With the world of investment banking not as glamorous as it once was in the heady days of pre-2007, I am increasingly speaking to disillusioned M&A bankers seeing the attractiveness of making a switch across to a corporate strategy position.
M&A activity in Australia remains slow and this is not being helped by ongoing uncertainty over the prime ministership, which is hampering an already difficult deal market. This makes (for many) working long hours without the buzz of being involved with the execution of exciting deals and the potential to receive the financial carrot of a pre-crisis level bonus at the end of the year a less appealing prospect.
In the past, the Holy Grail for a lot of investment bankers has been to move into private equity but, as this market remains relatively flat, many see corporate strategy as a similarly attractive alternative. You still get to assess investment opportunities and also look at the integration of the business post-acquisition.
So is it possible to make the transition across? Undoubtedly a lot of the skills are transferable and we are starting to see more of our corporate clients show an interest in recruiting people with M&A backgrounds into their corporate strategy teams.
Whilst most organisations still have a huge focus cutting costs through increased productivity and improving processes, at the same time they are also concerned with how they are going to grow (both organically and inorganically), particularly in the online & digital space.
However, there is still overwhelming preference amongst our client base of mostly ASX-listed organisations to hire from top-tier management consultancies. Most of their strategy hiring managers come from this background themselves and see huge value in the broad variety of projects you can experience as a consultant.
In order to give yourself the best possible chance of getting in front of them, you need to make sure to highlight as much of the strategic work that you have done as possible on your resume. If you manage to secure an interview, it is very likely they will really try to test your structured problem-solving techniques, as they are likely to have reservations about your capabilities next to a management consultant, so it is worth taking the time to do some online practice cases that we always recommend from the likes of McKinsey, Bain and BCG. You can also refer to my previous blog on “how to ace the case”.
It is worth bearing in mind that salary and total package levels are likely to be significantly lower in a corporate rather than an investment bank so you need to be realistic with your expectations. If this really is a long-term career goal and you are finding opportunities limited, then there is of course the option of taking an MBA and then joining a strategy consultancy or getting a foot in the door via a corporate development position.