I went> B4 Audit> B4 CF > IB: Ask me anything

As a lot of people ask about these things then I thought I'd make an AMA:

I work in London and I made that much sought after career jump that started in Big Four audit and ended up in IB (Debt Capital Markets) at a boutique with a stopover at Big Four CF in between.

If you have any questions about this, I'm very happy to answer them.

Comments (54)

Jan 30, 2016

+sb

Nice one. Did you move from audit to CF internally or at a different firm? How long did you spend in each role? I can imagine some objections moving from audit to CF, how did you spin your background?

Jan 30, 2016

I made the move internally. Spent a bit over 2.5 years in audit and 6 months in CF (business modelling to be exact).

The audit to CF/TS move is actually extremely common. TS/CF don't take on that many grads and of the few that they do, a lot jump ship after getting their ACA. As such they do have a healthy appetite for people coming from audit.

I can't say it was too difficult at all, I just went and spoke to all the various CF/TS departments and founds the one that interested me the most. What helped was that I had done some internships/a bit of work as a financial analyst (basically FP&A) in industry where I had a fair bit of financial modelling experience and this was very relevant for my internal move. Plus I had also done CFA L1 but I don't think that carried much weight for my internal transfer.

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Feb 3, 2016

Hi thanks for doing this,
I am myself in TS at a big 4 in Europe. How did you sell yourself for an IB position? Are you know Analyst?
As for the difference TS/CF could you tell me what you think in terms of the best to break into IB?

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Feb 3, 2016

If you're at TS then you've already got a good start. I myself had to downplay spending 2.5 years in audit and really focus on the experience I had gotten after I had made my move to CF (as well as some experience from before B4 that was relevant to this role).

I'm an associate actually though smaller banks can be a bit liberal with their job titles. I'd say at a bulge bracket I'd be an Analyst 3/Associate 1.

TS is usually just financial due diligence. This is good experience but unlike CF you might not get experience in things like financial modelling (very key, I can't stress this enough) and other things. Ultimately I don't think it's that big of a deal breaker what exactly you do, as long as you can show you have the relevant skills and experience.

Best ways to break in are to have a friend on the inside recommend you (I did this) but also utilize recruiters. I've experienced them wall to wall: some are quite useless but some are really good and will fight your case.

Feb 3, 2016

When you say CF at Big 4 were you part of the Lead Advisory (M&A team) or the Valuations & Business Modelling team (or Transaction Services)?

Reason I ask is because I would be interested to hear about hours worked and pay in Big 4 Lead Advisory (M&A) in London.

I would be interested to hear a bit about your new role in DCM. What is the day to day like? What do you actually do in DCM and is it quantitative (lots of modelling) or softer/relationship driven? How do you like it compared to Big 4? Is it something you could see yourself doing as a career long term or will you look to jump ship after a few years? Typical exits? Finally what are the hours like? I am imagining significantly better than M&A?

Lots of questions I know, thanks for doing this.

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Feb 3, 2016

Hours are fine. Arrive 8:30-9ish, finish time depends on what you're working on. Something in the region of 7pm is normal with a couple of 9-10pms a week. Pay is higher than audit but bonuses are still disappointing.

Feb 3, 2016

I was personally in the business modelling team. How CF/TS is structured varies from firm to firm and even between countries. Usually the bigger the office (London is a classic example) the more specialized teams you'll have. Smaller offices will often have these lumped together into fewer or even one department. However the type of work I did was sometimes alongside a lead advisory type team since often times a model on its own is hard to sell as well as lead advisory without a model is a bit limited in value. As such different departments come together to offer the service.

Generally B4 in London pays you a salary that is a bit above audit but below that what you'd get in a bank. The bonus is better than audit (or so I've heard) but far below anything you'd get in a bank. Hours can vary depending on what is on.

My role involves a lot of different things. As we're a smaller firm (not a bulge bracket JPM with tons of staff) then I get a fair bit of exposure to all parts of the deal.

I specifically was brought in because of my modelling background and as such a lot of my day does involve financial modelling. We don't go into loads of detail on the operational side of the business, we are more interested in seeing what kind of a debt structure would work. Nonetheless I always build integrated 3 statement financial models. I think the Big Four have strong modelling departments and you get good training from there. Some of the models I've seen built by smaller modelling houses and even other banks can be frankly quite awful.

Hover it isn't all Excel. I also do sell side work. Although it's usually the MD who speaks on the phone to investors (to get them to buy the debt we're issuing), it is I who puts together the investor presentations. This often includes a fair bit of background research on the industry/business we're advising and this aspect I really enjoy as you do learn a lot. The investors may then come back with further questions, leaving me to do dig deeper.

Once a transaction is underway, then the work is all about dealing with all the various due diligence and advisor reports, answering queries from the investor(s). Basically on every deal there is a whole army of lawyers and other advisors such as engineers, surveyors, tax experts, etc who advise on different aspects. What I do is basically help bring these all together and help give the investors comfort about where they're putting their money. You might be surprised how much of a transaction's cost are the fees to all these people.

I do enjoy this more than the Big Four though that's perhaps more a factor of the work that I'm doing and not necessarily the work environment. Long term I'm not sure, I could see myself staying in this forever though more likely I'd like to move to the buy side (infra/debt funds) at some point or maybe even the developers/companies that we're raising the debt for. Currently however I'm staying put. Those are also the typical exit routes (or rival banks).

Hours are not bad, generally go home at around 6.30-7 or so and get in at 8AM. Sometimes work until 9-10PM and a bit of stuff on weekends if needed (though not from the office, just do a bit from home).

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Feb 3, 2016

Hello, nice thread
I'm currently doing an internship in V&BM in Europe, do I have a chance of doing it into a BB? Any advice on how should I position and sell myself? Thanks!

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Feb 3, 2016

V&BM= Valuation and Business Modelling? Oh yes, that is a perfect background for getting into banking. I'd say highlight your modelling skills and what transactions/projects you worked on.

This is just my personal view so take it with a grain of salt but I cringe when on a CV I read something like "I have strong commercial skills with excellent attention to detail and am able to manage multiple high pressure projects simultaneously". Those sorts of sentences give me zero info on your experience and all you're doing is saying cringeworthy sentences that anyone could say.

I'd say under experience list specific things you've worked on, something like "built an integrated three statement financial model for the leveraged buyout of a leading European manufacturer or widgets". That's a specific thing you worked on and in the interview they can ask you more about your experience on it.

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Feb 4, 2016

Exactly what I was looking for, thanks a lot!

Feb 3, 2016

Thanks Asatar.

Again, just to confirm is this Lead Avdisory (M&A) or TS (Due Diligence)?

Feb 3, 2016

Nice post. You have the career path I definitely see myself pursuing. I graduate in May and and soon after, start my job as an associate for a Big Four Valuation group. How did you break into IB and as far as the time line goes, how long did you stay at Big 4 before making the jump? Was there any networking involved at prospective firms to make transitions easier? Thanks.

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Feb 3, 2016

I was in the Big Four a bit over 3 years, of which 2.5y in audit and 0.5 in modelling.

I started looking and interviewing pretty much as soon as I had CF at the top of my CV as opposed to audit. Was thinking about equity research for a while but ended up not getting it but probably for the better, this suits me more anyway.

I would have potentially secured a job earlier (was in some final round interviews) but had a setback due to failing a chartered accountancy exam.

Yes networking was involved, I heard of the role through a friend who worked at this company. They helped get me the interview and from there I just had to know what I was talking about and be better than my competition and I guess I was.

Feb 3, 2016

Hello William,
What do you like the most in DCM compared to Audit? Could you tell us a bit more about the recruitment process (number of interviews)? Also, did you have any experience in financial markets when you applied, and if not was that an issue during interviews?
Thanks in advance,

Feb 4, 2016

What's better in DCM than in audit? Everything. It is better in pretty much every way. The only downside is that I work a bit more hours. All those stories about audit being very dull are true, so true.

The recruitment process wasn't that formal since I work for a smaller firm and I got introduced via a friend who works there. I don't really remember how many explicit rounds as such there were, I basically interviewed with several of the MDs and someone a bit more junior, think there were 6 people in total I spoke to at various points, plus did a modelling test.

What exactly do you mean by 'experience in financial markets'?

Feb 6, 2016

Thank you for your answer William.
Sorry that was not very clear, I meant experience/knowledge in debt markets and in financial derivatives.

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Feb 4, 2016

Thanks for doing this, williamthesnake. A few questions:

When you were in audit, were you able to do any transaction-related work? What kind of models were you exposed to during your time at B4 CF? What originally piqued your interest in DCM? Why DCM over other product groups or industry coverage groups? What resources would you recommend to prepare for DCM interviews?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Feb 4, 2016

Audit doesn't do transactions related work, that's why it's audit. Sometimes the senior people are asked to give an opinion on some accounting treatment in relation to a transaction but that's hardly M&A.

The B4 CF models were all integrated 3 statement financial forecasting models. The industries they were for were quite wall to wall, we weren't sector specific. I personally did some work in real estate and energy, both of which I really enjoyed.

As for why DCM: there was no point at which I sat down and chose DCM over say ECM or M&A or something. Such an event simply did not occur. I applied to any vaguely interesting sounding IB role in a pretty scattergun fashion and this was the role that I succeeded in getting.

Resources: I'd say know how various financial instruments work, read the financial press (if you're in London then the City AM is handed out for free- great read on my way to work) and know how to build a financial model.

Feb 4, 2016

How hard is it to break into big4 CF straight from undergrad? What kind of experience would help you get in? Out of curiosity, what accounting qualification do you study if you went straight to CF? On the website, they seem vague and simply state 'a professional qualifaction' unlike audit and the aca

Feb 4, 2016

Getting a boutique IB internship or modelling exp would definitely help

Feb 4, 2016

Big 4 CF doesn't hire that many grads so I think the chances of getting in aren't that high.

I did the ACA (technically though still not fully qualified.....) but sometimes people do ICAS, CIMA, etc. This can vary from firm to firm.

Feb 5, 2016

Did the ACA help in your transitions at all? How would you say its viewed to ACCA?

May 27, 2016

Not sure if you're still around but a few questions on CF.

I've just finished my year placement as an M&A analyst. Do you reckon this would provide me with any substantial advantage to break straight into CF from undergrad?

Regarding the qualifications, I noticed one of the big 4 offers the CFA qualification in CF. I was under the premise that the ACA/ACCA/CIMA is more beneficial for M&A rather than the CFA. Is this true?

Out of all of the above qualifications, which one you choose to study to lateral into 1) IB M&A 2) PE 3) AM/RE? 4)HF?

Feb 6, 2016

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Feb 7, 2016

How did you break in straight after undergrad? I've been trying to network my way in, and at least 2 of the big 4 have told me that they don't hire straight out of undergrad.

Feb 4, 2016

Thanks a lot for doing this williamthesnake. I am currently in audit and was interested to find out more about how you have made the transition prior completing the ACA?

Also, I understand that in CF there is a lot of modelling work involved (three statement modelling etc) but I was wondering what kind of stuff the due diligence teams do.

Thank you again!

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Best Response
Feb 5, 2016

Well I had done most of the ACA and as you may know the last exam, Case study, is not a technical one so the completion of that doesn't give you any more technical knowledge. Plus I had done CFA L1 and had plenty of relevant work experience that the lack of a full ACA wasn't a deal breaker.

Well CF can be modelling heavy but not always. Due diligence or transaction services who do financial due diligence look at the quality of the numbers that are being reported/used. They try to work out a 'normalised' level of earnings on which valuation multiples are applied, they look at working capital movements and the overall financial health of the company.

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Feb 6, 2016

That's true.

What experience did you find relevant and able to leverage during your interviews for the internal transition? I am trying to understand how to get as much relevant experience as I can through audit so that I can use this when looking to move internally to CF/TAS.

Thanks a lot!

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Feb 6, 2016

Thanks for doing this thread! I have a couple of questions: what are the most important skills that someone can bring to the table as a DCM analyst? What's the most challenging part of the job, and what do you enjoy the most?

I have a capital markets position lined up so I'd be really interested to see what your experience has been like.

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Feb 7, 2016

Important skills at the junior level in my opinion are (not a definitive list):
- Modelling and Excel (as you will spend a lot of time doing this)
- Know your accounting
- Know your financial instruments
- Work hard
- Make sure everything in presentations is formatted nicely and aligned

Challenging part: As part of the whole bond raising process, especially if it's for something to be built, there's a lot of legal documentation involved. I feel that a lot of that flies far above my head and I have no idea what I'm meant to be doing. If the MD doesn't have time to answer my questions then I feel like I'm poking in the dark a bit.

Best part: Being able to work on interesting and varied projects with very intelligent people. When I finish off a financial model or a presentation and everything works/looks nice, that gives me a very satisfying feeling. Being able to help the client with whatever project they're trying to accomplish. And the pay isn't bad either.

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Feb 6, 2016

What sort of pay bump did you get after the transfer to CF (ex bonus)?

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Feb 7, 2016

There was no immediate pay bump. At least in my firm when you first move across you're on 'secondment' meaning you keep your old pay.

But to answer your question about salary differences:
- At the newly qualified ACA level (so about 3+ years in) CF/TS gets about 5-10% more than audit
- At manager level: about 10-20% more
- At senior manager/associate director level: about 25% more

Partner level is hard to tell. On the one hand the revenue generated per employee is higher in TS/CF than in audit, though on the other there are a lot more partners in CS/TS (compared to a firmwide average of 1 partner to 15 or so staff, I've heard of departments where out of the 25 people in them, 10 are partners for example).

Feb 8, 2016

Currently working in transaction as an analyst for 0,5 year as an intern and 1 years as an analyst , which are my best chance to do a lateral move into corporate finance group? or How would you approach a lateral move into CF group?

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Feb 8, 2016

There is no one right way. But things you could try:

a) See if your firm has an official internal jobs board. Some do and the places available are advertised there.

b) (what I did) Start emailing the heads of the departments you're interested in, asking if there's someone there you can talk to about the kind of work they do in those departments/secondments/moves. Don't even be afraid of emailing the partner who is the head of that department, they'll just point you in the right direction. I did exactly this and nobody ever said no to asking for such a meeting.

Feb 9, 2016

was there a significant difference in the types of career moves you saw colleagues make from BM teams as opposed to TS teams? any instances of people returning to Big4 TS/CF having left Audit to go industry for a short while (i.e. not long enough to return at a promoted level but rather same one as if they had made move internally)?
congrats on the move btw :)

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Feb 11, 2016

I've never been in a TS team and am not that familiar with them so can't really say. Overall I'd say a lot of people within the TS/CF/Deal Advisory space gravitated towards front office roles, be it in IB, equity research or a fund.

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Feb 12, 2016

Would you say it's harder to obtain an equity research role in London as opposed to other roles such as M&A, DCM etc?

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Feb 13, 2016

I did actually also apply for some equity research roles before I focused on IB and even went to some interviews (including 1 final round one- so I got quite close).

I think generally speaking yes, yes it is more difficult.

Firstly, someone correct me if I'm wrong, there are simply a lot more corporate finance/IB roles out there than there are equity research ones.

Secondly and maybe even more importantly, one thing that equity research really wants from people is a passion for the equity markets. You have to basically be an equity analyst before you become an equity analyst (i.e be able to talk about the market, why various stocks are good/bad buys, have your own portfolio of stocks for quite a period). The technical skills I wouldn't say are that radically different between IB and ER but in ER you also have to show that passion which is quite difficult.

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Feb 14, 2016

Thanks for the reply. Yeah I completely agree that the passion would be quite difficult to display through in an interview. Do you think it would be the same for Asset Management roles also? Furthermore, I hardly see aca qualified people going into asset management, is this because of the same reason you stated above?

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Feb 14, 2016

Would you say your chances to get into CF from audit take a hit if you are at a office in Uxbridge/Watford/St Albans/Gatwick/Other London areas as opposed to Central London offices?

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Feb 14, 2016

I'm not sure it really makes much of a difference. As I was based in the same building as the CF teams, then setting up meetings with them was really easy. However I see no reason why someone based further out can't do the same.

Feb 15, 2016

Congrats on the move!!

Compared to B4 CF/TAS, would you say it's difficult to move from Big4 restructuring to IBD (including ECM/DCM)?

Thanks!

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Feb 16, 2016

Hard to say. Trying to get into a well known bank's IBD is definitely harder than Big Four CF I think. However there are a lot of CF firms out there and some of the smaller lesser known ones might be easier to get into than the Big Four. But that's just a guess.

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Feb 27, 2017

Hi William,

Thank you so much for your information, I found them really useful!

I also work in big 4 audit and I'm looking for opportunities to move to CF. I'm just wondering- did your year end reviews/ work reviews from senior or managers helped you to move to CF? (eg, if you have really good review, the other department might want to take you on-board more)

Many thanks!

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