Breaking into Corporate Development from Non-Traditional Backgrounds?

clear view's picture
Rank: Baboon | 161

Little bit of background, I am currently in my undergrad with decent grades (3.7), with good extracurricular and a position this summer in a commercial/corporate banking position. I'm trying to plan more long term and Corporate Development or Corporate Strategy looks very interesting, with an emphasizes on Development. All the information out there talks about breaking in from either IB, or climbing the ranks in corporate finance and networking internally to eventually transfer over to Corporate Development down the road.

Is it possible to break in from a Corporate Banking background? I do not want to go into IB or Corporate finance right out of undergrad. It seems like Corporate Banking still has that client interface and allows you to really build relationships with companies, I understand the modelling side of things isn't the same as it would be in IB, but is it possible to break in a few years down the road from Corporate Banking?

Any suggestions on a career path into Corporate Banking would be great.

Comments (16)

Feb 1, 2018

i think its possible if you demonstrate a strong understanding of the industry and supplement your modeling with a course. also target smaller companies vs. F500. corpdev hiring is very unstructured

Feb 2, 2018

I would say it is pretty difficult to break into Corp Dev w/o prior M&A experience, whether direct (e.g. IB) or indirect (e.g. Big 4 M&A Advisory). From what I've seen, most Corp Dev teams run very lean and do not have time/resources to provide a formal training program (some larger corporations do like Fortune ~100) so the expectation is that you hit the ground running pretty quickly.

It's unclear to me what is drawing you to Corporate Banking out of undergrad if the longer term goal is Corp Strat or Corp Dev.

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Feb 5, 2018

Thanks for the reply, I was interested in Corp Banking, due to the relationship building down the road in this line of work, I want to actively work and build relationships with companies to help grow the business. At the same time I have came to the realization there are many things I value in my life on-top of my career. Therefore I wasn't interested in working 80 hours a week in IB or a similar area. Still trying to figure out my long term career goals that work with the lifestyle I want.

Feb 5, 2018

Gotcha. I have no first hand knowledge, but based on recent threads, Corp Banking is not a bad gig at all. Definitely try it out. Maybe you will love it and discover down the line that you are already on the side with greener grass.

BTW, it is hard to figure out your long term career as an undergrad. I wouldn't sweat this point that much as your views will likely change several times in your 20s. When you get older, your priorities will change and you will discover what you like/dislike or what you are good/bad at. Most folks don't really settle down on what their long-term career is until their early- to-mid 30s.

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Feb 11, 2018

My first full time job out of University was in Corporate Development at a reasonably small power generation company.

I got there by having a Master's degree in Finance and work experience sufficiently relevant for me to claim I had an interest in both the industry and position at hand. i.e. internships in fund management (so investment related work) and at Siemens/GE/Alstom (so power related work).

I was required to do a modelling test in order to get the job, but the my lack of experience was taken into account when the test was being marked. I.e. I did not show expert level knowledge and ability by any stretch of the imagination, but sufficient capacity to learn that they were willing to take a risk on me. If you build up your modelling skills in advance of a test it would leave you well positioned.

This original position has opened many doors I might not have has access to previously, ranging from positions within the power sector at investment banks, infrastructure private equity firms, and corporate development positions at both larger and more sophisticated power companies as well as companies in different industries.

My advice to you, other than doing well at University/College in a relevant degree, would be to get a brand name employer on your CV in the industry in which you wish to specialise, even if it's in a slightly unrelated function.

I would also advise that you focus your attention on the Corporate Development functions of smaller companies and write to them directly. Cold calling/emailing from students and prospective employees simply doesn't happen in Corporate Development, so you'd set yourself apart from the crowd immediately by employing such a strategy.

Good luck.

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Feb 11, 2018


Question for you: Have an engineering degree and worked in the energy field for ~ 20 years before changing careers to finance. Have extensive experience not only with all of the major vendors: GE, Alstom, S&S, MHI, Westinghouse,... I actually designed control systems for powerplants during the technical portion of my career.

That said, I moved into project mgmt. and business development after about 10 years. Still was required to provide technical support, but mostly QA/QC for projects and developing/maintaining corporate standards on our technical specifications.

Travel got overwhelming, got sick, got fed up, made enough seed money to roll it out into an IRA and start really trading. Took about 4 years off to recover physically, and spent the majority of my time building my portfolio. When I chose to get back into the workforce and switch to a buy-and-hold mentality, I moved into the FA field. Have brokers license, ins license NMLS number, but I am not a salesman.

I intended to get into the field in order to find something with an analytical bent. That has not happened, but I have not looked either. What are the minimum requirements to enter the job market for a position such as the one you mentioned?

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Feb 12, 2018

The difficulty for you will be that you're probably over qualified but in the wrong areas.

At the lower end, the minimum requirement would be very strong project finance modelling skills, a working knowledge of accounting, strong valuation knowledge, some transactional experience and broad knowledge of the industry/market and/or deep knowledge of an energy asset class. Eg CCGT. This would usualky need to be evidenced by a relevant finance degree, relevant work experience and demonstrable modelling ability either via tests the employer makes you sit or through having attended specific modelling courses.

At the higher entry point, amongst other things, you'd typically need experience of arranging project/corporate finance and structuring of said finance, termsheet negotiation, PPA structuring, a working knowledge of modelling, decent knowledge of accounting and valuations, deep knowledge of the industry/market and good knowledge of all asset classes.

I imagine the difficulty you would face is that you are probably more than capable of all of the above, but lack the actually experience of implementing it. I reckon your best bet would be to narrow your search to smaller firms that don't attract as much top talent as some of the larger firms since your competition will be of a lower standard. I would also imagine that targeting firms that need your technical experience of a certain asset class would help. Eg if you have strong offshore wind techicak knowledge and they want to move into offshore wind, you could be the go to guy for that within the Corporate Development team.

What is your location out of interest?

Feb 11, 2018

Hi Clear View, I would suggest first assessing why you'd like to work corporate banking rather than corporate development for a few years out of school and second, assessing exactly which skills you think are transferable between the two. I am not too familiar with corporate banking, but I assume it will give you an opportunity to deeply learn an industry -which is critical for corp dev- and meet folks in corporate treasury departments at potential future firms for you.

If neither of those are totally true, I'd recommend moving into corp. dev. first, likely at a smaller company and networking around to get a feel for these positions. As well, FP&A and finance development programs are proven ways to join corp dev. teams, so I'd research this heavily before writing it off. Also, with your GPA finding a development program at a F50 company shouldn't be too difficult. At these firms, the corp dev, strategy and NBD teams are much larger than at smaller companies, so they cannot adhere to the "only ex-bankers" mantra.

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Feb 11, 2018

Corporate finance and networking can get you in at entry levels. Many teams have strategy, Corp dev, and business development in one area. Once you get into one, you can transition to others with a little initiative and networking. Does not necessarily require banking experience (that's my experience, outside of NYC).

Feb 13, 2018


What would be your suggestions to breaking into this line of work. Who/how would I target the correct audience, and what would/should I accentuate in my cv?

I've always had a bent for finance/investing, hence my ability to parlay seed money into a real retirement account, but it's clearly not a direct path from one industry to another, especially considering I'm 50 now. Also, are there opportunities at smaller boutiques in smaller venues? Would it be compulsory for me to move to NYC, CHI-Town or one of the other hubs? I'm NOT any bigger city a guy that KCMO, and I wouldn't mind moving from here, to be honest.

Feb 13, 2018

Not to hijack the discussions on this thread but I have a question about beginning one's career in Corporate Development directly out of undergrad that I feel would mesh well with the overall theme of conversation.

I'll be working in Corporate Development & Strategy at a F500 in the Financial Services industry this summer. Currently a Junior at a top 20 undergrad w/o any banking experience. I'm not yet sure if CD is really where I want to end up - I've had experience owning and operating a company as well as startups and definitely enjoyed the process of strategically planning the growth and development of the various companies but I'm unsure of forgoing the traditional IB route for CD straight from undergrad.

My main question is essentially what would be gained from entering Corporate Development straight from undergrad without banking experience that would not be gained from having had prior investment banking experience?

Feb 24, 2018

I work in Corporate Development at a large cap tech company based out of the Bay Area. Plenty of people on my team do not have banking backgrounds (in fact less than half I think). There are quite a few former consultants and lawyers. There is also a former accountant and someone who used to work in sales/partnership development. There is a trend though that the more junior members on the team tend to have banking backgrounds whereas the more senior folks come from much more diverse functions.

I definitely don't think IB is necessary - what's more important is having deal/transaction experience in some shape or form be it through banking, consulting, accounting or even as a lawyer. Modeling skills are important, but oftentimes deal management is a far more important skill especially when you need to work with so many other cross-functional teams at the company when executing a transaction (legal, M&A finance, HR, the product team, senior executives, etc.)

Mar 15, 2018