AMA: Pivoting & Upselling Your Skill Set - Big 4 to DCM, Ratings Agency CA to IB

Associate 2 in IB-M&A

About

Undergrad to 5 years in Big 4 taxation (CPA/MBA), I then pivoted to a major commercial bank DCM for 6+ years (Series 7/63). Taking some years out of the industry, I later returned to finance via internship as a TMT Credit Analyst at a major credit rating agency, and again pivoted, to MM IB (Series 79). Call me the Pivot Queen, it took patience and determination, but I hit my goal. NYU BS Accounting and MBA Finance, both through academic scholarship programs.

AMA

Happy to answer questions about how to set goals and prepare for your pivot, market your current career skills to a new space in finance, discover and develop the skills you may need, timing, networking, MBA, certifications.
I'm a WSO Senior Mentor and Resume Reviewer, and have hired, onboarded, trained, mentored and led interns and Analysts. I really enjoy helping students and junior professionals navigate their careers.

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Comments (13)

Jan 10, 2020

Happy to answer any questions - are you a student, or currently working? I'd like to get the idea out there that many paths to a great finance career exist. So many positions are not even listed online, word of mouth and networking is still king to finding opportunities, as well as learning what to realistically expect from various jobs.

Funniest
Jan 10, 2020

Ah, the good ol classic posting anonymous and then replying below. It's ok. I've done it a bunch.

How did you spin your time in tax to land the DCM role? Sounds like an interesting story.

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Most Helpful
Jan 10, 2020

If you didn't toss in a grain of snark, I'd be worried you're in the wrong business!

Firstly, I had a fresh finance MBA, so that automatically gives a reboot, and entree. Post-MBA is always high time for a pivot. Also had CPA credential, important icing n the cake.
I explained how accounting is the basis of finance, helping me to understand and analyze financial statements. I originally chose accounting undergrad specifically in prep for a finance MBA. In my tax role, I said I did a fair amount of modeling and analysis, although it was related to tax laws and computing various types of corporate tax, there were no proprietary models for certain tasks, we built them from scratch. I had significant research, analysis and writing experience, as none of my clients' situations were "plain vanilla." In Big 4 tax, that level of client is complex. We would read letter rulings or cases to take a position on gray areas of tax treatment. We weren't preparing individual tax returns, it was higher level - you get it. I also discussed attention to detail, working in a team (particularly a lean one, where I had broad responsibility at my level), time management/budget, taking initiative, interacting directly with clients, managing portions of an engagement. I gave examples of challenging engagements I worked on, where I helped develop a solution. Tenacity, ability to do the grind. Also, direct entry level to taxation from undergrad (where most people have advanced degrees - JD, Masters) is very selective, so that added weigh. None of these skills actually are a stretch, there was a lot of crossover in a broad sense.
I worked with many brilliant people in taxation, as intelligent, diligent and corporate as any in DCM. But the personality was much different. Accounting v. finance. I have a finance personality. I'm client-facing, energetic, confident (but with humility). Also, tax is more "solo, in your silo" than DCM - I'd compare it to doing valuation work. It's useful/intellectual, but very silent. DCM is boisterous! Nerf football across the office!
Finally, I studied in NYC and was job-hunting in NYC, so that had some positive influence. There were a few NYU grads in my DCM shop. In general, finding a familiar point of interest to develop a conversation is always key. I'm a connector, and I actually enjoy interviewing. There was a fantastic personality match, I felt it right away, with everyone I interviewed with.
I went in with confidence and real belief that what I was pitching as relevant skills from taxation were truly going to be useful. I didn't get grilled on technicals, more fit.
Hope that's helpful.

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 10, 2020

Could you speak a little about your time in DCM? How you found it, pros/cons of DCM as a career and why you left? Also do you have any tips/tricks for those moving onto a DCM desk for FT/SA?

    • 1
Jan 10, 2020

DCM was the favorite of my career. I absolutely loved the "product group" of a commercial bank piece where we both had a lot of support and visibility to the C-suite, all pitches were warm as bank clients, but we were the cowboys of the bank. Well remunerated and well regarded. Fantastic relationship with all the RMs of the commercial bank - we were helping each other, so many great people.
Must admit, a lot was simply a great personality fit with fabulous professionals - as smart as they were is as nice as they were (believe it or not, it can be found). We honestly had fun while working really hard. It's also intensive, with hours and some travel, but not IB-level hours/pressure, and certainly no competition between MDs or VPs. Very team-oriented. No stupid meetings! It's a very good product that clients genuineltruly need, so you can feel like your truly adding value, helping businesses grow, stay in business, employ people. There's no "dark side" to it.
Cons: I suppose it's never going to be as sexy as IB/equity. Within a commercial bank is also not an investment bank. I think it's more image than substance - so maybe exit opportunities are not the same. DCM -> PE? Not sure, although PE is doing significantly more lending, especially in middle market. So much is about fit and what's comfortable for you.
Looking to DCM for FT/SA, I'd really prepare to know as much as possible about what they do in DCM. If you have Wall Street Prep Premium, watch the Webinars about DCM. Read anything you can on the LevFin market to get an idea (broadly) of the current climate, where are coverage ratios, covenants (e.g. "covenant lite"). Look into Loan Syndications, this is the investment grade side of DCM, more in a commercial bank but GS/JPM has it, too (a huge % of U.S. financings are this product, so not to be discredited). Develop and have a well-described reason to choose DCM as your primary goal.
I left because I had a baby, returned from maternity leave, and there was zero flexibility for me. I did not want to leave, I really liked it.

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  • Intern in IB - Gen
Jan 10, 2020

Thanks for this - super helpful! My goal is DCM long-term so it is great to hear that it seems so good! I'm not interested in PE really, I'll only really look at alternatives if I get bored (I don't believe in planning an exit before going in). Its nice to hear that it is a role with purpose.

I have a SA in Capital Markets and I'm hoping to get DCM in the sell day (I did an SA at a CRA as well so hoping that will give me an in). A couple of follow-up questions if you wouldn't mind: How were the hours on a regular week and how bad did it get at times? How intensive is it really? Finally, any tips on how to hit the ground running for SA and secure a FT? Thank you!

    • 1
Jan 10, 2020

How did you decide when the right time to leave Big4 was?

    • 1
Jan 10, 2020

Right time to leave: The minute I accumulated the time requirement to finalize my CPA, I left. I knew I didn't want accounting permanently, and really only stuck with it to get the credential.

I feel very strongly that credentials like a CPA or CFA, depending on your career, show commitment and grit (usually you're passing challenging exams during the most challenging years of your career), and you should always do it if possible, to distinguish yourself as a candidate. That silly credential - a couple months of study, a few hours of testing - has been viewed every sinclasted years as a favorable item.

As a tax professional, it took nearly 5 years to get the relevant experience, because unlike audit which was a straight two years to sign off, in tax it must be related to the accrual work (which is the audit-relevant task of taxation). It was kind of a brutal wait, but again, the tax work was high level and more challenging/interesting, and once I passed the test, I wasn't walking away. Definitely worth it.

I did get push back from some shops when I was interviewing - why wasn't I sticking with accounting - I returned with the pitch of accounting as a planned step in pivoting to finance long-term (which was honest).

    • 3
Jan 10, 2020
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