Anyone actually like their corporate development job? (Post -IB)

thecoolkid1234's picture
Rank: King Kong | banana points 1,441

I know most people exit to PE/HF (coming from my firm) and maybe 1-2 in each analyst class exit to corporate development. I myself also plan on exiting to PE but I've always been curious about corporate dev

I know the positive to corporate development is actually getting your life back but it seems like everything else is sort of subpar. Pay sucks, work is ok but working for a company that isn't an actual financial firm becomes tedious even working for F100 companies, exit opportunity or career advancement seems murkier. So those that exited to corp dev from BB/EBs do you actually enjoy the work?

And if you actually do enjoy your work what are sort of the opportunities 2-5 years down the road?

Thanks!

Comments (42)

Nov 28, 2018

bump

Nov 28, 2018

Interested as well! I've always wondered whether people tend to stay in corpdev or move into other corporate functions

Nov 28, 2018

Interested as well.

Funniest
Nov 28, 2018

No Corp Dev is a complete bullshit function.

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    • 15
Nov 28, 2018

Well that sounds terrible...

    • 1
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Nov 30, 2018

big 4 TAS guy with a PE badge throwing heavy shade.

Have done Corp dev and recently switched to PE.

If you work at a name brand bank and jump to Corp dev at a small, no-name company, then you made a terrible decision. Most people would know if the role has FP&A responsibilities, which does suck.

Pay and total comp does vary widely, both based on company size and industry.

Politics are a thing everywhere, so hard to broadly knock a certain job for that.

As to a deal and the diligence being done when the Corp dev team looks at it, you couldn't be more wrong. Who the fuck would've done the bid price and diligence? Common for companies to not use banks on PE portco or small private acquisitions.

My team selected which deals to chase and pass on.

I think some companies can hold back high performing IB analysts in Corp dev simply on years of work experience, which makes the long term progression pretty slow.

Waiting for a promotion based on people retiring is more prevalent at old school companies or companies in mature industries. Have heard this specifically about Boeing, GE, and Exxon, Chevron, etc. for oil. Applies to positions above manager (director, VP, etc.)

I'd say it's common for people to get solid industry experience and hop back to banking or into PE in the same industry. Good learning experience, but not necessarily better hours to the extent most expect.

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Nov 28, 2018

Grats

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Mar 13, 2019

Very well explained!

Adding my personal experience, when company is doing bad, you have to accept any other work thrown at you! probably, better than being fired!

Dec 2, 2018

Couldn't be further from the truth.

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Nov 30, 2018

Care to elaborate and post details about your company's size?

Nov 28, 2018

I had a PE badge. For whatever reason, they assigned me an accounting badge and made me a certified user. It's unclear why. I don't work in accounting.

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Dec 2, 2018

I don't know why I laughed so hard at that but you get an SB Anyone actually like their corporate development job? (Post -IB)

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Mar 14, 2019

I'm an accountant but I'm too ashamed so I used O since there's no I for Influencer. Wanna switch?

Mar 14, 2019

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Nov 28, 2018

Well I'm actually confused by this thread - I've noticed a trend on WSO where most corp dev posters say they love their job and it's a perfect mix of hours/pay/opportunities.

Any of the usual corp dev posters have any insights? @Sil @Esuric

Most Helpful
Dec 2, 2018

I spent half a year in Corp Dev during my rotational program here are my limited thoughts:

Corp Dev really varies company to company. If you're at an acquisitive company you can be doing a lot of deals and hours can be a little rougher. It also means the work you're doing can be a little more interesting. If you're not doing deals you might be selling business units, doing strategic work with other groups/units, looking for new deals etc. Hours usually aren't bad, pay isn't fantastic but if you can find a good balance that is where Corp Dev can be a good fit for some.

In Corp Dev you're always second fiddle to the actual product teams within the business. I was in tech, so the various product teams actually had the most say in M&A activity because we were almost always acquiring to advance some type of product strategy.

It was a bunch of BS decks and garbage work for the higher ups. Coming from a product group at the company I felt like I was going back into banking.

Most people on Corp Dev have come from banking and they're trying to make it into Marketing, Sales, Product, or some other operations function in the business. The path is decently well traveled and in our group, the senior corp dev people encouraged it, as in they would try and staff people within certain groups at the business for help with strategic work. The idea is you'd be a mercenary on a few projects, impress some BU leaders, and then jump into the business after a few years. I saw some more senior corp dev guys, jump to being directors of finance/CFOs of specific business units in the company.

All in all, I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in Corp Dev unless I was at a highly acquisitive company or just one that had a unique spin on Corp Dev. It's definitely a place you'd go if you value your lifestyle over money. With that being said, if you could get in at a pretty senior level it can be cushy. I knew an ex HSW MBA guy who did trad banking to PE, then went to his MBA and started in Corp Dev right out of school. He moved pretty quickly, jumped around a few corp dev units and now he's running the Corp Dev group at a F500 company in his early 30s. Probably makes a low stress few hundred thousand a year, gets pretty good stock based comp and could position himself to be a CFO candidate in ~5ish years.

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Dec 3, 2018

Any anecdotal stories on how Cd folks moved to marketing or sales?

Dec 2, 2018

A few, but they're all basically in the vein of what I described above.

Ex BB, MF PE guy came into Corp Dev at a pretty high level. He wanted to move into a Product Management role, so after 6 months or so, asked to be staffed on all deal/strategy work for a specific BU that he was interested in. Got close with the GM of that division and made his intentions known that he saw himself moving into a Product Role. He bided his time, kept doing good work and made the jump after 1.5 years or so. I heard that he spent about a year in product, didn't like it and then moved out of the company and back into PE.

More Senior Corp Dev do the same thing, but position themselves to be the Finance leaders for a specific BU, so a mini CFO if you will. They control the whole P&L, run and lead planning, etc. I've seen a few of these guys make the leap to a high level finance role and then they get tapped for CFO type positions at smaller companies.

Corporate strategy usually has a slightly easier time getting into a broader variety of roles such as marketing, product, even sales. Corp Dev typically stays more siloed to finance roles.

With all that being said, this was somewhat unique to the company I was at. Can't speak for others.

Interestingly, most of the people in Corp Dev end up staying in Corp Dev or leaving to go back to another Finance role somewhere else. I haven't seen as many move into industry and stay there, but that's just my observation.

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Dec 3, 2018

Work for PE-backed company as second-year CD analyst coming from small I-bank. Work on 3-4 deals per year that close, work on another 2-4 deals that stay pre-LOI diligence, company probably closes ~8-15 deals per year. Most of the deals are LMM (<$100MM) at this point since the industry is so rolled up already, but constant deal work and pressure to complete as many acquisitions as possible since it is PE-backed. Work definitley gets repetetive preparing same materials for each deal, kind of a grind as well given large volume of transactions (more so than I thought going in)

Would be curious to hear from other CD people who have transitioned to PE (i.e. how long did you stay in CD, background, strategy, etc.). Feel like you need to stay at least 2 years prior to exit

Nov 30, 2018

Mind if I ask what your comp structure looks like?

Did they give you some bps of Equity?

Have seen guys pivot to portcos doing CD and they typically get Manager titles (no direct reports, so a bit fluffy)

Wasn't close enough to them to ask about equity.

Dec 3, 2018

Base + 25-35% bonus and no equity unfortunately. Would be happier if I had equity but oh well

Nov 28, 2018

Been a while but bumping for more thoughts

Feb 26, 2019

Corp Dev is such a black hole, since there is so much disparity in everyone's CD experience. I never did banking but kind of wish I had at this point in my career.

Its very interesting to me to hear everyone's perspective - I'm not sure what to do at this point but most of my bosses all wanted to move to commercial roles (owning a P&L).

Mar 13, 2019

I can only speak about my experience, but at my firm, a CD/BD guy could never own a P&L. My company had three separate segments: generics, brands and injectables.

The head of generics is a JD and served as an EVP of legal affairs for years at a top generics manufacturer (think Mylan, Teva, Actavis). She understands patent law like the back of her hand. She spends all her time strategizing about how to bypass or invalidate IP. In the situation where she couldn't, her time was spent thinking about optimal settlement terms and how to maximize the company's leverage in negotiation with the innovator. The generics industry is a legal game. You have to understand the law. A lot of stuff that happens in the negotiation process borders on illegal.

The head of the brand division is a PhD and was the head of neurosciences at a major brand manufacturer (think Pfizer, Novartis, BMS). He understands development complexity, regulatory challenges, clinical benefits of various chemical compounds, etc. In other words, he's a scientist through and through. He's also a psychologist. He spent his time thinking about how to convince physicians to prescribe one product over another. How to convince one PBM to assign favorable formulary coverage to one product over another.

The head of injectables spent years working with major GPOs and has contacts all over the clinics/hospital space. Very strong relationships.

What I'm saying is that no one with a finance background could ever step into either of these roles. They just don't have the conceptual, technical ability nor do they have the relationships required. I'm sorry but in PE, you'll never make friends with some scientist in the R&D department that one day runs the company. You meet the CEO once he/she is already the CEO.

The relationship is much stronger when you know the person before they become a big shot.

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Feb 26, 2019

I think highly dependant on the industry. I think for some industries it maybe easier to make the jump to a commercial/operator - obviously since Bio is very technical and scientific in nature someone with a finance background wouldn't make sense.

Also, another layer of complexity is how your organization is structured. I currently work in a matrix organization which means ownership of a P&L is pretty much non-existent.

Mar 15, 2019

dumb

Mar 18, 2019

I've been in corporate development/strategy for the last 1.5 years in a tech firm. The job itself is quite fulfilling if you are a fit for it: analytic mindset, emotional bias killer, not dopamine-operationally driven and capability to develop a unique vision on the big scope of the business.

Work life balance is really good. It is very rare that I put more than 40h any week, I don't have a fixed schedule and I can work from home whenever I want. Downside is that I am in a plane every 3 weeks or so.

Of course, in this world nothing comes for free. Salary is crap if compared to finance jobs, and that means you forget about McMansions, sport cars, boats and fancy trips, specially if you live in an expensive area. A few days ago I was complaining to my accountant about how the new tax laws screwed up my tax return and he literally said 'you are not that bad, should see the high earners from the area' (everybody in my area works in finance).

In my case it works because I can dump a shit ton of hours in the CFA and also I believe it provides a great platform to network into IB, ER or HF. So it is the right position at the right time to get where I want. But quite honestly, if thinking about a definitive move I would wait until you feel that you have 'conquered the world'

Mar 19, 2019

What about PE?

Mar 18, 2019

A great part of the corporate role I have is to follow a subset of customers and evaluate their status as ongoing concern, their capital expenditure trends, etc. so we can adjust our approach to them and make sure our long term development investments make sense. With a few exceptions, most of the companies I follow and interact with are public companies. However, there are peers that cover non-public type of customers, so I think it depends on your role

Mar 25, 2019

I can totally relate to your experience. I have started in Corp Dev (well, not really, I did a few years in ER beforehand) and found the experience really valuable. Then moved to M&A (at a Big4, so wouldn't dare to call it IB) and found the stint quite horrible: investment banking hours accounting pay, constantly stretched between managing juniors and managing partners, getting dumped the most boring side of the work by clients, constantly battling to handle origination and execution at the same time, etc.

Going back to Corp Dev in a few weeks (at another company than my previous employer). What draws me into Corp Dev is the following:

  • The appeal is obviously the work-life balance (especially when you have kids like I do) since most people treat it as a 50 hours job allowing you to live a normal life.
  • Second appeal is access to industry insights. Since I work in FIG for me it is very very relevant as I always had a specialist a few floors above or below me to get me into technicalities of any topic. Understanding in-depth the financial management of a financial institution is extraordinarily helpful if you wanna get far in FIG. That you simply cannot achieve if in your day to day you are surrounded by M&A people who can't go much further than DDM and P/TBV (okay, I am vastly over-simplifying here).
  • Third, I think you have to see it as a different career-track. Rather than spending your life just doing deals, you will have the opportunity to evolve towards other finance roles or strategy roles. Bottom-line is that you can trade a "deal" career for a career defined by a certain sector angle or a corporation in which you can spend decades climbing the ladder.
  • Finally in Corp Dev you really get the full picture. You do deals from the very first ideation steps where you discuss with the head of a business line who tells you "what about buying that type of asset in that geography" and then jointly build-up a case for the management board up to SPA negotiation (which you also get in PE) to post-deal integration and revision of the Group strategy related to that deal.

In the end it largely depends on the quality of the corporate and the team there. If you go for such role in a crappy company with limited M&A ambitions indeed it won't get you very far.
If you want to end up in PE or in IB it is not the right place to start as it is more supposed to be an endgame than a platform to jump to something else. IB is the place to start and gain the key corporate finance skills. Then depending on how commercial and money-driven people are they may shift to PE, Corp Dev or stay in IB. Moving from Corp Dev to PE is typically not foreseen although in practice it happens at very senior level if the candidate can bring a very robust industry expertise (which will require not to have stayed in Corp Dev for 10 years but have taken top management roles or built up very specific technical or business skills). You will also get exposure to big corporate politics which some people hate but I find entertaining as usually curious about human nature.

But personnally I love it, I had started interviewing for such position after just 1 year track record when I started in ER, it has always been my #1 spot. In a few weeks the fun will start again and I will start building a new empire. Goodbye forever to the handling of VDR, the scouting of deals years in advance and networking with arrogant C-levels.

Mar 26, 2019

How bad is crap pay though?

Mar 19, 2019

There is also a huge difference between Corp Dev post IB and Corp Dev without IB. Going to PE from Corp Dev without legitimate IB experience is going to be an uphill battle. Even if you do, the chance that you make it to a substantial firm with a track record is slim to none. Best bet would be to find some startup fund who has difficulty accessing the sea of prime candidates and pray they are succesful.

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Mar 23, 2019

I work in Corp Dev in a PE-backed company - am earning a base and bonus at a similar level as IBs, the hours can be long but better than IBs. But would say I'm pretty lucky in that sense.

Corp Dev teams tend to be small and hence can vary on pay and hours depending on company. There's some truth on lack of progression due to perceived lack of seniority, as some companies aren't used to the fast progression of the IB/PE world. Just need to be clever how you navigate internal relationships and politics.

The other thing that varies is deal flow - things can be very exciting and full on if the company is acquisitive, but the opposite if the company is focussing on organic growth or restricting cash/resources for inorganic growth.

So in short, it's a bit of a gamble. Advice would be to join a large, stable and acquisitive business with a good deal track record and offering a good pay package. Meet the team beforehand and try gage from their background and past deals on whether it's a good fit. If you do join and it's not what you expected, you can always leave.

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Apr 5, 2019

From my personal experience of switching from IB to a senior position in corporate development/m&a: challenging move. Requires developing new set of skills: strategy, long-term view, strong soft skills to bring operational teams on board, and... being ready to be asked to actually manage the business you've acquired ))). Also don't forget that you are running the show (paricularly if you don't hire financial advisors/TS on buy-side) including the actual DD. You are also fully responsible for the results - you will be here to extract synergies you promised to your CEO ))). And of course there is much more fun if it is a private equity backed business.
PS
Beware: Hours can be also very long!

Feb 26, 2019

This could be true at your company but I would say the transition from IB to Corporate Development is not very difficult (especially if there is already a culture of M&A in place). I think from my perspective there are a few mischaracterizations, generally speaking (not trying to discount your experience).

From my experience, the CD group is more of a facilitator and project lead for acquisitions. We aren't commercial or operators so the operational business unit lead would be the one managing it post acquisitions.

From a results perspective, CD isn't technically executing on synergies/results - typically rely heavily on functional/operational teams to get these assumptions, again they are the ones who are executing on the business case.

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Nov 30, 2018

Not sure why you keep inserting your opinion as semi-fact. YMMV, but your experience is an outlier from my 20+ discussions with former IB to CD

More likely than not, there is a huge learning curve for strategy, long-term thinking and actually understanding how the business operates and makes money.

IB gives a synthetic view of an industry and helps with high-level valuation and buzzword trends/themes.

Again,YMMV, but it's not truly seamless switching for most.

Apr 5, 2019

Just to clarify: when saying that you may be asked to manage the business I mean that there is a natural career evolution scenario (not for juniors of course but always interesting to have that perspective in mind...) when you can become (or be asked to) CEO/CFO/... of the business you've acquired and deliver on the acquisition BP. You may also be asked to perform regular post-acquisition reviews with the business guys. Generally, the main change is that you start thinking long-term, get deeper knowledge of the sector, work closer with business teams and get involved in certain post-transaction workflows. This job also gives you additional options for your future career development. But I agree that it all depends on the company and they way they deal with CD. In some cases M&A teams are more deeply integrated within Strategy teams and have broader exposure within the group. Good to share our (different) experiences here and hope this helps our younger friends.