Careers at a Glance - Corporate Development
In the spirit of strict anonymity, names and all identifying information have been removed from the article below. To learn more about Fintros - the leading anonymous opportunity platform for finance leaders - please visit www.fintros.com/faq.
Fintros: Can you give us an introduction to what your role consists of?
Anonymous VP: I joined the tech group at a large pre-IPO startup, post B-School, and I stayed at the company throughout its IPO and several years thereafter; I was running the group on an interim basis prior to my departure. We were focused on finding out where there were needs within the company that could be filled through M&A, and then going out and executing on those ideas. At the time, I was primarily involved in sourcing new deal opportunities by drafting lists of potential opportunities, reaching out to those people in order to do introductory calls, and then figuring out what companies were real and which were not in terms of our needs. I was then responsible for continuing to cultivate relationships with those that I deemed appropriate, and would bring in other people within the organization to the conversation when it made sense. I also led the process surrounding how to structure a potential deal, negotiating it, how to convince people to give us diligence materials, and lead the vast majority of the analysis. This involved working with internal legal, accounting, tax, finance, IT, HR, and others in order to get deals across the finish line. Finally, I worked with the lawyers to get merger agreements completed.
Fintros: What did your day-to-day look like?
Anonymous VP: In the world of corporate development, as with most deal-based jobs, every day is different. Over time my role certainly changed - in the earlier days, I would get in much earlier and be in the office late because of the lifecycle of the company and what my role on the team was. Toward the later days my lifestyle was marginally better, especially because we were not working on quite as many deals. I would typically get into the office around 9, and then I would have a variety of meetings/calls that were both internal and external, and the weight between internal vs. external would really be dependent upon how many live deals were going on and where we were in those varying processes. I would have a few calls with potential targets that were sourcing opportunities, as well as a couple of calls if we were working on something active from a deal execution perspective. Maybe it was talking to our lawyers or our tax people, or perhaps it was talking to finance. Alternatively, I was often carving out some time to get the work done in terms of analysis, write-ups, and really framing the deal. Unfortunately, in the deal business every day is different so it is difficult to give a truly accurate assessment of what a day in the life of an individual who leads corporate development. What I’ve tried to do is give your readers a better sense of all the steps that take place within a deal, and the period in which those occur vary dramatically. Sometimes the timeframe from first call to close could take 90 days, whereas it could also drag on for a few years. This is because things go hot/cold and are always changing. As you get more senior in the role more of your time is spent trying to position deals internally, dealing with the politics, and how to properly build buy-in throughout the organization for a deal. So, there is that, as well as having to complete all of the deal work. This is in contrast to my experience in the early days when there was a more senior colleague who would take more of the lead to sell the deal internally.
Fintros: Can identify a particularly exciting time during your tenure in Corp Dev?
Anonymous VP: The biggest deal that I closed was one that got done in record time. It was all-hands-on in terms of the organization, and although we had earlier preliminary conversations, the target had something that had a decent amount of quick success and we had great interest in it and felt we needed to be very aggressive. From the time we signed the letter of intent I think we closed it in just under 3 weeks. I was probably getting woken up from deal-related calls at 7 in the morning and then working until 1-2 AM, straight through weekends. That was the most intense and crazy deal that I worked on during my tenure. The time spent was focused on a tremendous amount of analysis and throughout the entire organization (HR, IT, corporate finance, accounting, tech), everyone knew it was something that had to get done, so we basically had every resource at our disposal and we never got any pushback, whereas on the majority of deals there is always a negotiation to get resources. It was a really great team experience to work on that transaction.
Fintros: In your formative years you grew up in banking on Wall Street, can you speak to the impact that has had on your career. Beyond your MBA at a top B-School, can you speak to the key lessons you learned while in I-banking, PE, etc.
Anonymous VP: When I think of my internships in undergrad, one of which was in a hedge-fund of funds, I think they really whet my appetite for wanting a career in business and finance. My second undergrad internship was spent in the equity research business, but on the business management side - not on the actual equity research side and I think that experience confirmed that I wanted to continue to learn more about how to analyze a company, as opposed to manage a business that I had never done. So, I ultimately decided to work in investment banking full-time post undergrad, and during that experience (3 years) I really learned the fundamental building blocks of how to analyze a company, how to model, how to put together presentations and present complicated ideas and processes in a straightforward way, as well as developing some industry expertise that I have been able to leverage ever since throughout my career. When I reflect on the way that I think about valuation and fundamental analysis, I know that my process all dates back to my time as a banker.
During business school, I decided that I wanted to make the shift from being an advisor to a principal, so during my summer internship in private equity I got my first experience in how to make that transition, and that led to my success throughout my post business-school tenure in corporate development, and now in my current role where I am working in an investing capacity outside of an operating company. That summer in private equity I worked on a white paper in an industry where I had zero experience, so I had to put my head down and learn it and come up with an investment idea; this was a great foundation for making the transition from advisor to principle. During my time in corporate development I really learned how to execute and do deals as a principal vs. during my time in banking where I learned all the fundamental building blocks of analysis and execution. Now I work with putting together deals on an independent basis where I utilize all of those skills.
Fintros: At what point did you know that you would like to pursue an MBA?
Anonymous VP: I started applying towards the end of my second year as a banker, and I started taking GMAT’s at this time. I was not sure of what I wanted to do longer term and had a lot of MBAs around me who were all very encouraging of going to business school and who had enjoyed their experiences.
Fintros: Advice for candidates?
Anonymous VP: It depends on what path within finance that you want to take, but I think banking is a great training ground, as well as management consulting. I would encourage people to do those if they want a general business or finance career. You will work very hard (not sugar-coating that), but I believe that the fundamental and analytical skills that you learn in those jobs are second to none. If you want a career in investing I would recommend to people that you go do two years in private equity after two years of banking/consulting, as I think that meets the longer term career path in terms of opening as many doors to you. If you do not want to go the private route, I think that there are lots of different paths that people can take.
To learn more about Fintros, please visit www.fintros.com/faq.