want to be on.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 7, 2018

What are the opportunities within FP&A to work internationally? If not work, than travel. Are there any types of companies / roles within FP&A that would present the chance to move abroad?

Jan 9, 2018

Every company is different, but most large companies have international operations, which present opportunities. If travel is very important to you then you'd need to get a feel for the company and how they're structured/how tight they are with travel.

In my career I've essentially worked at 2 F500s with polar opposite approaches:
First company was large $15-20B with operations everywhere, but they were very established in each region/country. The company was also pretty thrifty with spend. So as an analyst and manager I didn't travel a single time in 5 years (despite having global roles at times). Travel and relocating internationally become more common at the Director level and above.

My current company is slightly smaller (still well into the F500 though) and much more decentralized. Each "business" is managed separately. When I was at the business I probably traveled ~25% of the time, but easily could have done more if I wanted. In Q1 of 2017 I took trips to China, India, Europe, California and Philly. Now I'm at Corporate and travel much less, but still took a Europe trip this year. The guy who had my job before me is now a business CFO in Europe and I could definitely do the same if I choose to next.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 12, 2018

Do you think that a CFA is at all relevant to a career within FP&A / Corp Fin? Is a CMA?

Does it help distinguish you within the CFO path?

Could it help you get experience in different areas of Corp Fin, or even set you up for a switch of career?

Apr 26, 2018

Sorry...never saw this question.

I truly believe the most useful designation in FP&A/Corp Fin is CPA......by a mile. I've seen CFA and CMAs, but they are pretty few and far between.

The good news is that most promotion in Corp Fin is really performance based, but if you're looking for something to help you break in or stand out I'd recommend a CPA.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Apr 24, 2018

How easy would it be to make the jump from corp tax dept over to fp&a?
Would earning my CPA license help me jump into a SFA vs lateral into an entry level role?
thx for your thoughts

Apr 26, 2018

I've never seen it done. It certainly CAN happen, but I haven't seen it.

It seems a little odd to me that someone would dedicate so much time to a tax specialization and then get out of tax, but if that is your goal I'm sure it can be done. If you get into good organizations, work hard and perform well anything is possible. The conversations with your boss might be odd, but if it's what you want you need to make that known.

A CPA certainly would help, but I dont know what level a specifi organization would move you at.

In the long run (20+ years from now if you're looking to be a CFO) that could be a cool experience, but in the short-term it might be challenging.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Apr 26, 2018

thanks for your thoughts. yep definitely planning on the long game (next 25+ years), and I don't think I want to do tax compliance forever. Hoping to layer on a part-time MBA program to open some more doors. I'm only 1.5 yr into tax so I don't think my resume will scream "tax guy"

Apr 25, 2018

Hey- Thanks for doing this AMA.

Do you have any recommendations on industries that do a good job of promoting young finance talent? A&D is where I am currently, and they do a very poor job of this.. our "young" managers are in their early to mid 30's. It seems like manufacturing companies are a strong place for rapid career growth if you're good. My personal goal is to hit manager at around 27-28 (3 years in an FLDP, 2-3 years as an SFA). Do you have any thoughts on industries that do this well? Thanks!

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Apr 26, 2018

I would look a little bit more company specific than focusing on the industry when seeing how fast they promote. That being said, my guess is that you're more likely to find quicker promotions in more progressive industries like tech.

I'm currently at an Industrial company (manufacturing) and we do have opportunities for pretty rapid promotion, but I know that some others in our industry do not.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

Apr 30, 2018

How would you recommend I go about determining which companies promote quickly? Finding some young managers/directors on linkedin? I think I'm about a year from finishing my FLDP and will be trying to find a company where I can grow rapidly, but I'm not sure how to look with that criteria

Apr 30, 2018

I dont have an easy answer for you. LinkedIn and networking are likely to be your best bets, but there's no guarantee. As you're looking at jobs you can ask the recruiter/company about career progression too, but that can be a little more delicate.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

May 8, 2018

@dan_yo23 I was facing a similar challenge when choosing between FLDPS, what I did is search LinkedIn profiles of former FLDPs in each company and see where their career led them in a 5-10 year time frame. I noticed some companies are much slower to promote, and others promote quickly.

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Apr 26, 2018

Thank you for doing this, appreciate the answers given above, nice to see some more info about corp fin on the boards. Congrats on making director at such a young age too!

May 3, 2018

hey @accountingbyday thank you for all the insight. My UG background is very similar to yours, yet somehow, I've been able to progress to a F500 Finance Manager at 27. I don't want to slow the momentum, so I've begun to think about a masters option, mainly as a measure to reestablish my branding with a school that other Managers/ Directors/ Execs recognize/ respect. My question to you is: would a MS in Accounting or Finance from a reputable school be just as effective as a MBA from a similar caliber school, as it pertains to future career trajectory in FP&A? Thanks in advance!

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Jun 1, 2018

Sorry, just saw this. My opinion is that an MBA and MS in Accounting are not viewed the same (because they're not the same). An MS in Accounting is a technical degree. If you want to get a technical Accounting degree that is the degree to get (and it will be well respected for that). If you want a broad business degree get an MBA (and it will be well respected for that). I'd worry a little bit less about perception of the degree and get what you need/desire to continue to advance your career.

I know the crappy UG can feel like a chip on your shoulder at times, but you're 27 and a Mgr at a F500, you're doing well. Your promotions at this point are going to be based a lot more on your work experience than a piece of paper.

Some of the weekend/online MBAs with trips abroad seem pretty sweet. My coworker just got one from Duke. That's always an option too

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Aug 22, 2018

reviving this thread...i saw the list of roles you've had or would like to have in the Q&A a while back. i understand the difference between them except for finance support of marketing/sales - could you give an example of this (i.e. pricing)?

Jan 5, 2019

Hi accountingbyday,

Not sure if you are still updating this thread. Just two quick questions

You mentioned it is important to start early in M&A if you want to lead corporate developments. However, don't you have exposure to M&A as well as a senior in FP&A? Won't you be working on business projections / planning / integration? I assume in most companies head of corporate development reports to the CFO and usually the M&A guys are pigeonholed in their M&A roles?

Also, what is your views on switching firms? It seems that you have established a good rep in your current company. Would it be difficult for you to rebuild everything in a new firm even if they offer you a more senior position?

Thanks!

Jan 7, 2019

If you want to lead Corporate Development I've seen 2 main paths:
- Be an M&A expert
- Be an Industry/Strategic Expert

I think the path you can prepare for most is being an M&A expert and this takes years of experience, typically with some IB or PE background. You need to know how to structure and close deals in your sleep (in addition to modeling, strategy implications, etc..). It's just one of those things that if you haven't done it X times, you're not an expert.

You can get the experiences you note in FP&A, but it's not the same as the tactical management/closing of deals.

The head of M&A typically reports to CFO or CEO. They're usually "pigeon-holed" I guess, but I think that's generally where they want to be. Exiting back into the business is certainly possible.

Switching firms comes at a cost. Beyond my junior years I did it once. It is hard to leave a good reputation and connections behind, but that can be rebuilt. In my case, I moved somewhere that had much better growth opportunities and I've done well on the reputation/connections end. Now that I've advanced even more the switch would likely be even more difficult, but I'm sure will happen at some point.

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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Jan 8, 2019

Thanks a lot. So in your opinion, is process management the skill that distinguished a former banker in CD vs those who were trained in FP&A? Are they valued highly because they can do process/negotiation rather than being good at technicals/excels? Do you also see lawyers playing a big role in these structuring / negotiation processes?

Do you have any advice for switching from CD to business? I am in IBD now but also considering joining a corporate. Ultimately I want to get more transferable experiences though so I guess I will need to move to business instead of staying in CD.

Do you see people follow when their seniors are being poached?

Jan 5, 2019

Little embarrassed to say I spent over an hour reading through this. I transitioned laterally from IB to an FP&A analyst role (strange, I know) at a fast-growing, private equity-backed healthcare tech company. I have a handful of questions for you:

My department is very Excel-heavy for a >$1b company based on the background of the finance leaders (all PE and IB). I'm currently trying to increase efficiency within our group to help with report generation and ad hoc analyses. What software does your company use (outside of general book-keeping) on a regular basis and why?

Additionally, I have a short-term desire to move to corporate development (which my company is currently working to built out). What advice do you have for me in this proposed career path? My company is very good at promotions and moving talented people around. I would hopefully move up the ladder from there or transition to healthcare PE.

Thanks again.

Jan 7, 2019

twitter: @CorpFin_Guy

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