Broke into Corporate Development, but behind my peers in experience

I have pretty much all the credentials one would want as an undergraduate. Economics Major, Target School (ivy), and a great GPA. Unfortunately, with a whirlwind of college experiences including Division I sports, I only was able to muster up a few final-round interviews with BB banks in NYC. I took a couple of real estate internships in the summer as it helped me focus on sports. Then, three months out of college I was able to land a Corporate Development gig at a F500 company working as an M&A Analyst (CPG). It's not in NYC, but a great work-life balance. I probably make around 75% all-in as the typical first-year analyst BB. Networking. Networking. Networking. This was simply all I did. However, I realize I may be at a disadvantage because most in CorpDev already have IB experience or similar finance internships. This is the case for my bosses. How can I catch up to the rest of the pack and be a quality asset while always looking for potential exit opps? I should say that my boss/company is having the company pay for me to take classes in NYC for valuation in the coming months (thank god).

P.S. i love this website. Keep up the great work.

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Comments (28)

Dec 29, 2018

It sounds like a good role. Once you've been there for a little while (6-12 months), I'd sit down with your bosses and have a frank conversation about whether they think there is room to advance without an IB background.

It's not uncommon to see senior CD guys without IB experience. If you really think you need it, or your goal isn't CD for the long term, I think you have a couple options. One, you could stay there for 2-4 years, then go get an MBA and join a bank after as an associate. Or two, after a year, you could try to lateral. You will certainly be able to get looks with a solid resume like yours. You'll have to start as a first year analyst, but I bet you can land a good IB gig with a year of relevant experience.

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Dec 29, 2018

First, thanks for the comment. I think that timeline is great for sitting down with my bosses. It's always been my dream to go into S&T/IB but the more that I research, would you suggest making that leap even if I could? The sheer factory-like development and training IB has is the most envious part so I can have the world as my options after, but obviously it can be draining. What is your take on chances of getting into PE? We deal with PE/VC funds all the time, pitching companies in early Series stages, and they seem like they've "made it" more than the bank heads in our sector that throw pitchbooks at our feet every couple of weeks in hotel restaurants or over a call where my boss rolls his eyes every five seconds.

Dec 29, 2018

Lower MM PE might be doable. Especially if CPG focused. But what do you want long term? I think you have to answer that before deciding your next move. If you just want to open up more options, then IB might make a lot of sense for a couple years.

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Dec 29, 2018

It's very early on in my career, so I think I will hunker down and learn as much as i can while enjoying this new experience, then re calibrate in ~6 months - 1 year and see what I want in life. We are all forward-looking because these professions are extremely exciting & boundless. Thanks again much love.

Dec 29, 2018

Your career will stall in CD. Jump to IB ASAP.

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Jan 1, 2019

This shouldn't get monkey shit. It's impossible at some companies to move up solely in CD without rotating around other departments.

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Jan 3, 2019

what other departments are we talking about?

Jan 3, 2019

"Operational" roles. Whatever that looks like depends on industry.

Potentially some supply chain or business unit departments with responsibility for a segment of the business (within a smaller region or geography)

Jan 4, 2019

yeah, f***that though. I've already had a glimpse of those roles (supply chain, FP&A, treasury), and besides the dullness, most of these people are company-lifers. I'm talking about people that work for a longstanding company, shack up with another employee, and before you know it have four kids and a minivan 10 years down the road. Not that it's a problem, just not for me...

Jan 3, 2019

can't really jump until I gain a solid foundation for myself, 1-2 years am I right?

Jan 3, 2019

can't really jump until I gain a solid foundation for myself, 1-2 years am I right?

Most Helpful
Jan 3, 2019

Stay a year and jump. CD is not a function you want to enter into early on in your career. It's basically a low paying exit opp for burned out bankers looking for work/life balance. You get into after your associate IB run and you come in at Senior Manager/Director.

There's a lot of variation in CD but a few things are pretty common across firms/industries:

  1. Management is generally unsophisticated when it comes to financial statement analysis, valuation and advanced excel modeling. As such, your work will need to be as simple as possible so that management can follow. Not great for early career development.
  2. Late stage deals go to bankers/Big 4 TAS groups/strategy consultants. At that point, you're basically a project manager. Again, not great for career development.
  3. You may or may not have exposure to forecasting. If you do, you'll learn a lot about the industry. The flipside is that you'll likely also be working on a lot of FP&A work. FP&A sucks and it's not great for M&A career development.

The core CD function, to be honest, is to summarize and synthesize information into PPT decks that can be presented to management. This is why IB is a good fit (thousands of hours in PPT). It's really not analytical.

Again, there's variation in the industry but I hope this helps. If you're in a group that's busting out 3-statement models and putting together forecasts. And if you're getting the support you need, then stay a while.

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Jan 4, 2019

It really depends on what somebody wants from their work. You do a good job highlighting that alot of CD work is done alongside IB and TAS and includes synthesizing what the service providers put together. As you say, this all funnels through management in various ways and needs to be extremely simple. If you want to be a "deal guy," learning the leg work early is likely much more beneficial. If you want to be "management," starting in CD and staying corporate works well also. I've seen people move internally from CD into very impressive positions at a young age. CD gives you a higher level business view than almost any other corporate role, so its an excellent starting ground.

Personally, I'm in CD for the internal or other corporate exit opps, but that's because I deeply value work-life balance and enjoy my lower risk career path. Also for me, it pays just fine.

Jan 4, 2019

Interested on your outlook/situation. Pm'd

Jan 4, 2019

Yeah, I don't disagree that CD can be a good gig if you value that work/life balance. I'm just saying that if it's very early on in your career, and if you're looking for growth (both professional and income wise), CD isn't a great place to start. It can be a great place to end up, however.

Jan 4, 2019
Esuric:

Stay a year and jump. CD is not a function you want to enter into early on in your career. It's basically a low paying exit opp for burned out bankers looking for work/life balance. You get into after your associate IB run and you come in at Senior Manager/Director.

There's a lot of variation in CD but a few things are pretty common across firms/industries:

  1. Management is generally unsophisticated when it comes to financial statement analysis, valuation and advanced excel modeling. As such, your work will need to be as simple as possible so that management can follow. Not great for early career development.
  2. Late stage deals go to bankers/Big 4 TAS groups/strategy consultants. At that point, you're basically a project manager. Again, not great for career development.
  3. You may or may not have exposure to forecasting. If you do, you'll learn a lot about the industry. The flipside is that you'll likely also be working on a lot of FP&A work. FP&A sucks and it's not great for M&A career development.

The core CD function, to be honest, is to summarize and synthesize information into PPT decks that can be presented to management. This is why IB is a good fit (thousands of hours in PPT). It's really not analytical.

Again, there's variation in the industry but I hope this helps. If you're in a group that's busting out 3-statement models and putting together forecasts. And if you're getting the support you need, then stay a while.

This is the worst case scenario and the only generality that can be applied across companies is that the function itself and its value to management differs at firms.

I'll do a write up on my experience, but I have to say the negative sentiment that many have of the function, alongside strategy, on this board is not representative of my experience or others in the real world, especially with regard to notions about pay.

I'll do a write up on my own very different experience at some point, but I'd suggest people actually research individual openings and companies because there is a huge variation.

A suggestion that I've made in the past to find good corporate dev/strat roles is to see if there are multiple execs in a firm outside of dev/strat that hail from those functions.

Jan 4, 2019

I mean, I worked in CD as well. On another note, are you not a 1st year IB analyst?

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Jan 4, 2019
Esuric:

I mean, I worked in CD as well. On another note, are you not a 1st year IB analyst?

I'm not doubting your experience. I was referring to the fact that there are a bunch of people, including you, who work in corp dev and strat on here who have posted unfavorable experiences that don't match my own or others' time in these functions.

You are telling someone not to take a corporate development role based on incomplete information. All I'm telling the OP to do to is to take a look closer at the role.

Jan 4, 2019

Personally, I enjoy my role right now. The relatively small group of M&A Corp Dev team I work with right now wields a lot of power with the decision making of a large-cap company that is at an inflection point as whole right now. I like others have dreamed of IB, I just really need to figure out if this role will teach me the tools I need to jump to any other part of finance, which IB is notorious for doing for analysts. The head of my group is in the ear of the CEO & CFO of a F500, and we are trusted with the financial health of a company that employs thousands of people. To me, supporting a group like that is rewarding. We also get to enjoy the experience of being on the buy-side, where banks pitch us deals and work to win favor with us.

Everyone has their own preferences on this site, we can agree on that. Mine at this stage in my career are upward mobility/pay and building a solid foundation of skills and industry knowledge for myself. The constant itch knowing that IB analysts might be getting paid 50% more annoys me, but is also the same motivator that got me to this role and push me to advance.

Lastly, I work with great people. This honestly might be the most important thing, and varies greatly with different groups and companies. It's insanely underrated. Just my two cents.

Jan 5, 2019

Agree to anonguytoibd. I am from Asia and I worked mostly with US/Europe financial companies though so stories I heard and my experiences may be different.

I work at a BB and I have worked with several people coming from CD background. They are in general more knowledgeable about the vertical (sub-sector of an industry group) and have much stronger technicals.

For deals we have done with our client, the senior management is generally unsophisticated but the CD team and working team will deep dive into many assumptions or segmentaal breakdown etc. They have their own model with lots of breakdown (product revenue, liquidity, asset quality assumptions, based on industry info provided by their business functions). While the sell-side can only do some estimates based on industry benchmarking, industry statistics or research etc.

They often compare our models with their models and suggest us to refine until the output is aligning with their in-house view (or IRR target). Agree that senior management is unsophisticated but that only comes in very late stage after the projections / valuations are OK with CD and working level from business functions. The committee paper to board / senior management will contain simple IRR analysis and output tabs.

Late stage deals go to bankers / TAS, but early stage is mostly done by CD teams. They can spend months doing analysis (especially for unsolicited deals and try to estimate target's financials based on their intel). These guys can spent months building a model if they seriously want something.

Bankers don't spend that much time for pitches and may only go this far for BO (but after all we still rely on projections provided by the businesses. It is the corporate guys who run the business know how business will be in 3 years time).

You can take charge of the whole process for small deals working in CD. And for large deals you still run it together with bankers. In general I think the client places more emphasis on the business itself (individual products / markets) than bankers. Also, I think CD get more exposure to industry intel so they have better angle when sourcing deals. At a large corporate, you have loads of bankers pitching you and you get many intel from business teams.

Not sure how useful is M&A career development experience though. Unless you are working in a very acquisitive company, I think general experience is more valued. Not that many CFOs are from IB. Bankers tend to get stuck at Head of CD/M&A positions unless they move to business functions before being too senior and get the operational experience.

Note that my experience may be different though due to geographical reasons and also financial institutions do have more sophisticated people compared to other sectors.

Edit: Corp strat is much different though. They are more like ppt synthesizing and doing in-house research for the management.

Jan 4, 2019

While I have a more positive view on CD, I don't disagree with you too much. However, project managing things at a young age is actually beneficial. Now it's not great if you never learn the building blocks to begin with, but mid to upper management roles are all managing different projects and work streams. Depending on the group, someone in their mid to late 20s could be managing a lot of different functional areas in deal processes and some pretty senior people during the deal timeframe. Also depending on the group, you could be in your 20s and have more meetings with C level execs than people who have been with the company for decades and are fairly senior.

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Jan 4, 2019

This ^^

I sit in on meetings with the executive team every single month, as a college grad that's at least 15 years younger than the next person. A lot of people in strategy/marketing/e-commerce even try and pitch ideas for me to bring up in these meetings because they hope it will penetrate the discussion during these meetings to advance their agenda.

I also do work with various levels of the company (as stated above) which is exposing me to areas I never thought I would be. It's giving me a different outlook of these groups for the future when I want to make a move.

Jan 4, 2019

I agree with all of this. None of this contradicts what I said. I'm not talking about mid-to-senior level professionals. I'm talking about fresh college grads.

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Dec 30, 2018

Hey mightneedit, I'm in a similar situation as you once were (current undergrad, target school, no IB offer, have a CD offer). I'm currently thinking about the CD option and had similar concerns as the ones you mentioned. May I PM you to ask about some of your thoughts and experiences? Thank you

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Jan 1, 2019

Curious if you'll share your comp numbers.

I heard CPG doesn't pay too well for CD, so would be a bit shocked at +$100k comp for a fresh undergrad.

Jan 4, 2019

You are luckier than you realize - I had bulge bracket investment banking jobs and didn't get much training - it was sink or swim - seems like you have a good gig if you have nice bosses that want to train you. In the long-run, it is about what you learn and what you know... You will be surprised that some of your peers at large investment banks may just be doing grunt work.

Jan 5, 2019
Jan 7, 2019