Big 4 M&A vs BB Equity Research

Hello ladies and gentleman of WSO. I have a choice to make...

(most likely) Analyst 2 at a BB Research team (could be analyst 3 / associate 1) or...
Assistant manager / manager (to be determined) in a big 4 M&A group

My guess is base salary will be very similar at both. Some managerial experience with the big 4 offer, whereas I would be the most junior person in the research team

Any thoughts on the best path forward would be very much appreciated. I am very close to getting both offers but once I get one, I will be pressed to sign very quickly, hence my reason for asking your advice

Long term goals....I don't know at this point. I like both markets and working with companies. Planning to stick with whatever company I choose for the long term (4+ years) as at this point I am definitely a job hopper and need to show that I can commit (I started in back office).

Your advice would be very much appreciated.

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Comments (20)

Best Response
Feb 20, 2018 - 8:21am

There are a number of things to consider here, and given that you aren't sure what long-term goals are, hopefully this can help guide your thinking.

The upward trajectory at Big 4 is much more clearly defined if that's something that's important to you. As long as you do your job well you can make the jump to Manager/Senior Manager, but the Partner promote is a little less structured. A bit different in ER from what I've heard. Anecdotally friends in smaller teams have mentioned that sometimes people end up waiting for their superiors to either get promoted or leave in order to get their promotion. Not sure how true this is, but thought I'd throw it out there.

In terms of flexibility from an exit perspective I would say ER definitely takes the cake here. With ER you can move into banking, HF space, AM, and to a lesser extent corporate development. At the Big 4 it's typically much more difficult to move around once you get to the Senior Manager level (assuming you don't jump ship before you make it there). If it is Big 4 M&A, there is the opportunity to lateral to a bank and move into PE later if that's your thing.

Again, lot's to consider and because you aren't sure what you want to do 5+ years down the line I would say take the ER offer when it comes in. If you can envision yourself as a Partner at the Big 4 then by all means go for it, but if I were in your shoes I'd be putting a lot of emphasis on potential exit opportunities. Last thing I would want to do is put myself in a position where I felt pigeon-holed.

Just my 2 cents.

Feb 20, 2018 - 9:51am

Which would you view as better for the following? My guess below but very interested in what others think:

Research = R
Big 4 M&A = 4

BB Banking: 4?
MM PE: 4
MF PE: 4? (Probably a stretch either way)?
Venture Capital: 4?
Corp Dev: 4?
Start a business: 4?

Someone left the team and joined a reputable MM PE firm over the last year, so I'm not sure a switch to banking is required (unless for MF PE).

Seems like BB Research closes off more? (As I write this it sounds counter-intuitive). Big 4 M&A only closes off AM / HF?

Honestly, I don't have a strong view on which is better. I get that BB Research is probably more prestigious. I doubt I'll want to stay until partner at Big 4 if it makes a difference.

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Feb 20, 2018 - 6:46pm

You will probably find the below ramble bizzare...but here goes.....

Here's what worked for me... YMMV! If you tell me more about your situation I'm happy to give advice, but I make no claims to be an expert. Feel free to PM me also.

CFA helps always, more so if you're a non target non finance person.

Craft a story thats compelling. You need an edge. This applies more and more the less relevant your experience is. CFA is one example of an edge.

A second edge is something interesting e.g. you enjoy experimental metallurgy welding in your garage, or are the lead vocalist in a band blending norwegian and polish death metal. None of these apply to me but I have some stuff that is as random as the above and its on my CV under interests / hobbies. Make sure you really enjoy whatever it is. If its illegally brewing moonshine, but its the best damn moonshine thats great.

You need two as to why that group in that firm and another thats just interesting / different. Applies more and more the more non target you are.

Try and move the conversation in the interview away from finance, I've generally found this helps. Also show very significant interest in the team / company before you move conversation away. There may not be a chance to move the conversation away so dont do it unnaturally, but asking about their interests can be an easy way to do it.

If you can find a recruiter that will bat for you that's valuble. They need to be well connected. Find one thats been doing it for 20 years and has connections and repeat business.

If the above doesn't work, just go crazy with networking / applying. I've been rejected from more roles than 99.99% of people my age I'm sure. Good rule of thumb is at least one application / networking call / email a day. Repeat until you have a job.

Hope the above helps.

Feb 20, 2018 - 9:32pm

This is Europe, of the two exits from the team that I am aware of (both at mid (VP) level) one went to a well respected mm PE and the other to a decent corp dev team.

Don't know if that changes things. Seems like Big 4 CF is really not respected in the US, is it really that different based on geographies?

Team backgrounds generally are research / boutique m&a.

Feb 20, 2018 - 11:11am

Hmmm. This is an interesting situation. To be honest, I am personally not super bullish on the whole sell-side BB ER space. It's definitely not what it used to be, and while you will gain a lot of market and industry knowledge as well as modeling reps, you're not gaining any valuable transaction experience. And it's not like sell-side ER really puts out anything that is super against the grain, or provides a totally new perspective on anything.

I think given your VC healthcare background, a move to Big 4 Healthcare M&A makes sense here. You do that for a few years and I think you would be a good candidate to jump ship to an in-house corp dev team at a healthcare company, or even a MM PE firm covering healthcare.

Feb 20, 2018 - 6:58pm

You've pretty much sold me on the in house corp dev for healthcare aspect.

Another angle would be the corp venture arms e.g. earlier stage versions of the above.

Unless the bb offer offers a significantly higher title, I'll probably take the big 4 offer.

Will let you know what i decide.... I may feel different if I have both actually in hand!

Feb 20, 2018 - 7:41pm

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