Which is the best to start in: Corporate Finance, Commercial Banking, or Wealth Management?

Hi everybody, first time poster.

I have moderate interest in both corporate finance and commercial banking, and zero interest in IB or anything similar in terms of work-life/hours. Are any skills transferable between the two (CF and CB)? Which of the two would be better to start in if I may want lateral to the other at some point down the road?

Context: Junior at a non-target with all previous internships being in wealth management; I was pretty confident I wanted to become a financial planner but recently started second guessing because of its lack of transferable skills. What if I were to start in wealth management? How difficult would it be to switch to corporate finance or commercial banking from there, or would that even be possible? If it means anything, I should have a pretty strong chance of getting a PWM analyst offer at a BB (GS/JPM/MS) since it's a firm I've interned with and I've read that there would be zero sales (for the first 3ish years) and more analytical things instead. Would that change anything? In fact, no wealth management role I'd start in would be sales in the first year if that helps with comparison. To sum all of that up, my main question is:

Which of these three areas would give the best start to a career in terms of career growth and marketable skills (relative to each other)?

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Comments (11)

Nov 5, 2021 - 8:41am

I am skeptical of "zero sales" in PWM.

I also have interned at a PWM firm and met with ppl at BBs who have guaranteed me there will be sales.

You should ask if there is any CRM data entry, sourcing and prospecting work as well. It is basically sales. What tasks are you going to be taking on? Get them to be specific and even then people may just lie.

Since you are looking for an analytical role, I would urge for corporate finance. You still have plenty of time to get a summer CF internship.

Nov 5, 2021 - 9:56am

Hi thestandingcoin, thank you for your response! The lack of transferrable skills is exactly what I'm worried about so in an effort to increase the transferability, I'm looking for WM roles that aren't "eat what you kill" from the beginning. Having read many of thebrofessor's posts, I've come to believe that roles like that do exist. I'm also way more interested in financial planning than wealth management, so other options that don't force me to do sales out of the gate could be working at an RIA. The issue though is that many of those roles would have even less transferability... The appeal for me though is the BB name, so I picture a good potential balance being starting out at a big name firm where I don't have try sales as a fresh graduate. The role I was referring to was described in this post: 


They described tasks as "Tasks include: trading & rebalancing (options, structured notes, stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, currency, foreign stock, fixed income, flows in and out of managed accounts, etc), fielding client requests (only job in finance where you can pick up phone and public CEO / private company founder / PE/VC/HFfounder is on the other end as a 22 year old), meeting prep (portfolio reviews / asset allocation & risk modeling / trust & estate planning), assist with pre-transaction planning / pitches (working out deal proceeds for a prospect and customizing an asset allocation, etc), general coordination between the client and specialty groups at the firm (client wants to speak with PM of strategy / research analyst / structure a solution around concentrated single stock, etc), various ad hoc tasks to "keep the lights on"." They also described the progression as being 3 years in that analyst role before moving on to the Private Wealth Advisor position which would, of course, include sales.

All of that said, I have been genuinely interested in CF for quite a while now, so it helps hearing that somebody thinks it could be a good alternative. There are tons of posts on this, but most of them just shit on it, so how valuable do you think the transferable skills would be from CF? What do you think I could use the increase in flexibility for? Lastly, what's your opinion of CF vs. WM at entry-level if the WM role genuinely doesn't include sales? [Note: I don't have any problem working in sales later on down the road, I just feel like there are way more important things to be learning when starting out.]

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Nov 5, 2021 - 8:46am

You're in for a rude awakening if you think you don't have to work long hours in those other areas. There's no shortcut to working hard if you want to rise and stand out. Also, you have interned at a pwm shop and actually believe there is absolutely no sales work early on?

Nov 5, 2021 - 10:06am

Thank you for the response! The reason I'm not interested in IB, etc. is because I don't want my entire life to be work. 80-100 hr/week would destroy my mental health and I have way more important things in my life than the opportunities that that would open for me. Another issue I have with that is that hours in those exit opportunities don't even get THAT much better. It would be going from 2ish years working 80-100 to making more money and still probably working 70 hrs. At least that's what I've read.

I never said anything about not being willing to put in the time for these other areas as I know that entry-level positions almost always work more hours than senior ones. The difference is in WM the lifestyle I'd be working toward could be 40-50 hrs with mid six figure pay. That's somewhere I'd rather be pursuing rather than the end goal being 60-75 hrs with million+ pay. Just different priorities.

And please see my response to thestandingcoin about the zero sales comment.

Nov 5, 2021 - 2:07pm

I think you are going about this the wrong way. Think long term. As of right now (realize it might change), what is it that you are most interested in? Which of these entry jobs will put you on the best path to realizing your long term goal? If there are certain careers that basically require you to go through point A and you absolutely refuse to do that, then you're saying you don't really want to get to Point A.

Nov 7, 2021 - 2:18pm

Hi rickle, thank you for commenting! I think part of what I'm concerned about IS the fact that what I'm currently most interested in might change. As of now, the answer would have to be wealth management because I enjoy personal financial planning. But my concern is that if that ends up changing to CF later on, I won't have the ability to make that switch. An added layer to all of this is that I have somewhat of a difficult or arguably unrealistic end goal for my wealth management career. I think that because it's so different from the typical wealth management career, I'm also afraid that if I never end up being able to reach it, I'll be stuck doing something I don't want to do. It'll help if I add some details to that:

Warning: I've read you and thebrofessor's opinions on fee-only planning so be prepared to hate all of what I'm about to explain. The ideal end-goal I have in mind is one where I use 5-8 years of experience at established, big-name, fee-based firms to leave and set up my own fee-only RIA. It would be fully remote (so no office rent rent to pay) so I'd work with people everywhere, and I'd have a very specific niche (think career/industry-specific planning like tech professionals) that I stick to completely. I'd also have a minimum fee set up that is unrelated to their net worth or AUM so that I could focus on targeting young professionals who need lots of planning but just don't yet have huge nest eggs of wealth (but do make high income so they can easily afford the fee). That minimum would be a healthy amount so that I could make a good living ($250-300k) with a book a small as 50 clients that all pay that minimum if I wanted, and the fee would maybe have some sort of component to increase as their income, net worth, or complexity does so that my business would be sustainable. I'd use a TAMP for investments, and I wouldn't have any employees (no salaries to pay). The reason I'd do all of this would ultimately be so that I could have the majority of the hours in each day to the things that really matter (40 hrs/week max but ideally way less) while also doing what I enjoy and feel good about. And I'd also be able to travel a lot since I could technically work from anywhere in the world (though time zones would cause some issues).

Because I have such a specific, and again, arguably unrealistic end goal for WM, it scares me quite a bit when I think about what I'd do if I failed at reaching it. Feel free to comment on what parts of that seem the least realistic to you and why, because I could probably use some perspective on it. I'd also like to know what your opinion is on career changing from WM and how difficult you think that would be to CF.

Lastly, I'll address the point A things: In my situation, I don't think it's as simple as having a point that must be gone through in order to reach Point A. I feel like that would be the case if I wanted to do PE without going through IB first, but in my case, it's more like either route (WM or CF) can be taken to reach WM's Point A, but the opposite may not be true of getting to CF's Point A. There's nothing I "absolutely refuse" to do that would be necessary in order to get to either end goal, it's just a matter of not knowing the best place to start.

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Nov 7, 2021 - 6:07pm

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