FP&A, strategic finance career path

Question for the group - as I'm thinking about career path, I have 1 year in IB (BB), 1 year in FP&A/strategic finance (yes, that's what the dep't was called - we covered everything except accounting which was covered by separate team - so we did all capital raises, m&a, modeling for new business units, decks for board meetings etc), about to start year 2 in FP&A/strategic finance at different start-up. Given the different skills I've picked up from diff roles, curious about what people think career paths would be (looking for high comp $ but also interesting work), below are my initial thoughts based on my experience-


  1. IB - learned modeling, transaction structures, excel

  2. FP&A at startup 1 - improved excel, worked on m&a (closed 2), capital raise (closed 1), and worked with business unit leaders to forecast

  3. FP&A at startup 2 - start this job next month, will learn SQL and work from databases instead of excel

Career options: a. stay in strategic finance (would do this happily), b. go to b-school / found startup (risky but high reward if successful) c. go to b-school / try to pivot into VC (long shot perhaps); my concern is that if my role gets too data-sciencey at this new FP&A job, will that take me away from a either of these paths?

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Comments (10)

Sep 17, 2021 - 12:11pm

Well, of course this will be very subjective and a lot of people might have different opinions, but here are my thoughts:

First of all, I think you shouldn't worry too much about data science. Actually, I think it might be a good thing to know SQL a bit, because the way things are going it will be a daily reality in FP&A type of roles in the near future. Maybe by then you will be in a more senior position and you won't need it that much, but still it would be good to have a grasp of it. So overall, I think the job you are going into will equip you with a valuable skill.

Now in terms of future career planning, the ideal scenario (again just a personal opinion here) would be:

Stay 1-2 years at the startup 2 job (would be ideal if you achieved a promotion) -> go to b-school (M7/top 10 ideally) -> go for a post-MBA FLDP in a tech company (could be FAANG, Microsoft etc, of course assuming that you want to stay in Corp Fin) -> Get the experience and then see if you want to go the startup route by starting your own.

This scenario is based on some assumptions:

  1. You want to stay in Corp Fin more than you want to go the VC route
  1. I am assuming that the startups you have worked at have something to do with tech. But this might not be the case
  1. You are ok with the Corp Fin comp after b-school (currently at around 130k base + 20k sign on bonus at the big ones)
  1. You are ok with investing a significant amount of money to go to b-school

I hope this helps!

Sep 17, 2021 - 12:53pm

Thanks for the response, appreciate it -

A couple of questions / other stuff to help contextualize - not totally sold of the FLDP programs, know people that have gotten them without MBA, and generally not the kind of person who wants to be in a training program again post school (if I can help it), of course they are great and competitive programs so not trying to downplay that at all, just subjective

Not sure if I necessarily want to stay in CF more than go VC route, but hard to say since I have 0 VC experience. If anyone has tips on how to 'break in' / get some experience before having a full time VC job would be great to hear. Before having any exp in VC, hard to say if I like it in theory or practice - could be a move to try to get a summer mba internship spot at a VC firm and parlay that into full time post MBA offer, I know it's a very competitive space. Both startups are tech focused. As for comp, I've been well-paid (and got 2 raises in my first year), but after the end of year 1 at startup 1 I made ~140k all in base + comp, so definitely looking to keep progressing. Ok with investment for mba, went to ivy undergrad so hoping to get into top 10

thanks all for the feedback

Sep 17, 2021 - 3:33pm

Thanks for providing a bit more info.

In terms of the FLDPs, I was referring to those that accept post MBAs only and include rotations to Corp Dev, Group FP&A etc…

But what you say makes a lot of sense and you have a very valid point. You already have a great overall comp and it seems that it will get even better in the very near future. So I agree, probably going through a long training program to get the same or less comp, especially after paying for b-school doesn't make sense.

Then the best option is to stay to startup 2 for some time, get the experience and reassess a bit later. If the company is growing fast, so will your equity in the case of an IPO, so you win big. If that is not the case, then you can lateral to another company for a better position or consider the MBA route, after which you can pursue even a leadership position. Could be a VP in a smaller company or maybe a Director at a bigger one. Or even network for VC.

As "Texas Tea" said, a finance position at a PE owned company can be a very enticing option as well.

Sep 17, 2021 - 1:00pm

One route is to work yourself up to a situation where you can jump over to a different PE-backed company, to a VP - Finance (or something similar) role, get a nice incentive equity package, hang in there for 5-7 years, make yourself a great nut on monetization.

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Sep 17, 2021 - 1:34pm

It could be the path of least resistance, though be aware that the equity could 1) be worth next to nothing or 2) be worth a lot less than they promise (likely)

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Sep 27, 2021 - 5:02pm

I recently made the jump from startup strategic finance into VC without any prior VC experience and will share some thoughts. 

I know it gets repeated a lot around here, but networking is really important if you want to go down the VC route. My recruiting process taught me that I really need to break the perception of what people think of when they hear "strategic finance". 

It seems like 90% of startups label their FP&A, accounting, treasury, etc. teams as "strategic finance". I know that my work is truly "strategic" and you do as well, but for VCs who interact with plenty of "strategic finance" teams, more often than not, they call BS on the role. Networking gives you an opportunity to explain your role and give them a taste of the work you completed. You should not only emphasize your M&A and capital raise projects, but also demonstrate that you have a deep understanding of how your own business is run. You say you worked with a lot of business leaders to forecast the business - how granular did you get? Do you have an understanding of everything that goes into how the widgets are created or sold? Do you know how you guys scale your tech resources as the company grows? These are just some examples of things that came up when I was interviewing. Showing that you know that your business isn't just built on margins percentages or growth rates can set you apart from other folks in strategic finance. 

Edit: Also, if you want to start a startup, you may want to consider joining a very early stage startup (like as employee #18) rather than sinking money into an MBA. I am considering that route myself and from talking to my mentors it seems that is a more valuable learning experience for creating a company than sitting in a classroom.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Sep 29, 2021 - 5:18pm

Thank you, this is really helpful!

Now that you're on the VC side, what project experience would view favorably (or not favorably) when evaluating strategic finance candidates?

For instance, I can imagine any capital raising, board materials, and general IR projects would be viewed favorably. While Accounting projects less so. Are there any that stand out to you?

Oct 3, 2021 - 10:19pm

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