Strategic Finance?

I hate PE - the documenting, the fire drills, the countless decks, the continuous chasing after deals/info/responses. The only thing I can tolerate is the modeling. Given what I've read at a high level, it seems like strategic finance roles can be really focused on modeling and forecasting, such as revenue forecasting,  modeling out a potential new contract, cash flow forecasts, etc., while allowing me to take a vacation or stop constantly checking my email.

Would love to hear from others familiar with these roles, particularly at smaller, growth-focused companies. what's the role like, the career path, is it a path to a CFO role if you're really good?

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Comments (8)

Feb 28, 2021 - 12:04pm

If, by Strategic Finance, you're referring to an FP&A-type role at a F500, then you should definitely expect a much more enjoyable WLB, along with a haircut in comp, of course.

That being said, climbing to CFO is a combination of skill, luck, ambition, and timing. You'll have to ambitious enough to chase the next promotion and opportunistic/willing enough to rotate into a different group (sometimes a boring one, like Controllers) in order to get a diverse enough skill-set to one day be a CFO of a business unit or even an entire company.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Feb 28, 2021 - 12:23pm

Not traditional FP&A and definitely not at a F500. The roles I'm referring to are at Series A/B/C places. These kind of roles are described in the job postings as less ongoing financial reporting and more ad hoc financial analysis to support growth initiatives (that is, less CPA and more CFA-type work, to put it very cutely). Trying to get a sense of the truth of the day-to-day.

and yes CFO is hard to come by. Asking more about feasibility (is it possible, or do you top out at a VP-ish role).

Mar 1, 2021 - 11:11am

Good to see some interest in the strategic finance the past few months. Happy to give my input, and here are a couple of recent threads that can give you more info on the day to day too: 

You're looking in the right places for strategic finance roles in terms of Series A/B/C companies, but I'll caution that the younger the company, the more likely you'll be working on reporting and building up the financial infrastructure in addition to ad-hoc financial analysis. While it's not the most enjoyable work, it's a skillset that you can add to your toolbelt as you progress down the CFO path. 

Mar 16, 2021 - 10:08pm

Second this for sure.

You'd be shocked how fucking useless the reporting / finance teams at startups (especially tech heavy) are. We are evaluating an investment in a firm that recently closed their series B and the financials they sent over were actually horrendous and even a simple warrant structure took FOREVER to explain.

Series B companies with $50mm+ revenue are probably a dime a dozen and they all need qualified candidates. Someone with past IB / PE experience coming into that team will 100% need to build out reporting / infra role as well as consulting on / leading all things related to capital raises.

May 30, 2021 - 7:21pm

agreed on finance at these places having a pretty low bar. i left a strategic finance gig a few years ago to go corporate - was starting a family and preferred stability and benefits. fast forward, the cfo just brought me into his latest series c startup as a side gig 15-20 hrs a week. he wanted to bring me on fulltime but there are some handcuffs keeping me in place at my current corp for time being. he said ever since we worked together, he has not been able to find anyone he could trust in the valley. he's got me working on biz partnership - starting to get various functions to evaluate opex, capex with an ROI lens, capital raising/potential spac exit. so glad i don't need to be part of budget/forecast process. was wondering if you folks have seen examples of startups bringing in part-time bench support because they can't find qualified full time candidates? i'm hoping to get back to a strategic finance role sometime next year but i have to admit it's nice to ride the higher cash comp and stability of corp while getting some equity upside through side gigs.

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  • Associate 1 in CorpDev
May 30, 2021 - 2:04am

Can definitely provide some insight. Currently working as an associate, and hire number 3, of a growing tech startup (have to remain anonymous - but more than happy to provide as much additional color on funding round as a proxy for size or anything of that sort). 

Our team is very lean so there is certainly an opportunity to get your hands directly on some really interesting material. Like you mentioned, our team is pretty much handling all of the long range forecasting and modeling (ex: new products and services, new market entry, annual P&L with subsequent traditional corp fin projections) as well as a lot of ad hoc analyses. I would say some interesting, more landmark events, include fundraising prep as well as BoD meetings. We also - this is something I'm not a fan of as much - do a lot of work in Tableau for data visualization as a tool for analyses around current performance as well as tracking of KPIs. I think that it's nice skill to have, but that the core modeling + deck building are the most fundamental to the teams success. You certainly get a lot of exposure to leadership (Business division VPs + C - Suite) which is great and I think adds a layer of commitment to the work that you're doing. Of course, there is a tradeoff in comp (can go into that) but your base will be less but work life balance is really great. At least for me, hours are totally manageable (of course there are busy periods as you can imagine). Also, culture is really strong. Like I mentioned, I am hire number 3 of our team and this just means that the team is incredibly tight knit and there is a sense of growing as a unit moving forward. I think those elements are truly unique. Backgrounds for these types of roles are traditional banking or consulting or similar start up experience.

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