Looking to break into strategic finance

Hi WSO,

I am a soon to be second year analyst in a BB based on the West Coast who is interested in strategic finance roles after the end of my 2 year stint. I have a couple of questions about the recruiting process, best practices, and mobility.

  1. What are the best skills to brush up / develop before recruiting? I assume I should work on my modeling, maybe learn SQL (seems to be mentioned a lot on LinkedIn), brush up on my deals etc. Any important tips I should remember or skills I should learn to be a more competitive candidate? 

  2. A lot of the strategic finance people I've seen on LinkedIn have stellar IB and academic backgrounds. I'm sure these are not easy roles to break into but is this exit opp. one of the harder ones to get into? I'm at a good bank but how skewed towards GS, Evercore, etc. are these roles?

  3. What's the sweet spot to make the transition? Right after analyst or maybe a few years into associate? I'm seeing that a lot of people have 3-5 years of work experience before making the jump.

  4. I am thinking of moving from the West Coast to the East Coast, so going from west coast banking to east coast Strategic Finance (I know most roles are in the bay but I want to move for personal / family reasons.) Is this feasible or is the geographic barrier going to be an issue? 

Thanks a lot for the help. I really appreciate it

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Comments (14)

  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Jun 21, 2021 - 12:53pm

Can definitely chime in as I'm currently a strategic finance associate (albeit no prior banking experience so YMMV)

1. Deal experience would be great. Dont worry about SQL yet - that is one that you'll learn as you go (I also hate it). Tableau is in this same bucket. Be ready for some round of case interviews (model, deck, presentation). 

2. Can't comment but I've seen all banks seemingly place (my team head is a GS alum but certainly not necessary - again I got in without banking so you definitely can). 

3. Depends on the role you want to come in at. More managerial, probably 5 or so years of hard ib exp. I came in 1 yr of post UG exp and am an associate (lowest rung we have). 

4. Should be fine. Most startups are chill with remote working - my team operates on the opposite coast that I do but it never is an issue.

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 21, 2021 - 4:02pm

Thanks a lot for the reply. This is very helpful. What exactly do you mean by case interviews and how would you suggest I best prepare for them?

Most Helpful
  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Jun 22, 2021 - 9:36am

Yeah I mean I did a few cases during my interview process at various places and I would say its pretty much just building an operating model, given some assumptions (or you have to make your own) along with 'goals' at certain points in the forecast (IE: head count grows to be 100 by year X). Pretty straightforward from a modeling perspective (make sure to do all the nice formatting / standard things like whiting out your sheet so no lines between cells, if cells link to a diff sheet use green, if an assumption blue, if a calc then black). I know that from IB that is probably so second nature for you, but I do know that the presentation element of the model is something that is necessary consideration and one that I was not aware of in prior interviews (pretty sure I once got dinged for only these formatting things because it didn't even cross my mind in the pressurized state of a case interview). From there, you probably have to assemble a mini deck (max like 8-10 slides) - this will have things like 1) key outputs for the model (operational + financial) 2) Strengths / weaknesses of the operating model (not quantifying but it's your assessment of the unit economics and what jumps out to you 3) what considerations would you have with deploying a new product line 4) you may be asked a specific question to address in the deck or something in the instructions for the case study. The next step is then presenting the deck (usually have the model open in case the team wants to pick through your calcs / check mechanics). Hope this helps!

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  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jul 8, 2021 - 1:13pm

Recently lateraled to stratfin after my first year in banking. What Associate 1 said is pretty much spot on, can add more color too

1. Don't need to know SQL/Power BI type exposure yet, can learn that on the job and at my start up we have data teams that do most of the non-Excel work for us

2. This is pretty firm dependent -- my group has people ranging from Goldman/McKinsey to well known MM banks. We have extended offers to people who come from Baird while rejected applicants from JP and Goldman. AFAIK a respectable name will help you get the interview, but then its on performance.

3. Jumped ship after a year -- no regrets just yet... but most of the team came over after 2-3 years at least at the Analyst/Associate level.

4. Its a matter of finding an interesting opportunity and connecting well with that team

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jul 8, 2021 - 2:07pm

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