Exiting from Corporate Development

guitarman9470's picture
Rank: Monkey | banana points 45

WSO Community,

I'm finishing up my first year at a private ~Fortune 500 company in their corporate development group (M&A, VC investments, some JVs, board presentations). The company's industry is loosely classified as business services. I was incredibly lucky to get this opportunity after two years of non-IB experience. I thought it would be the perfect combination of work-life, money, and intellectual stimulation. I do generally love the work but I'm finding that the people don't share the same drive as me and I'm definitely getting underpaid for my title / position. My plan is to make it two years and move on.

Basically I view myself as having three potential exit opportunities, all of which intrigue me. I'm interested in MM PE, MM IB (ideally as an associate), or moving to a new corporate development group (with growth opportunities) where the hours are a bit more but the pay is significantly better.

I'm wondering how difficult these transitions may be, especially if I have a strong preference to avoid getting my MBA. An MBA is still on the table but I would prefer to save the time / money and focus my efforts elsewhere.

Thanks in advance!

Financial Modeling Course

  • Get An Edge For Your Interviews & Finance Career
  • The Best (and Most Affordable) Financial Modeling Self-study Courses.
  • WSO Members receive a 15% discount

Comments (58)

Sep 22, 2017
    • 1
Sep 14, 2017

Wow, very helpful. Thanks for sending the link. How's your search going? What path are you considering venturing down?

In regards to my banking comment - do you think there are opportunities out there in MM IB for an associate hire with ~3 years of corp dev experience? I'd be pretty bummed to only enter as an analyst and, like I mentioned, would strongly prefer avoiding b-school if possible.

Sep 23, 2017

Gonna be tough to make associate without entering from bschool with your background. Maybe at a smaller boutique.

Sep 22, 2017

No problem, this seems to be a niche topic on the forum so I'm glad to help out any way I can.

I'm looking to move into PE if at all possible. Moving into PE seems to be incredibly challenging from my position given that nearly every single PE associate that I've seen has moved from banking and the fact that I haven't found any people who have started in CD and then moved into PE.

Sep 26, 2017

I would imagine that being driven would be enough. I have a similar problem, I really feel under utilised at work and am thus also looking for another firm to work for. I think you should really be frank with your current employers first before moving on. That will help you out when making the decision to stay or leave.

Corp. Fin. Analyst currently working two finance jobs (and a teaching gig and trying to save my music production solo career). I love avocado's. And yes Cape Town is the most beautiful place in the world. Don't believe me, come thru and find out.

Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Sep 26, 2017

I'm in a similar situation... entering a corp dev role with 2 years of non-IB experience and have the same career interests as you.

Going to follow this thread--good luck.

    • 1
Jan 15, 2018

And? Which of the three paths did you take eventually? What's your experience so far?

Jan 15, 2018

care to elaborate on how your peers don't share the same drive?

don't underestimate the role if you love the work. you're two years out of school...focus on getting the best experience not the highest paying role. if you're getting good experience then consider staying. take the long-term view on your career...it will pay off later. you may feel underpaid now (common complaint) - and i dont know your comp - but imagine how underpaid you think you will be when you're spinning 70-90 hours in PE/IB.

Apr 24, 2018

Didn't want to start a new thread but a somewhat relevant post to the one posted here.

For any of you guys are mid-level Corp Dev guys (Manager/Sr Manager), where do you guys typically exit to?

I think banking is pretty much out of the question (no previous sell-side experience) but would be open. I would like to move to a pure investing role at a Lower MM PE firm but not sure how likely that move is for someone with my skill set.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

TIA

    • 1
Apr 24, 2018

I worked in corporate development for 4 years. Here's my breakdown of where I've seen peers exit:

Corporate Development 20%
Investment Banking 20%
PE/VC 10%
Corporate Finance 30%
Startup/Entrepreneurship 10%
Other (operations, financial advisory, etc) 10%

Apr 24, 2018

I'm assuming those who went back into banking/PE/VC already had banking experience prior?

Apr 24, 2018

I would think CD to banking would be feasible. Might be a little tougher without MBA but should be possible with some hustle, although MMs may be more willing to hire CD folks than BB.

CD to banking doesn't seem common, but I think that's because most people in CD have prior banking experience and have no desire to go back.

Apr 24, 2018

That's correct. Some of them already had PE/VC experience as well.

IB surprisingly is a big exit for CD, Director level and up.

Jan 15, 2018

was corporate ventures lumped into your group's responsibilities, or strictly traditional M&A/JVs?

Apr 24, 2018

Also interested.

@BankerC159 what type of deals / modeling have you done in your corp dev experience? Have you have done LBO modeling and/or worked on deals with PE sponsors (therefore maybe fostering a good relationship with them?)? If not, it would be even more of a challenge to transition to PE. I know of one Corp Dev guy that moved to a PortCo at a PE to do Corp Dev / Ops as part of his longer-term pursuit to get into that PE, but I suspect this is not the type of experience or journey you would be interested in.

    • 2
Apr 24, 2018

I do have LBO modeling experience, never on a live deal but I've prepared LBOs for internal use and have taken TTT LBO modeling course (prob doesn't pull much weight) but I'd say my modeling skills are pretty strong - at least that's the feedback I've gotten from my managers who are all ex-bankers.

I haven't been able to foster any relationships with PEs, we don't have too many relationships at the moment with PE/Sponsors in general (especially in the Lower MM space). The relationships I do have are mainly with banks that we get inbounds from.

So I understand it's a tough road ahead for someone like me. I'm really just seeing what my options are.

    • 1
May 3, 2018

delete

    • 1
Apr 24, 2018

Leading a tiny corp dev team of a startup/early growth firm is a great exit. Challenging role, different responsibilities, and chance to strike it rich if things work out. Can always go back to a big company assuming you have a brand name on your resume.

    • 1
Learn More

Side-by-side comparison of top modeling training courses + exclusive discount through WSO here.

Apr 24, 2018

One area I didn't mention was working for a family office. I think that would be a pretty nice gig but those are probably the hardest area to even find roles at.

Apr 25, 2018

I'm a corpdev manager at a mid-sized private pharma company. The corporate development team here is quite lean and we have enormous deal flow. As far as post-corp-dev recruiting goes, I'm basically getting hit up by either other pharma corp dev/strategy teams (offering higher salary) or banks. I'm not really interested in banking so it's unclear what's next. Ideally, I'd like to go to an LEK/Parthenon type of strategy shop (where my experience would be best utilized). If not, I could always go back to bval.

Like other posters here, there appears to be limited opportunity for growth here (though the exposure is fantastic).

    • 1
Apr 24, 2018

Just curious, how does the recruiting conversation come up? I'm assuming banks are sending you inbounds and somehow evolves into a recruiting convo?

Apr 25, 2018

It's usually a LinkedIn message --> resume drop --> call. Honestly though, I don't really respond to the IB hits.

    • 1
Apr 24, 2018

Gotcha, thanks.

May 15, 2018

Which types of IBs hit you up the most often? I would assume MMs and EBs instead of BBs mainly? Also, is it usually for healthcare groups or random groups?
Thanks!

    • 1
Jan 15, 2018

have you looked into heading up a business line in the company or a broader strategic role within the company (note: no experience with pharmas so your corporate structure may be totally different from what i'm envisioning)

Apr 25, 2018

I'm in basically THE strategy group in the company. All other groups are effectively input centers (i.e., have the raw data via SAP, etc.) to us and we have direct communication to senior management. We also actively guide/support other functional areas (FP&A, financial reporting, marketing, supply chain, etc.). It's basically the corp dev team + the legal team that works with top management on all strategic decisions. So there's really nowhere else for me to go.

Apr 24, 2018

Very similar to my situation.

Jan 15, 2018

are you interested in a leadership role at the firm in the long term? if CD is driving all the business decisions, then it should be a natural transition if you put in the time + networking appropriately. do you have to wait until the next guy above you leaves before promotion - (assuming this is Senior Manager)?

Apr 25, 2018

PM me and I can give you more detail but the short answer is no.

Apr 25, 2018

Appreciate the info! If you don't mind, how much is your comp (range is fine too) and what are your hours at this company? Do you feel like you'll be able to leverage the exposure for better opportunities in the future?

Apr 25, 2018

I make what an average BB IB analyst makes and work about half the hours, if that helps. In terms of leveraging exposure to better opportunities, I sure hope so.

I've picked up a tremendous amount of industry knowledge, closed 3 deals and worked on numerous key strategy projects (quantifying optimal legal strategy for new generic product launches, portfolio optimization around salesforce already in place, brand lifecycle management, etc.).

I have a pretty non-traditional background (non-target --> MSF --> Bval --> corpdev) but I'm optimistic.

    • 1
Apr 25, 2018

Thanks for the info! Do you know if it's possible to start making 400-500K+ in CD after a while with the company? I always hear about how CD salaries are usually in the 100-200K range but I haven't heard about it being any higher.

Apr 24, 2018

That's all-in Sr. Director level at most F500 type firms. Depending on one's path it's certainly possible to be a 40-45yo at that level working 50hrs/wk pulling in half a mil. Not a bad life.

Apr 25, 2018

The BD guys pull in a lot. Not sure how much exactly, but definitely in excess of $500K based on their lifestyles (they're all VP's though).

May 24, 2018

This seems to jibe with what I've seen from a few folks. A buddy of mine suggested that most folks in Corp Dev top out around senior manager/director, where all in comp is around $200-300k. In any event, I think anyone in these roles should be able to live fairly comfortably on balance.

I've been thinking about moving to corp dev over the next few months, so I've been circling back on all these threads, ha.

Sep 14, 2017

Wow, glad to see this post has so much activity recently. Thanks @Esuric for your contributions.

Update on my life, still with the same company, likely going to be promoted to a post MBA corporate development position in December. Might look at trying to leverage this into an associate role at a MM or lower MM IB or go into another corporate development role.

Jan 29, 2019

Bringing this full circle because I am bored and had the time to read this entire thread, how have things shaken out? Did you end up getting that promotion in December?

I have seen my MM hire corp dev guys in as associates but it is extremely rare and they all were brought into industry teams that related to their prior experience. It is definitely possible to do, but will take a lot of legwork. Networking would be most important, but also maybe showing something tangible that proves your interest in the field (taking TTS course, going to IB Institute or whatever, etc.). Your biggest hurdle would be convincing them why you would want to leave a good & cushy job to get into IB. Most MM banks are more focused on associates being around for long(er) term and would probably be concerned with you bouncing after a year b/c you didn't realize how good you had it in corp dev. Just my random thoughts but am interested to hear how your story is coming.

    • 2
Jan 29, 2019

Do you happen to know how these corp dev guys pitched themselves in their IB interviews (i.e did they sell their industry experience hard, etc.)? I'd be curious to know what set them apart from other candidates.

Jan 29, 2019

I can't say I do, unfortunately. I'm sure industry experience was big, as was timing. 2018 was another big year for M&A and banks just needed more associates. I imagine you'll probably need to somehow portray yourself as someone who is ready to come in and work analyst hours in order to get up to speed along with having an interest in the sector.

Sep 14, 2017

Good timing actually. The above post was pretty spot on to what happened. I got promoted early at my Corp Dev role and ended up accepting an offer at a main MM firm as a "senior" analyst. The plan is for me to be promoted within 6 - 12 months assuming I don't f*** up.

Couple weeks in and the learning curve hasn't been awful but I might have fallen for the "grass is greener" situation... TBD.

The actual interview process was a breeze. During my time in Corp Dev, I had a lot of good transaction experience and was the sole person in my group responsible for modeling / building decks. So I really didn't feel like I had to sell myself hard and the technicals were a breeze.

Feb 1, 2019

Appreciate you circling back to answer this. I recently joined a PE portfolio company as an fp&a analyst to get an edge for when a corporate development position opens up in the same firm (should be open in Q3). My thought was to use the experience in the CorpDev to either get into VC or tech-focused PE after a couple years. I would love to hear more about your reservations with the new job or any advice in general.

    • 1
Sep 14, 2017

I certainly don't have any reservations about the actual job. I enjoy "doing deals" and the transactional work in both Corp Dev and banking is enjoyable to me. My reservations come from (a) having left a place that certainly valued my contributions and (b) everyone's favorite topic, work-life balance.

The experience I got in Corp Dev was invaluable and if your team is relatively lean, like most groups are, you are going to get a ton of responsibility. I never interviewed for PE or VC. I imagine PE would be pretty difficult given their consistent recruiting strategy and a lack of LBO modeling experience. VC is very manageable depending on what Corp Dev group you are in. For me, I worked on a number of VC deals and actually turned down a VC offer (not in SF).

    • 1
Feb 1, 2019

Got it. I'm in my mid-twenties and CorpDev sounds more appealing than IB on many different fronts, except for comp and slower advancement. It is a constant back and forth trying to determine whether or not I should keep networking to get into IB as an analyst and grind it out for a couple of years before I want a family or just stick with corporate finance if the CD role doesn't pan out. Was the draw to IB mainly comp or is it stepping stone for something else? Always interested in hearing peoples goals.

    • 1
Sep 20, 2018

Hi Guys,
Non-Target 3.3GPA

I figured I would post here and include my other post at the following link:

https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/corp-dev-ms...
Anyways, I am a first year acquisitions analyst at a Healthcare management company (senior housing). I wanted to land in IB but did not manage to get an offer. My prior experience includes a 6 month PE internship with a local lower middle market fund. The goal is still to land in IB and leverage that to b-school or PE down the road. I was wondering your guys input on the best route to take.
Ex:
1 year in corp dev > MSF > IB?
2 years in corp dev > B-school>PE/IB?
1 year in corp dev > IB?
etc...
Would love to know your guys thoughts on exit ops and what a good path might be for me. Please feel free to add any follow up questions. I am more than happy to answer. I look forward to your guys responses. Thanks!

Sep 20, 2018

Bump

Apr 25, 2018

Man, I was really drinking the kool aid on this one.

Jan 29, 2019

... on Corp dev being a good place career wise?

Most Helpful
Apr 25, 2018

Yes, that's right. I no longer believe corp dev is a viable function in terms of income growth, career development, etc., unless you come in at a very high level. You'll frequently hear those in corp dev talking about how they're "underpaid." The fact is that it's simply a low paying function at most firms. At most firms, it generally falls within or along the lines of finance, with a slight premium. There are exceptions, of course. I'm speaking in general terms.

In terms of the function itself, yeah, you get exposure to c-level execs. Great. That gets old quickly (especially if the comp isn't there). You're basically a project manager, gathering inputs from other functions and consolidating them into a high-level, very simple model that management can audit. Once the model's in place, your job is to basically run endless sensitivities until management is comfortable with the risk/opportunities. The work is very simple, but tedious.

Also, no one really gives a shit about your opinion, at least that was my experience in pharma. They talk to the PhD's when they want to understand the technicals and to outside advisors (banks, TAS teams, etc.) when they want the numbers. My job was basically to move it to that final step where the company was ready to spend some money on actual advisors.

In terms of exit opps, MM and boutique banks reached out but I didn't take any interviews. Reached out to a few (by "a few" I mean 2) upper MM banks but it didn't stick. PE was a no-go but there was some traction with small VC shops. Top-tier strategy consulting was a no-go though I did land some interviews (think ZS Associates, Clearview HC, etc) but ultimately didn't land anything because they're not really looking for CFA types.

At the end of the day I accepted a senior role at a valuation/restructuring/turnaround consulting group that I'm actually quite happy with. They were somewhat impressed by my corp dev experience but think the CFA did more for me than anything else. I interviewed at big pharma but ultimately declined to continue with their overly lengthy interview process once I got my current gig.

In big pharma, corp dev is basically a function for burnt out ex bankers looking for early retirement. You basically do no due diligence/valuation work or modeling. The deal is very mature by the time it comes to you (bankers and consultants have already done extensive work). Your job is to basically summarize findings in a PPT deck for the board.

Also, FP&A sucks. Any corp dev function that's tied to FP&A will suck. I'm just putting that out there.

I know there are a few corp dev guys on this forum that would disagree with me, which is fine, but I'd like to put my actual experience out there so that people can make more informed decisions. My prior comments on this thread reflected more of my optimism early on than anything else.

    • 7
Jan 29, 2019

Lol, nice coverage. I don't think my posts around strategy / Corp dev in the past were as blunt, but I think you nailed it. I think SCD can be interesting, particularly if you're in an industry that is exciting to you (I'd imagine if you were S/CD at Sony or like an acitvision or something it'd be pretty cool), but a lot of similar themes could come up. YMMV in SCD, but could run the gamut of just being a project manager, backwards engineering to a result for execs instead of actually sourcing something and executing from scratch, politics, ceiling on growth (depending on where you come in), etc.

Glad you enjoy what you're doing now. Though curious why you didn't look at VC a bit further. One thing I can say about SCD is exposure to the industry sector and company can be quite useful in VC.

Apr 25, 2018

Right, I couldn't agree more. Most of my work was engineering the numbers to what Management wanted rather than doing any actual analysis. My job was to reflect their view rather than contradict it. Contradicting it lead to frustration, no matter how supportable the numbers were. It was a very passive role and I know others in CD that share this experience.

I wanted to avoid the company politics dynamic because that's obviously firm specific, but I do feel that it's worse in the corporate setting than in financial/client services. The path to progression/promotion is not as clear cut and individuals tend to have less impressive backgrounds. This leads to a more adversarial environment.

I considered pharma VC but it came down to three things: (a) I'm not very entrepreneurial, (b) don't have the pharma technical background and (c) I prefer analytical advisory roles. At the end of the day, it was really a discovery process. I figured out what I like and what I wanted.

    • 1
Jan 29, 2019

Out of curiosity, did you/are you considering going back for an MBA? I saw where you already have an MSF and CFA, so it would make sense that you wouldn't necessarily learn a ton of new info in grad school, but I would be interested to hear if you thought of it at all as a way to pivot into a larger consulting shop? Or are you already in a position that is considered "post-mba" and not in a position to take two years off only to come back to a level you're already in?

    • 1
Apr 25, 2018

No, I'm not going for an MBA. I'm too far along in my career and in my family life to take a 2 year break and I have a good amount of debt already. Also, how much education do you really need? For me, it's either/or when it comes to the MSF and MBA. There's enough of an overlap where getting both is a redundancy. An expensive redundancy.

    • 1
Jan 15, 2018

The challenge w/ the "underpaid" complaint is that the majority of folks are coming from IB where they were in fact paid more. They quickly forget why they made the transition - stronger work/life balance. You can't have it both ways, typically. Regardless, in CD a manager can make low-to-mid 100's all-in in a mid to low COL city...not bad.

I had a very different experience. Our management team very much relied on us to develop and present the business and investment case. Our opinions were valued. We were active in the entire diligence process and built our own models. For context, we focused on MM deals...you are likely correct that the firm would have hired bankers for a larger/cross-border deal.

I think the sweet spot for CD is at later stage start-up or MM company in a high growth market. To your point, CD at a mature, highly-regulated industry will likely be frustrating.

Just switched from CD to Sales, for what it's worth.

Jan 29, 2019

slightly concerned reading this thread as I am about to join a corp dev team. How would the exit opps be for a CD at a MM company going through growth phases? Why has PE been a no-go?

Jan 29, 2019

It's not necessarily a no-go. With Corp dev, you'll have a lot of different types of teams - some are more heavily dependent and reliant on advisors. In some cases, a Corp dev team that is very technical and actually heavily leads a transaction could provide a good training ground to build young professionals for PE. It's just not as common (IB and to a lesser extent consulting, are more typical feeders).

One other consideration is in Corp dev, depending on the level of interest in the firm's desire to grow via acquisition, the deal flow could be slow. Conversely in banking and consulting you'll have a higher turnover of deal exposure. PE firms just simply see those jobs as good training platforms. But I think Corp dev (again depending on the team's technical skills and prominence / involvement in deals) can actually provide good prep - both on the technical side, and looking at potential targets at a deeper level (requiring depth of industry knowledge) vs banking.

Long story short - your mileage may vary (YMMV), and PE firms (particularly the bigger ones / MFs) like to hire "what they know". But I think MM PE is possible, and you need to put in extra efforts in networking. As well, showcase that your involvement and depth of knowledge in a deal is deeper vs an average IB analyst / Associate.

Jan 15, 2018
Jan 29, 2019
Sep 14, 2017
    • 2