It used to be that corporate development jobs were seen as the poor relations to jobs in M&A and capital markets. This is changing. After the pandemic, headhunters say there's been an exodus of junior banking talent into "corp dev" roles, and that the area has a new lease of life.
"People are less interested in banking," says one London headhunter who covers M&A bankers from senior associate to director level. "If they don't want to work in private equity, it's corporate development. They will do anything to get out," he adds.
Corporate development professionals are employed within corporates (companies) on strategy and in-house M&A work. Whereas banking can involve weeks of 80 hours+, corporate development roles are generally a lot less punishing.
"Everyone wants a job that pays a load of money and offers good work-life balance," says Andy Pringle at search firm Circle Square. Corporate development just might be the answer.
This doesn't mean you can earn as much in corporate development as in banking. First year banking analysts on Wall Street are now on salaries of $110k+, while London banking analyst salaries mostly start at £70k. Banking salaries are easily doubled (or more) with banking bonuses. In corporate development, by comparison, bonuses are usually only between 40%-80% of salary. Salaries have been increasingly, though: Pringle says some London corp dev roles will pay £85k salaries in year two to attract junior bankers. In the US, Square, the payments processing company, hired several people into financial strategy/management and corporate finance jobs last year on salaries ranging from $125k to $153k according to the H1B visa database.
Until recently, corporate development jobs were booming in fintech and crypto firms. In some cases they've attracted senior finance professionals from outside investment banking divisions. For example, Victoria Hegan, a former MD in cross asset systematic trading strategies at Goldman Sachs, has just made a (possibly ill-timed) move out of GS after 13 years to crypto custody business Fireblocks as head of corporate development and strategic partnerships in Miami. In London, Jonas Elschner Kristensen, just quit private equity firm Permira to become VC and M&A director at crypto market making firm Wintermute.
The crypto winter has the potential to put an end to this: Coinbase presumably won't be quite as enthusiastic about making acquisitions now that it's cutting costs. Equally, though, surviving firms may seek solace in consolidation; fintech M&A was reportedly the talk of Davos this year.
There will still be plenty of opportunities to move into corporate development, though: Pringle says ESG start-ups backed by private equity funds are becoming particularly keen to hire M&A juniors from banks. And they offer a heady combination of pay, work-life balance, and meaning.
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