Going from CFO at a TMT firm to Boutique Investment Bank?

Would it be possible for the CFO of a TMT company to transition to a boutique investment banking firm specializing in that area?

Background: Currently I'm the VP of Finance at a major telecommunications/media company, basically serving as the CFO of one of their sub-divisions. As such, I'm responsible for everything from strategic things like long-range planning / M&A / operational execution (i.e. "making our numbers") to mundane things like month/quarter close and audit / controllership.

To be honest, I'm more interested in the former part of my job rather than the latter, which is why I'm asking this question... At the same time, there's a part of me that feels I'm better off, in the long run, to just stick it out on the CFO track and put up with the mundane parts of work. But before I overthink this, wanted to gauge from the more experienced people on this board, would this kind of transition even be considered by boutiques? Or are they really just looking for analysts/associates to mold?

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Comments (6)

Oct 21, 2019 - 3:04pm

I think the discussion would come a which level you would join - I see you joing at the ED/MD level, yet do you see yourself running deals and bringing clients? You may lack of a network.

Dad decided not to take a UMM PE fund offer to open a regional office from a operating background due to a lack of network and worry about not being able to bring deals in. Happy to discuss in PMs.

  • Prospect in IB-M&A
Oct 21, 2019 - 7:18pm

I feel like you'd be better in operations at a PE firm.

Oct 22, 2019 - 11:21am
Prospect in IB-M&A:

I feel like you'd be better in operations at a PE firm.

Thanks. To be honest, I was thinking the same thing... but the funny thing is, one of my professors in my MBA Private Equity class mentioned that PE funds rarely hire CFOs as operating partners cause they feel the skillset CFOs bring to the table (i.e. using financial metrics to drive operations, doing long range planning, strategy building, etc), they already know how to do that stuff. That's why, in his opinion, you'll see PE associates/VPs step into their portfolio companies as CFOs if need be (like that guy from 3G capital who stepped in to be the CFO of Burger King).

I'm happy to hear if that's not the case but that's what I was told...

Most Helpful
Oct 22, 2019 - 9:47am

Interesting situatio. I think you could certainly demonstrate value if:

  • You have significant experience doing deals (ideally both buy and sell side, but even if all buy side) and understand all of the components of diligence and what areas may be most highly scrutinized for a potential business.

  • Your knowledge of the sector and more importantly, how businesses operate (business model), allows you to connect with CEOs and CFOs on a different level than a typical banker. This will incorporate how you looked at growth, assumptions, modeling as it relates to forecasts and projections (e.g. there are nuanced metrics and drivers that industry experts focus on)

  • You built a network of executive contacts over the years that can help in referring in potential deals

If you have the last point, the rest is important, but potentially less so (you can be a relationship guy). If not, you have to rely heavily upon your experience and sector knowledge to convince people that you understand what creates value and how to extract that value during a sale process.

My guess is it would be difficult to jump into an MD role unless you can immediately display that you can be a rainmaker, but VP or Director (depending on your years of experience, overall background, etc.) should make sense.

Oct 22, 2019 - 11:27am
Bullet-Tooth Tony:

Interesting situatio. I think you could certainly demonstrate value if:
  • You have significant experience doing deals (ideally both buy and sell side, but even if all buy side) and understand all of the components of diligence and what areas may be most highly scrutinized for a potential business.

  • Your knowledge of the sector and more importantly, how businesses operate (business model), allows you to connect with CEOs and CFOs on a different level than a typical banker. This will incorporate how you looked at growth, assumptions, modeling as it relates to forecasts and projections (e.g. there are nuanced metrics and drivers that industry experts focus on)

  • You built a network of executive contacts over the years that can help in referring in potential deals

If you have the last point, the rest is important, but potentially less so (you can be a relationship guy). If not, you have to rely heavily upon your experience and sector knowledge to convince people that you understand what creates value and how to extract that value during a sale process.

My guess is it would be difficult to jump into an MD role unless you can immediately display that you can be a rainmaker, but VP or Director (depending on your years of experience, overall background, etc.) should make sense.

I have some of the first bullet point, all of the second bullet point, and (as of now) very little of the third.

What's the pecking order in boutique firms? Is it Analyst>Associate>Director>VP>MD?

The thing is, I'm relatively young (27). I was able to climb the corporate finance ranks pretty quick but, given my age / years of experience, I know for a fact I've been stiffed when it comes to compensation as they'll pay me less than other VPs cause I have lower years of experience.

That being said, can someone advise general comp for each of those roles at a boutique? I'm almost wondering if there's a case that, with base+bonus, I could be making just as much as an Associate/Director in a boutique as a VP/Divisional CFO at my current firm....

Oct 23, 2019 - 9:41am
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