CFO track post-MBA with no previous finance experience?

Qayin's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 228

A question that I hope to get an answer for from those fellow monkeys who have more knowledge about the F500 finance world than I do (or have any other insights into this):

How feasible/realistic is it to get into a post-MBA FLDP or a regular (but CFO-track) corporate finance position at an F500 coming out of a top MBA with no previous experience in finance?

I'm not really sure yet what I want to do with my career in the long term, and this is an option that I've recently became interested in. I'm graduating this summer with a degree in CS and Econ and an MBB job offer. The plan is to stay for 3 years and then go for an MBA. I've also had an F50 internship, but it was in strategy/marketing, not finance.

The office that I'm going to does sell occasional corporate finance projects, so getting staffed on them is a possible way to get some financial experience, but these are probably not going to constitute the majority of what I do there.

Another option that I've read about would be going to corp dev and switching to the CFO-track later. Not sure which one would be preferable (corp dev -> CFO track or post-MBA FLDP -> CFO track) in terms of career velocity, and which would be easier to get w/o prior finance experience.

Thanks!

Comments (13)

Apr 4, 2014

Both ideas would work, but there's no such thing as getting put on the "CFO track". There is no clear-cut path to get there. That said, going MBB -> top MBA -> post-MBA FLDP (or any finance position) or MBB -> CorpDev is going to look good. I don't know which would be better, but I'd lean towards getting the MBA.

You've got plenty of time to think about this. Another idea would be to try and get a CorpStrat position at your "dream company" after 2 years MBB. Do that for two year and then go for MBA. Your company might pay for it and the CS experience will be extremely helpful.

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Apr 4, 2014
D M:

Both ideas would work, but there's no such thing as getting put on the "CFO track". There is no clear-cut path to get there. That said, going MBB -> top MBA -> post-MBA FLDP (or any finance position) or MBB -> CorpDev is going to look good. I don't know which would be better, but I'd lean towards getting the MBA.

You've got plenty of time to think about this. Another idea would be to try and get a CorpStrat position at your "dream company" after 2 years MBB. Do that for two year and then go for MBA. Your company might pay for it and the CS experience will be extremely helpful.

Thanks! Here's a SB :).

I do understand that there's no such thing as a "CFO-track" as in similar to the "partner track", since there are only so many CFO positions available, - what I meant was a job that would put me in a decent starting position to gun for the CFO in the future.

CorpStrat pre-MBA would be problematic for me, cause I'm already kinda old - graduating from a Masters program at 26 years old (military background). So 2 years MBB + 2 years CorpStrat would have me matriculating at 30, which is kinda stretching it, isn't it? Especially for the top schools.

I should've also clarified that I'm considering CordDev as a post-MBA route as well - I need the MBA anyhow, since I'd like to move to the US or possibly UK/Australia (anything Anglophone) eventually, and the MBA is the safest bet here probably. This is also the reason why doing CorpStrat or CorpDev pre-MBA is problematic - best spots are in the HQs, and it would be quite a feat to get sponsored for a Visa w/o an MBA.

Regarding the post-MBA FLDP route, I'm a bit worried cause I've seen some of the job postings require previous finance experience pre-MBA, so I was wondering whether it's a common rule, or just specific to those fldps (i.e. the IBM one), and whether not having finance experience would put me at a disadvantage even when recruiting for those positions where it is not a strict requirement.

Apr 5, 2014
D M:

Both ideas would work, but there's no such thing as getting put on the "CFO track". There is no clear-cut path to get there. That said, going MBB -> top MBA -> post-MBA FLDP (or any finance position) or MBB -> CorpDev is going to look good. I don't know which would be better, but I'd lean towards getting the MBA.

You've got plenty of time to think about this. Another idea would be to try and get a CorpStrat position at your "dream company" after 2 years MBB. Do that for two year and then go for MBA. Your company might pay for it and the CS experience will be extremely helpful.

Curious as to why you suggest corporate strategy and corporate development as opposed to something like FP&A, if your goal is CFO?

Apr 5, 2014

There are two primary reasons:

1) Looks good on MBA admissions

2) If you're doing CS at a company you want to work for in the long run, you meet people. Networking is an important part of moving up in a large company. CorpStrat guys will be interacting with Managers, Directors, and VPs from every department, including corpfin.

I wouldn't mention CS as post-MBA starting point or if he didn't plan on going for a grad degree.

Apr 4, 2014

Keep in mind I'm not in-industry. I just know a bit because I've done a lot of research on undergrad corpfin programs and thus seen a bit about MBAs.

What country are you in now? This will have some impact on where you end up. I was just tossing out the CS idea, you're right though, if I was in your shoes I would want to get on with things.

If the MBB program usually only lasts 2 years, don't stay for a 3rd. Heck, even if it normally lasts 3 years I'd try and get to an MBA after. 2 years MBB + military experience should be enough to get into a top MBA (though top MBAs are a shitshow as far as admissions for anyone). You can always apply for after your 2nd year and if you don't get in, apply again the next year. That'll save you a year.

Also, not sure about how the recruiting works in Europe, but you might be able to get away with a 1 year program there. In the US, that won't fly.

Lastly, some post-MBA finance programs do require previous finance experience. Some don't. It just depends on the company. If they have it as a requirement, apply for the job anyways. It's a long shot, but you might pique someone's interest.

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Apr 4, 2014
D M:

Keep in mind I'm not in-industry. I just know a bit because I've done a lot of research on undergrad corpfin programs and thus seen a bit about MBAs.

What country are you in now? This will have some impact on where you end up. I was just tossing out the CS idea, you're right though, if I was in your shoes I would want to get on with things.

If the MBB program usually only lasts 2 years, don't stay for a 3rd. Heck, even if it normally lasts 3 years I'd try and get to an MBA after. 2 years MBB + military experience should be enough to get into a top MBA (though top MBAs are a shitshow as far as admissions for anyone). You can always apply for after your 2nd year and if you don't get in, apply again the next year. That'll save you a year.

Also, not sure about how the recruiting works in Europe, but you might be able to get away with a 1 year program there. In the US, that won't fly.

Lastly, some post-MBA finance programs do require previous finance experience. Some don't. It just depends on the company. If they have it as a requirement, apply for the job anyways. It's a long shot, but you might pique someone's interest.

I'm in Eastern Europe.The pre-MBA MBB stint normally lasts 3 years here, though some people do leave after 2. Leaving after 2 years makes it difficult to get sponsored (and thus get a guaranteed post-MBA offer to fall back on in case you don't get where you want to be). So most people who leave after 2 years leave for another job, not an MBA.

2 years are probably going to be enough to be admitted (I also have a very good GMAT), but I figured that 3 years would be better for the post-MBA employment prospects, wouldn't it? I've done some research on post-MBA jobs, and many postings require at least 3 years pre-MBA experience (seems to be some sort of a magic number, cause I've never seen 4+, at least yet). My military experience was as an enlisted soldier, not an officer, so not sure if it is going to count towards work experience.

I don't really want to end up in Europe post-MBA, my top choices are the US, Canada/Australia and UK, in that order.

Kellogg's 1Y MBA seems very attractive, not sure how well do career switchers fare there though? I've taken classes in business along with my Econ degree, should be enough to fulfill the requirements for the 1Y track.

But if I get into H/S, I'm certainly not going to opt out of that opportunity.

In Europe I'm looking at LBS and INSEAD. Any info regarding how well do they place in Canada/Australia?

I'm a bit dazzled by the multitude of options and choices, so your opinions are very helpful and very much appreciated!

Apr 4, 2014

No problem, but to reiterate I'm not a professional so this is based on my limited experience.

You're right, it will probably be best to stay for 3 years at the MBB. And I think enlisted will count towards work experience, though a lot of times companies will look for relevant work experience (which means neither enlisted nor officer would apply unless you were working on budgeting).

If your goal is to work in the US, you're going to want a 2-year program in the US. Do NOT do a 1-year program in the US, it will make getting a job much more difficult. Companies are big on the internship after your first year - it's a big determination on who they're going to hire. I can't really speak to the others, but INSEAD and LBS are top programs. They'll be viewed highly anywhere. The difficulty is in getting a work visa.

It's a lot easier to get a job in a country when you went to school in that country. Another thing to note is a top US MBA will cost you probably around $150-200k USD whereas INSEAD in LBS are probably substantially less. You will be well-compensated, but that's a lot of debt to take on.

Just by googling "INSEAD MBA employment statistics", first result is this: http://mba.insead.edu/documents/MBA_EMPLOYMENT_STA...

Page 11 shows where students went, geographically. Take North America for example. 14% of INSEAD students came from NA and 9% of students went to work in NA. That doesn't show what percentage of students came from NA and went BACK to NA as opposed to which students came from somewhere else and went to North America. Still some good statistics to look through.

Note: You can always go to school in a country like (for example) the UK, get a job with an international firm, and try to move to another country (US, Australia, etc) after a year or two of work. Some post-MBA programs specifically offer an international rotation. Just to reiterate: YOUR BEST BET IS TO GO TO A SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY YOU WANT TO BE IN. And even then it can be difficult finding a company that will sponsor a work visa (do a search for companies that sponsor work visas - there's a list somewhere on WSO).

Last thing to mention. You better do a damn good job at MBB where you're at. I have no idea how it'll be viewed for MBA admissions coming from Eastern Europe vs, say, NYC. Work product must be perfect. You have to do your best to make friends with your coworkers and your bosses (but don't be the guy that tries too hard - he always stands out in a bad way), you never know how they might be able to help you in the future. It'll also help for admissions recommendations.

That's all I can really think of. A lot of what I touched on are generalities. You really have to craft your own path. There is nothing set in stone after your first 2 years in the workplace. Things that people say are impossible may just require you to think outside the box and things people say are easy might end up being very difficult.

Best of luck, hopefully someone else will be able to throw in some advice. (maybe @"Flake" or I think @"happypantsmcgee" knows someone who went to INSEAD that might be able to give some insight)

Apr 4, 2014

Or, even better, check out this post: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/ask-alex-at-...

I know there are some international questions in there, might be worth asking Alex from MBA Apply about your situation.

Apr 4, 2014

Thanks again! That's all incredibly helpful.

For Canada and Australia the problem is that there are no "top" schools there from a global perspective, otherwise it would be no-brainer. I guess US MBA programs place really well there, but I've no idea regarding the European schools. Also no idea how many F500 HQs are there, but this I should and will research myself.

For the US, I will definitely look into firms that sponsor work visas. I know that a lot of banks do, but I'm not really interested in banking, and I guess if I want to make a switch later on I'll have to find a corporate job that sponsors visas anyway.. Otherwise doing an Associate stint in IB and switching to corporate finance later on sounds like it could work.

Also tier-2 consulting firms are probably going to be friendly to someone with pre-MBA MBB experience. Not sure how going from consulting to CorpFin post-MBA would look like though. But I'm not dead-set on CorpFin anyway, so this is an option too I guess.

Apr 4, 2014

Can filter by country: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/global500/2...

I wouldn't get terribly hell-bent on thinking that, for example, GE's HQ is in the US so I have to work in the US to be successful. Large companies have various country/cluster/whatever headquarters with their own finance/strategy/dev/etc folks that are largely autonomous. Similarly, each country, global sector, and even local sectors in large markets can have "CFOs", therefore you will have been a CFO for quite a while before becoming "the CFO".

Apr 5, 2014

Why not go directly into corporate finance after you finish your degree this summer? If you want to have a successful career in corporate finance, the best place to start is corporate finance.

If you're graduating with an economics degree, you should be able to get some interviews. You could then potentially have them cover part of the tuition for a top part time MBA a few years down the road while you continue to get experience and climb the ladder. If your goal is to end up in the US, you can target F500's that have international sites in your country, then you can transfer to one of their US locations later on. This is done often at the company I work for.

You may have already been applying to CF roles with no luck, but I'm just curious if you thought about taking this route instead of consulting -> MBA -> F500.

Apr 5, 2014
Industry84:

Why not go directly into corporate finance after you finish your degree this summer? If you want to have a successful career in corporate finance, the best place to start is corporate finance.

If you're graduating with an economics degree, you should be able to get some interviews. You could then potentially have them cover part of the tuition for a top part time MBA a few years down the road while you continue to get experience and climb the ladder. If your goal is to end up in the US, you can target F500's that have international sites in your country, then you can transfer to one of their US locations later on. This is done often at the company I work for.

You may have already been applying to CF roles with no luck, but I'm just curious if you thought about taking this route instead of consulting -> MBA -> F500.

To be frank, MBB is just too big an opportunity to miss... And I've worked too hard to get it to just throw it away.

Entry-level corporate finance positions are really not attractive here - the pay is shitty, the work is not stimulating either, and on top of that the career progression is slow. I've interned at GE for 9 months and have many friends in junior finance roles ranging from FP&A to commercial finance and the like, even the FMPs are not too excited about their jobs. From what I can tell, the interesting work and good pay starts at about the junior exec level. I'd have to spend like 8-10 years just to get there, even assuming FMP+CAS, which is a stretch at this point. And without FMP/CAS, I know people with many years of experience working as "senior financial analysts", their careers going nowhere. And even if you make it to an exec/VP level, nobody can guarantee you an international transfer. I'm willing to make some sacrifices in my career to get an opportunity to emigrate to an Anglo country (glass ceiling et cetera, I'm not living in a pink pony world), but if I'm stuck here then I might as well try to shoot for partner or some other baller position.

Apart from the CorpDev (which is not present regionally), the only decent place to start a career in finance in GE seems to be the Sales & Project Finance team, but they're kinda removed from the other finance teams. There seems to be very little, if any, overlap in what they are doing and people do not transition between them. It's just a different kind of job.

Apr 5, 2014
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