I currently work in a tax group at a big 4 firm. I am looking to transition to a hedge fund or private equity firm even for a back office supporting role where I can analyze investment performance and work closely with the deal teams. I am currently a CPA and have a finance degree. What is the best path to accomplish this goal and how best to prep for PE interviews? Would it be more beneficial to transition to one of the big 4's transaction services groups before making this jump?
Big 4 to private equity
Below you see a detailed response from one of our certified venture capital users. He notes that the primary hurdle lies in overcoming the gap in transferable skills. He suggest transferring to transaction services if possible. He also points to the MBA route. Finally, he notes the possibility of simply networking in.
from certified user @MR. manager
First, it is certainly possible to make this transition, especially if you are okay going to the back office initially. The problem, however, is that there are LOTS of different paths to get you to where you want to be, but they are all difficult and each has a few pros and lots of cons.
Transactions services path could definitely get you where you want to be, but I will say that it is much more difficult than the firms let on. For example, you have to be in, or willing to be in, one of the NY, SF, CHI, LA type offices. Even big offices like Dallas and Atlanta have very small, exclusive transaction services groups, which are difficult to break into because attrition isn't as high in TS. Also, it is highly bureaucratic. In my own experience, even when TS became interested, audit partners blocked the progress even while saying they'd do whatever they could; and career advisers in HR were always sure to mention how cliche it is for audit and tax associates and seniors to want to switch.
The MBA path is obviously lengthy and expensive, but it also isn't a guarantee, even if you get into a top school. However, it is a definite path especially if you have been a high performer for a number of years at your firm. Also, if you can manage any type of finance job (even if it's not your desired HF or PE) that looks like an obvious upgrade and a step in the right direction on your resume, it will be easier to get into a good MBA and it will make more sense to potential employers, with whom you will have lots of chances to meet through your school's career services.
That said, you can do that sort of convincing without an MBA. Starting to network now, including cold calls and emails and interview wherever possible will push you in the right direction. When you go all-in, good opportunities start coming out of the woodwork. I knew early that I didn't want a career in Big 4 and recently gave my notice because I began to have too many interviews and fly-outs to manage during busy season.