Q&A: Corp Dev Professional at Large-Cap Tech Company

I have some downtime after finishing a couple of deals so I figured I might as well answer some questions on Corp Dev while I'm available.

Profile:

5 years in BD roles at tech startups -> Top 10 MBA -> 2 years as an Assoc. at an EB in tech group (e.g., Lazard, Moelis, Evercore) -> Large-cap tech Corp Dev group. 

Ultimately I might have a different perspective on Corp Dev than what I've seen frequently written here. Especially if you are going to a large-cap tech company of any kind. The pay is good, the work is super interesting, you get great exposure (especially in smaller groups) and ultimately you just work way less than your IB/PE counterparts. 

Happy to answer any questions on the following:

  • Non-technical background recruiting IB
  • IB -> Corp Dev transition
  • Any questions on corp dev work vs. Banking (hint: It's way more interesting on a day-to-day than what I did as a junior banker)
  • Corp Dev hierarchy & career progression

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Comments (55)

Apr 25, 2021 - 11:32am

Thanks for the Q&A - very helpful and timely. I am a 3rd year associate in a BB Tech group looking to transition to corp dev. I'm late stage of the interview process (post-technical/case study) for 3 tech companies (all 3 are public but one is a "big tech" and the other two are high growth SaaS). Would love to get your perspective on the following:

1) Now that you are in CD how would you think about the different opportunities? In the hypothetical situation where I received offers from all three - it would seem pretty difficult to turn down the big tech company due to the transaction volume and optionality compared to the other two opportunities where it's very small teams where they have not historically done M&A. However, it seems like I could potentially have more of an impact at the high growth companies as they mature.

2) Can you discuss salary + career progression? Expecting to take a pay cut in the transition but trying to figure out what is "market"

3) Can you discuss transition from IB to corp dev and any recommendations you have / pitfalls to avoid?

Thanks again and really appreciate it!

Most Helpful
Apr 25, 2021 - 6:19pm

1) First, congrats on getting that far with the three companies, that's great. I would probably consider (a) What kind of experience you really want out of your next role and (b) What your long-term career objectives are. Do you like transactional work? Do you want to be a VP of Corp Dev? If that's the case, I would just go where you can get the most transaction volume, you can always reassess later. If you prefer strategy work or have more interest in being in a more operational or GM role at the company later on, you may want to go somewhere that is scaling rapidly where those opportunities come up more often. You'll end up doing fewer deals, but you will get more exposure to senior management and spend more time providing input on company strategy.

2) Comp across corp dev, whether it's big tech or high growth SaaS, tends to be pretty similar. Assuming you'd be coming in at the Manager/Senior Manager level. These data points come from a number of companies across Internet and SaaS that I collected when I was going through the interview process and from friends who recently transitioned from banking to Finance/CD.

  • Base salary of $145-175K (you can negotiate this a little bit, but I would just anchor high when they ask how much you want)
  • 10-20% annual bonus, depending on the company (this will be fixed based on the comp structure, not negotiable)
  • RSUs: I've seen RSUs anywhere from $100K - 600K with 4-year vesting. Market for this level is $100K-200K. (This is where recruiters have the most flexibility and you should push back on whatever they come out with). 

One thing to consider when making your pick: are you expecting the RSUs to grow slowly in value or is there big upside? I fought hard for extra RSUs and it paid off with share price appreciation. I still make less than I would have in banking, but it's not very much. With the high-growth SaaS companies, your starting point on the RSUs will probably be similar, but you may end up making a lot more down the line. I know a few VP-level guys from BB banks who went to work at pre-IPO consumer companies who now have RSUs worth multiples of what they would have made in banking when the company 20xed in 3 1/2 years. (well into the 7-figures). 

Career progression in Corp Dev is pretty variable depending on your company. I would go through Linkedin and look at the team - did they move up quickly? Slowly? Did a lot of people lateral in from banking or did they come from other corp dev teams? The hierarchy is pretty fixed, but the time to move up it is not. You could move from Associate to director in 5 years or 10. A lot of it will also have to do with transaction experience. If you do a ton of deals, it is easier to justify moving you up the ladder. That being said, if you go to the smaller companies and get more "jack of all trades" experience you can move around within the org and can level up that way. 

3) It's honestly a great transition. I have been extremely happy with the decision. I would just try to go in with a learning mindset similar to what you did in your first year in banking. The biggest difference for me was managing internal politics and working cross-functionally within the company. Just being an agreeable person, building great relationships with the finance, legal, product, engineering, HR etc people that you work with all the time goes a really long way. Unless you are at a really mature corp dev group, these people don't do M&A as their day job and having them on your side is invaluable. And enjoy all that extra free time!

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  • Manager in CorpDev
Apr 25, 2021 - 11:59am

Thanks for doing this Q&A. I work in corp dev myself and always enjoy hearing the perspective of others in similar roles, so will be following this thread. 

I am curious if you have seen anyone or if anyone on your team has been able to transition into tech corp dev from corp dev groups in other industries. I am currently almost 2 years into a corp dev role with a large cap industrial company and am not terribly thrilled with working in this industry long term. Thinking if I stay in corp dev longer term, I would want to try to move to a role with a large cap tech company. just trying to get another opinion on whether this move is doable or not. Thanks again 

Apr 25, 2021 - 6:31pm

Hi! Yes, it's doable, especially at the junior level. The most important thing for corp dev is transaction experience. When we are looking to hire someone that's the first thing we look at. The second would be market/vertical experience. That being said, if you can prove that you have a good grasp on the market and can clearly articulate your understanding, that will go a long way. It's why we do case interviews. Where you will have a much harder time is at the senior (director/VP) level, because then part of your value is startup/VC contacts that will help you bring in deal flow and market perspectives. You may have to take a bump in level/pay to get your foot in the door, but it is probably worth it if that's what you want to long term. 

  • Summer Associate in IB-M&A
Apr 25, 2021 - 3:27pm

Thank you so much for this. In addition to the question(s) posted above, I'd love to hear if the transition you made is available for internationals on H1B?

I'd imagine since you're at a large cap tech firm, they'd be willing to sponsor, but I'd love confirmation on that. 

  • Summer Associate in IB-M&A
Apr 27, 2021 - 4:21pm

Thanks so much for your response. Quick follow-up: in terms of geography for tech-corp dev roles is it mostly West Coast or can you get a few looks from companies that have offices in the East Coast (NY, Boston, etc)?

Apr 25, 2021 - 7:23pm

Appreciate you doing this AMA. I have been trying for the past 3 years to get into Corp dev from fp&a at a large pe-owned tech company. I've always wanted to get "deal" exp and have recently accepted a Corp dev role at a small pe-owned pediatric dental company. There are 3 people on the Corp dev team so I imagine I will get a lot exposure. I'm curious if you have any tips on how I can best ramp up at the beginning for a career switcher and go above and beyond in this role to take advantage of being highly visible at a smaller company?

  • 2
Apr 26, 2021 - 1:45pm

It really depends on the company. I came to my current fp&a role because they implied that I would be able to transition to corp dev at some point but they never gave me a chance once I joined. Definitely was a bait and switch as the fp&a team has consistently been understaffed so I've become "essential." I would look to a company that has, in the past, transitioned people from fp&a to corp dev or I would network with a company prior to interviewing and see if that transition is even possible before joining on. Although my upcoming corp dev role isn't sexy by any means, it's the only shot I've been given so far and frankly, I probably got a bit lucky to land it.

  • 2
Apr 26, 2021 - 12:51pm

I wouldn't necessarily say you are a "career switcher" per se. Going from FP&A to Corp Dev is a pretty common transition and a lot of the skills are transferrable. Especially at the more junior levels, the work will look very similar with financial modeling and valuation. If you want to differentiate yourself a little, I would try to start to form a market perspective early on and try to bring it to meetings. Have a view on an interesting target or roll-up opportunity? Is there an adjacent market that you think is interesting? The more you can show yourself as a subject-matter expert, the more value you provide to the team. 

Apr 26, 2021 - 1:50pm

Makes sense. Being well informed and speaking up about potential good ideas. Another question if you don't mind. Since this is my first time being in a deal-focused role, is it safe to assume the deal process will look very similar in all other industries? With only slight tweaks here and there? I would love to join a small regional PE-firm at some point and am a little worried about pigeon-holing myself.

  • 1
Apr 26, 2021 - 12:57pm

Most of the time, Corp Dev teams aren't going to hire straight out of undergrad. Unless it is a huge team doing significant volume, there just isn't a need for analyst-level hires. If you don't want to go the IB route, there are plenty of other options, though.

  • Go into FP&A and try to make an internal move into corp dev as an analyst/associate 
  • Go into a PM role and try and make an internal transfer. Try and go somewhere where product participates in acquisitions and get some deal experience that way
  • Do strategy consulting at a good consulting firm
  • Do transaction or valuation services at an EY/PWC/Deloitte type firm

I've seen people successfully transfer from all of those roles into a corp dev role. You just have to hustle a bit to get it done.

  • Associate 1 in ER
Apr 26, 2021 - 10:18pm

Out of curiosity, have you seen people make the switch out of ER? Obviously the transaction experience will be lacking, but I'd be interested if you've seen any research associates leverage their industry knowledge and technicals to make the jump.

Aug 7, 2021 - 2:56am

Hi, thanks for doing this. I'm currently an analyst in a leading oil and gas retailer of Middle East. My role is mostly around building models, decks, IRR analysis, building an implementation strategy for the project and working with engineering, IT, etc (the entire task force), and taking charge of the project end to end. My team is small - just myself, manager and a VP for 1 single project. My main focus with this group lies in covering retail transactions end to end. I've also finished my CFA L1 and 2 and now planning to pursue an MBA from Canada (Rotman,Schulich or Queens). 

The question I've is, I can see myself do really well in corp development roles within the retail sector and hence was thinking to target Walmart Canada or FMCGs of Canada. However, I'm confused about the following:

1) if firstly should I pursue for corp development roles within retail division post MBA as MBA will definitely give me leverage to switch industries. I know I'm interested in retail and I've 2 years of experience in it. But I don't know how corporate development roles look like in retail corporations or large investment banks/consulting shops in US or Canada. Meaning In terms of deal flows, pay structure, M&A activity and exit opps, would it make sense for me to target tech divisions or should I leverage my retail experience and apply in investment banks/consulting shops within their retail division?

2) I've 3 years of business development experience in real estate and 2 years of corporate development experience in oil and gas industry. Hence, post MBA, does it make sense for me to target Walmart Canada and work in their corp development team (JV, deal structuring, M&A, execution strategy - that's what I really enjoy), or should I first target investment banks/ consulting shops and then make a switch to the Walmart/P&G etc and then move to PE? This question is related to career growth, promotions and learning.

3) Lastly, if you've any advice at all about business schools in Canada, or overall any general advice, please feel free to share. I would really appreciate it! One of the reasons for sticking with retail was if I ultimately decide to start my own shop, that's where I see I can add a lot more value from strategy and deal structuring angle as opposed to tech given my finance background, but I still don't know if my thought process is going in the right direction. 

Thanks a lot for taking out time!

Apr 26, 2021 - 12:39pm

Thanks for doing the AMA. I work in corp dev for a smaller PE backed tech company. A couple questions:

  • How are transactions sourced at your company?
  • Do you have a tech background? If not, do you sometimes feel behind the eight ball when evaluating strategic fit of other tech firms?
  • How much travel were you doing pre-covid?
  • Does your team have plans to go back into the office? In talking to recruiters recently it seems that some tech firms are very adamant about having staff back in the office while others are open to 100% remote.
  • How is your team structured?
Apr 26, 2021 - 1:07pm

No problem! It's kind of fun when there isn't much going on.

  • It's a combination of Corp Dev and Product sourcing the acquisitions. It totally depends on the deal. Every once in a while we'll get an inbound and pass it along, but it's rare. For the most part we are working with the Product team to find strategic areas of focus and then Corp Dev will identify and reach out to the targets to get a process started. 
  • I have been in tech in one fashion or another basically my whole career (10 years now), and I'm still always learning something new. Strategy and markets change often, so I do a lot of work to keep myself up to date. 
  • I was doing a fair amount before Covid and expect that would have continued. Probably 25% time on the road. I miss meeting with companies face to face, it was one of my favorite parts of the job.
  • We'll be back in the office at some point, although we've been told we won't be 100% office-centric again. 
  • We have a VP who runs the team, reporting into the CEO and then Directors/Deal Leads under him, then Managers. No Associates or Analysts.
Apr 26, 2021 - 5:05pm

What's the typical experience you'd look for in a manager?

Selfishly asking for myself - I started in a rotational program and have ~2 years experience (both modeling as well as execution / negotiation) on a large Corp Dev team with deals ranging from M&A to partnerships to vendor agreements, and strategic investments.

My team is fantastic but I could see myself making the jump to a more acquisitive industry and frankly not quite sure what the "sweet spot" is for both timing and level. Assuming you don't have anyone under "manager" since you want any individual on the team to be able to stand alone with a client / negotiate a deal / etc. correct?

Apr 26, 2021 - 6:47pm

Manager is usually a 2-3 years of transaction experience in managing deals as a banker (so associate level) or 2-3 years as a deal associate in a corp dev group. If you were to switch into a tech M&A group, you'd probably be a "senior" Associate by experience, with the opportunity to move up to manager quickly. You are correct in that in most groups a Manager should be able to run a deal process basically independently, although there will usually still be a "deal lead" who originated the deal if you are just starting out at that level.

Apr 26, 2021 - 8:16pm

When looking at prospects, would you prefer a banker coming from a tech coverage group or an M&A product group? Do you also look at bankers from other industries (e.g. HC, Consumer). Thanks!

Apr 26, 2021 - 8:30pm

I don't think it really matters. We definitely want M&A transaction experience, but if you're coming from a relevant coverage group or an M&A group I don't think there would be a preference. It's harder to make a transfer from another industry and might require you to take a knock in level, but sometimes it's just best to get your foot in the door and make a name for yourself once you get there.

Apr 27, 2021 - 10:30am

Thanks for doing this! It seems like you are in a Senior Manager/Director role. How do you view your career progression / next steps? Move into other parts of the org or become a career corp dev person? What would you view are pros and cons of different options?

Additionally, how important is it for you to maintain/create industry contacts in the tech/VC/PE space? How do you create these contacts?

Apr 27, 2021 - 1:36pm

I really love my job and I've settled into a pretty good groove so I don't think I'll go anywhere any time soon. As for longer-term, I'm not sure if I'd want to run a corp dev team or not. I think after a few more years of this I would probably go to a well-established pre-IPO (Series C or later) tech company and try to shoot for a senior-level strategy role. It would be interesting to ride that wave and I think there is a lot of upside in getting that kind of experience. 

The one thing I would miss with that type of role - and I think this relates to your second question - is the constant interfacing with startups. It's one of the more interesting parts of my job that I get to chat with founders almost daily and learn about what they're building. The only role I could see having that level of connectivity is VC, and I probably wouldn't make that leap until later in my career when I could do it at a partner level. Being well-connected and well-informed in Corp Dev is critical if you want to go far, so being intentional about building those contacts early on is important. It used to be a lot of going to events, conferences, etc. Now it's a lot of cold outreach and Zoom networking, which can get kind of tiring and which I expect to revert to somewhere in between pre-covid norms and what we're doing now at some point (A lot of people disagree with me on that point and think remote forever is here to stay, we'll see). 

Apr 27, 2021 - 1:32pm

Thanks for doing this. I am in a BD and Strategy role at the moment and have always been curious about how different corp dev teams go about valuing targets. Question here is what approach do you take to valuing companies? Also, do you do a lot of acquisitions or equity investments which ultimately lead to acquisitions?

I know our group takes a very conservative approach for their perpetuity calculation, however, the first 5-10 years can almost be classified as moderately-optimistic.

Apr 27, 2021 - 1:46pm

We use traditional valuation methodologies just like everyone else, but given the fact that we are in tech and valuations have gone basically beyond logical comprehension lately, a lot of that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Precedents end up carrying a lot of weight when we're in a market like we are right now because it's hard to get a DCF to justify some of these multiples, and then it sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that drives those multiples even higher. I think everyone is looking at the tech acquisition market and wondering how much higher it can go. When you have deals that are completing at 30x 2022 sales and companies that have recently IPOd gaining 100% or more on their first trading day, it makes settling on valuation really hard. 

Apr 27, 2021 - 1:44pm

Thanks for this! I'm heading to an M7 this fall with a fin services corporate strategy background, but have also have a few transactions under my belt from a corp dev perspective. 

I'm on the fence between IB and consulting post-MBA and ultimately would like to end up in a strategy-type role at a high-growth / tech firm. The more usual path to get there is consulting but I'd really like to do IB to diversify my skillset, cover a specific industry and pay off my student loans a bit faster. 

Did you ever consider going from your EB to a more strategy-esque role or were you corp dev from the start? I'm trying to assess how difficult it would be to make that jump and would value your perspective. 

Apr 27, 2021 - 1:53pm

I was kind of all over the place when I was coming out of banking, but ultimately corp dev is where I got the most traction. I do think I can pretty easily make a move to strategy now that I have internal industry experience, but I really didn't get much response on those types of roles when I initially exited. I think if I had stayed in banking longer it may have been more possible, but I'll never know. 

I actually chose IB during my MBA for the exact same reasons you are thinking of - I really liked tech and thought I would have basically the same optionality as my consulting friends in addition to having a much easier path to getting an internship and a full-time offer. The latter was true, the former not so much. You have to consider that your classmates will probably be making a transition at around the same time as you, and the ones who have the consulting experience are probably going to get priority for those roles, especially if they land in a consulting practice that focuses on the industry you are interested in. If you like doing deals, then you should do banking, but if you're trying to use banking as a back door into strategy it can be a more difficult (although certainly not impossible) path.

Edit: On the student loans point, you will definitely get your student loans paid off a bit faster, but I wouldn't use that as a determining factor in your career. Interest rates are low and coming from an M7 MBA you will be able to pay off your loans ahead of schedule (with a bit of financial planning) anyway. My friends who went to Amazon and Microsoft have probably paid off their loans faster than anyone else because their RSU packages have ballooned so much since they started.

Apr 27, 2021 - 2:00pm

That's an interesting path to consider, basically IB > Corp Dev > Internal Strategy, somewhat checks all the boxes on a diversified skillset while still being valuable to the company from a strategic angle. When you say you didn't "get much response," do you mean just pure resume drops or were you aggressively networking as well and hitting a wall? 

Your optionality point is helpful, especially that I would be competing with all the consultants out there (which I hadn't fully internalized). 

Do you work with any former consultants in your current role? If so, do they have a skill-set you feel you missed by doing IB after MBA or is it pretty much an even playing field with some individual strengths and weaknesses that can't be attributed to background? 

Jun 16, 2021 - 10:31pm

It's great to see this post. I'm currently as a Corp Dev Associate in the HR Tech space. My company is private but I do deals for the public parent company (since the public parent delicate the technology Corp Dev piece all to my group). Before that I have 4 years experience in M&A Transaction Services. The deal volume is so-so (every year close ~1-2 deals). I really hope to do more deals and I'm wondering how easily I can upgrade to a large-cap tech company. And I'm also worried if the "HR Tech" will restrict my move since this is not a "sexy" or "upside" industry. 

  • Analyst 1 in IB - Gen
Jun 17, 2021 - 4:39pm

If you don't mind sharing, what's your hours look like and general comp? Are you purely M&A or do you do other things as well?

Curious to see what hours are like for a 1-2 deal/year company vs. a 5-6 deals.

Thanks!

Jun 22, 2021 - 1:41pm

Hours are super variable. If I'm not on a deal and we don't have a lot of strategy work going on, I've had weeks where I would put in like 20 hours and just take care of my personal business. It's also pretty easy to grab a day off or vacation during those times. I would say my steady-state, where I'm meeting with companies to build pipeline, pulling materials for strategy meetings together, and maybe running 1 process is ~50 hours a week with the very occasional weekend to get something out the door. The last couple of weeks of diligence or a deal it can creep up to 70-80 hours, but this is only 3-4 times a year and is honestly kind of fun because you have total ownership over the process.

Comp I outlined above. My comp is about market :).

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A
Jun 29, 2021 - 4:29pm

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  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
Aug 10, 2021 - 4:15pm

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