Alternative to Banking (with Fewer Hours)

Want to do investment banking but not work the hours? If you want to get the investment banking skill sets (particularly M&A) but want a better work-life balance, check out corporate development positions at various companies. This position also happens to be one of the popular exit opportunities for investment bankers. This week, we interviewed a person who skipped investment banking to go straight into corporate development - from straight out of college! 

1.   I know you were recruiting for banking and a lot of people need at least two years of banking to get into corporate development but you just jumped right into it. How did you end up getting this corporate development position?

I definitely have some friends who worked in similar positions at different companies so that’s how I first knew about it - although at first, I didn’t know much about the role. Through my friend, I learned about it and was really interested because it’s similar to what investment bankers do but you’re working internally with senior management such as the CFO. I thought it would be a really good opportunity to get that type of exposure as a young analyst. While a traditional investment banking role provided a glimpse into the deal process, it mainly dealt with a timeline from pitching to announcement. After that, you don’t really get involved in terms of signing or closing and execution. In my current position, it is quite interesting because the company is going through many different ongoing projects and I am directly exposed to the negotiations within these transactions. It is also a really good chance to work with the different functions of an organization and just being able to see your work as a direct impact in your corporation’s future.

2.   You mentioned that the negotiation aspect was the more interesting part of your job. Is there any chance for you to tell me more about that?

During the stage between 2 or 3 bidders and signing, we go into the board’s office a lot. For one of our deals, we sold one of our subsidiaries to a global competitor and one of their guys flew to our NY office to go through the sales and purchase agreements. We would go through all types of details, from small portions and definitions of businesses to various indemnities. From our perspective, we actually wanted a clean break so that once the deal was done and over, we didn’t have to deal with anything related to the subsidiary. However, the buyer wanted some type of protection, in case there was any trouble for the buyer later down the road. It was big debate point which involved many aspects of the corporation, and it was incredibly interesting how in depth we delved into for some of the details. While there was a huge debate internally, the buyer was pushing for a concrete answer from our side as soon as possible, as it also had deadlines to meet. It came down to the last minute and we were able to convince the necessary stakeholders on the final day to agree and get the proper sign offs. I think that is one of the things that I am very grateful for in terms of my experience in this group. 

3.   Do they have these openings a lot? How was your interview process?

I would say that it is rare, and that I was lucky since this company traditionally never recruited at my university or came to campus. I actually found this position online when I was doing full-time recruiting, and was surprisingly was able to get the interview. I think there were over 10 people or so during the first round interview. It was one of the most intense interviews I have ever had. I had to take a 30-minute accounting and finance test, which never occurred for me during any other interviews. Following the test, I spoke to different members of the team for about an hour or so. The second round was a case study about one of the product lines and how it was not generating direct revenue. They asked for me to propose on a strategy to change the structure to make it more profitable and useful to the organization. After about an hour, I had to present my idea. Finally, I spoke to my current head of department to conclude the entire process.

4.   You spoke about the workload previously. What are the hours typically like when you’re in an active deal versus when you’re not in an active deal?

When we were doing a typical deal, especially during negotiations, buyers or sellers might request some random things like a list of employees and which employees were getting deferred compensation. On average, it is usually between 9am to 9pm or 9am to 10pm, although we might have to stay sometimes until 3 to 4am. If there are no actual deals, the hours usually range from the typical 9am to 6pm or 9am to 7pm. When we were on deals, I would also say that it wouldn’t matter what period of the year it is – the deals would need to be done. Therefore, if a deal fell on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or middle of August, my team would have to be in the office.

5.   Final question is if you have any advice or suggestions for someone who is trying to break into or learn more about corporate development from an undergraduate perspective?

So my advice would be that you really have to understand what corporate development is about. I think it would really help if you know someone or have a friend who works in that position, as I think that is what distinguished me from other candidates when I was interviewing. I knew what the team was doing and I showed the interviewers this was what I was really interested in and how corporate development differed from investment banking and all the other positions that people generally know more about. Knowing people or having access to that type of information is crucial. I also highlighted that I really liked the holistic approach to deals where I am able to view full picture of a transaction. Although there are not as many active deals per year, I believe that holistic view can definitely be rewarding to a junior analyst right out of college. I don’t think many candidates highlighted that or told the team that this aspect was what they liked about the role – so be sure to be able to speak to it!

*This article was written without any collaboration or affiliation with third-party universities / corporations.



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