How to best prepare for a career in Corporate Finance

Hello guys, new member to WSO here!

I am a UK undergrad. student due to start university at a so-called "target school" in September, studying Electrical Engineering and management/finance.

I am only 18 and have no experience in IB/accounting though have some decent work experience/exposure in engineering.

My academics are decent, nothing amazing, but I feel like they are good enough, since they got me into a very good university for a competitive course.

I was just wondering, how some of you guys in CF/Strategy consulting at IB's and Big 4 got there, and if there's anything that wish you would have known when you were younger. I will be applying for some general one day insights at IB's opened for pre-university students, and have also applied for work exp. in investment management at a boutique firm which I have nearly got. I've also got another pre-university internship/work exp. at a strategy department at a global engineering company lined up this summer too.

I don't really feel like I want to work in IBD or S&T and so I feel like it would be a waste of time applying for internships there in spring/summer, and I don't quite understand how you go straight from undergrad. to a CF position or a strategy consulting job at a Big 4 or IB. I have only seen graduate opportunities in Technology consulting/management consulting in the UK. I also heard companies like KPMG/PwC only take on a couple of CF analysts a year, meaning that it could be even harder to get into than very reputable IB analyst position.

Say at a Big 4, would it be worth applying for audit/financial advisory internships and go from there? And should I just apply for FO internships at the IB's, even if some aspects don't appeal to me?

I know I should be open to all opportunities since I have no experience in finance/high finance at all, though I feel like if I don't narrow down my options now, it will be too late to do anything once I've graduated and I could be stuck in audit/MO, which I also have very little interest in, but are less competitive.

(((((((Also, you may be wondering why I'm studying engineering. I chose this as I didn't really find accounting and finance/business management that interesting as a course, and have never studies economics. I was considering Mathematics/Physics but in the end chose engineering as it opens up more opportunities in industries I haven't even explored yet. I've also heard that recruiting for engineers is good since we are numerate/logical)))))))

Thank you!

Comments (21)

Jun 13, 2016

I think there are a few misconceptions you've got that need cleared up.

First, Big 4 Corporate Finance isn't the same corporate finance the rest of us talk about here. Big 4 CF is basically like mini-IB. You can see more on that here:
Corporate Finance in the traditional sense means working in the finance department of a corporation doing business besides financial services. I.e. Microsoft, Amazon, McDonalds, Ford, etc. It is fundamentally different than IB and what Big 4 calls their CF division. This can be treasury, FP&A, strategy, or even accounting. These positions wont be marketed as "corporate finance", they'll just be finance positions in a corporation.

The best way to prepare for getting any job is to just network. If you're 18 I'm assuming you're early in your studies. I don't know any processes specific to the UK, but building a network and learning more about the field(s) is always going to be to your benefit.

    • 3
Jun 14, 2016

Thank you Anarchyz11 for the reply.

Yep I heard in Big 4 Corp. Finance they work on smaller deals, with the exception of KPMG. I believe as you were saying Corp. Finance as a career in Big 4 would involve still doing accountancy exams (ACA?) and other Transaction service roles that IBs wouldn't have.

I spoke to an older friend I know who works in Corp. Fin at a BB and he said that there were a few analyst/associates he met who had come from KPMG/PwC Corp. Fin, and especially Corp. Fin M&A. However this is much harder than the standard route of IB and you would basically need to be a top performer.

At the moment I'm unsure about where I'd like to work in finance/IB and so will just network with people I currently know in the industry.

I haven't actually started university yet, I have just finished my exams here in the UK, and will start in October. I believe here in the UK recruiting for IB is very different, as in US it is very much on campus recruiting. I wish there was a WSO for UK, because online I can't really find anything helpful.

Jun 14, 2016

Big 4 corporate finance is unlikely to require you get your CPA.

I, again, think you misunderstand quite a few things. Get a few years into school, learn about potential areas of interest, and then start worrying about these kinds of specifics.

Jun 14, 2016

Why not start with telling us the questions you'd be interested in knowing the answer to, and you think they'd want to hear? Even questions like compensation and other shit you wouldn't normally ask. From there we can give you advice on what you're doing right/wrong.

Jun 14, 2016

DM thanks for your response back- compensation does not change unfortunately

1. Are there opportunities in either FP&A or Treasury? I am interested in seeing different business functions within the company.
2. I will be a senior next year, do you give full time offers to interns?
3. Have there been any structural changes within the internship program from last year to this year?

I honestly know the cultural and struggle to form useful questions to ask. Any input would be much appreciated.

Jun 14, 2016

Well, I'm not in industry, so my answers are going to be more common sense than anything else.

1) Are you applying for an internship in the corporate finance department or is it a general application? If you're applying directly to corpfin, then I wouldn't ask that. They will wonder why you're there. If it's a general application to the whole company or a rotational program (didn't think they had rotations for interns though), it's a good question.
2) That's usually why people hire interns, so I personally wouldn't ask that.
3) That's a decent question.

Some other things to think about:
1) (alt question for your #1) Are there opportunities to learn about different areas of the business as an intern through shadowing or educational programs?
2) (alt question for your #2) What skills and attributes does the company look for when hiring interns to full-time positions?
3) How has X change in the company affected the way you do business? (if they've gone through M&A, restructuring, other major changes)
4) Are there any major changes that the company anticipates during the internship period? If so, will interns be exposed to the transition?
5) What future events are you looking forward to in this company?

    • 1
Jun 14, 2016

DM thank you for your advice and great questions to ask tomorrow. I cannot express how much I appreciate it. I would throw you a silver banana however I do not have any. Thank you again

Jun 14, 2016

No problem man, best of luck

Jun 14, 2016

get an online excel guide like wallstreetprep or mergers and inquisitions. just curious what is your base salary and does your firm have year end bonuses?

Jun 14, 2016

Base sal is 103k, 20k signing bonus, up to 12% year end bonus

Jun 14, 2016

Nice, sounds like a great offer. What industry?

I would definitely get this guide:

Here are some of the most common tasks you will be doing in corp. fin:

Common Excel Functions for Accounting / Finance / Audit:
* Problem solving functions: Pivot Tables, Goal seek, data tables
* Data Sortation Commands: Vlookup, hlookup, =left,=right,=Concatenate etc....
* Math functions (PV, PMT, sum, min, max, sumif, sumproduct, etc)
* Data labels (IE naming A1 = "FX Rate" so you can type in "FXRATE"
* All graphing features (pie, line, bar, etc)
* Conditional Formatting, IF statements
* Normal formatting: shading, drop lines, drop shadows... etc... make it look nice and neat features

Jun 14, 2016

Im at F500 Tech Company, VBA,SQL also wouldn't hurt.

Jun 14, 2016

If you're in straight FP&A or divisional finance you don't need to learn financial modeling. VBA and SQL will definitely help a lot. You're also going to use some systems programs a lot (like SAP) but can't really train for them unless you have access to them.

What n1cktm said in his second post is very helpful. Definitely know every single one of those functions, mainly problem solving and data sortations are the ones I use a lot.

May 11, 2019


for corporate finance roles like FP&A, what did you say financial modelling is not relevant? i see that many jobs require financial modelling. what about corporate development roles? what skills are required for these jobs? thanks you

May 11, 2019

Hi what is your undergrad degree in? what other working experience did you have that enabled you to go for corp finance roles?

Jun 14, 2016

get the WSO Technical Guide

Best Response
Jun 14, 2016