What Corporate Development Managers Do
Oftentimes, corporate development gets lumped in with things like corporate strategy, development, or finance, and while all these professions are dedicated to helping companies grow, corporate development managers tend to focus mostly on creating strategic partnerships with other companies and mergers and acquisitions.
Technology startups, in particular, routinely make M&A a part of their overall growth strategy because it enables them to acquire talent, technology, and capabilities, as well as extend their reach and product suites. It’s the corporate development manager who researches which acquisitions or partnerships will be most beneficial to the organization, presents ideas to the executive team, and helps negotiate deals with other companies.
Who would enjoy a career in Corporate Development (M&A)?
A career in corporate development management tends to appeal most to people who have worked in investment banking (M&A) because the job is quite similar, in terms of understanding markets, financial modeling, and working deals. However, it also offers more of a team environment and typically fewer hours, which makes it a better fit for someone who appreciates work/ life balance.
Who mightn't like the career?
A lot of people get into M&A because of the high pay, and while salaries and working hours can be comparable as corporate development manager, the bonuses aren’t quite so lofty. Travel is also usually a component in the career, as professionals must often visit places where the organization does business, where competitors operate, and where the company might expand to.
For this reason, it’s not a good fit for someone who prefers to be stationary. Lastly, it’s very difficult for anyone to get into the field if they aren’t extremely well versed in the market and have a comprehensive understanding of everything involved in M&A. Individuals must be self-motivated, well-educated, charismatic, detail-oriented, and committed to staying on top of industry trends. If a person is lacking in any of these areas, he either won’t get hired or won’t keep his job.
It’s relatively unheard of for a new graduate to get into corporate development management, as most startups want someone who has already worked as a corporate development manager or who has performed similar duties as an investment banker or management consultant. In order to land one of those positions as a prerequisite, a bachelor’s degree in a business or accounting-related field is generally the minimum requirement.
Those hoping to get into the field improve their odds by networking and asking their superiors for recommendations. Because candidates are almost always selected from an M&A background, employers expect them to have the necessary skills. Therefore, interviews often surround things like outside-the-box thinking, loyalty to the organization, and methodology behind deals.
- Wheeling, Dealing, and Joint Venturing: On the Job in Corporate Development
- Corporate Development Interview Questions
Moving into Corporate Development (M&A) from another career
As noted earlier, most tech startups look for people with a management consulting or investment banking background, simply because they already possess the knowledge to carry out the duties. In these cases, learning the specific industry and markets the company serves are the biggest learning curves. For further reading, see: “How to Break Into Corporate Development and Make Bank Without Selling Your Soul” and “I left M&A for corporate development. This is what it’s like.”
Corporate Development Analyst
Role: Analysts support the work of managers and senior staffers. They handle a lot of the in-depth research on companies the organization is considering acquiring or partnering with as well as the market, review documents, run financial models, and manage processes. Analysts also collaborate frequently with other business experts and those within the corporate development team.
Corporate Development Manager
Role: Managers oversee the work of analysts, and perform some of the same work, but they also create strategies to identify companies that may be ideal for a merger or partnership. They’re also responsible for creating proposals, developing business relationships, overseeing valuations, managing deals, and presenting findings to upper management.
Director/ VP of Corporate Development
Role: Directors and vice presidents have more strategic roles. They help define what the company’s long-term goals are, and map out how acquisitions and partnerships can help the company reach them. Because of this, they spend a lot of time following market trends, researching competitors, and identifying what developments are occurring across the industry. It’s often at this level that travel becomes an integral part of the job, with some directors and VPs spending one-quarter or more of their time on the road.
Chief Financial Accountant (CFO)
Role: Although not every management accountant follows the path to CFO, the executive position is the goal for many. CFOs handle the company’s risk management and oversee financial departments. Their jobs are largely strategic in nature.
Travel can be extensive for those in senior or executive roles. It typically involves visiting companies that the organization has interest in acquiring or partnering with, competitors, new markets, and anywhere the organization does business. It’s common for a director to spend 25% of his time traveling, both internationally and domestically.
Analyst: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD $75,000 in the United States, ₤35,000 in the United Kingdom, and CAD$62,000 in Canada. (Australian salary not available.)
Corporate Development Manager: USD$93,775, £57,500, and CAD$97,436. Data from Glassdoor indicates Australian salaries average AU$104,538.
Director: USD$134,446, £100,000, CAD$146,074, and AU$128,055.
Chief Financial Officer: USD$134,000, CAD$141,000, ₤113,000, and AU$166,000.
Bonuses and profit sharing may add as much as USD$20,000 onto an analyst’s salary, though directors and above can nearly double their salaries.
Why Corporate Development Managers move on
According to PayScale, most people in the field remain there for 20 or more years. However, those who choose to leave have many opportunities, particularly in executive roles, other internal finance positions and advisory “sell-side” and “buy-side” finance or consulting roles such as M&A, management consulting and private equity.