Corporate Finance Analyst: Description, Salaries, Hours, and Exit Opps (2024)

We’ve received scattered questions about corporate finance analyst roles over the years, but the question volume spikes whenever there’s an economic or financial crisis.

Call it the “flight to stability” or the “eternal search for a ‘stable’ finance job.”

Depending on your personality, skill set, and career goals, corporate finance jobs could be great…

…or they could be so monotonous that you want to jump into a volcano when you arrive at work each day.

To explain the disparity, we’ll start with a quick overview of the industry:

What is “Corporate Finance”?

“Corporate finance” is such a vague term that it could refer to any job related to money at a bank, investment firm, or normal company.

For example, sometimes professionals who work in groups like say that they “work in corporate finance.”

And within normal companies, those in strategy or corporate development roles might also say they’re “in corporate finance.”

For purposes of this article, however, we define it like this:

In corporate finance, professionals at large companies manage accounting, budgeting/planning, and liquidity, including cash management; they do not work on “deals,” but are instead responsible for ongoing operations and reporting.

(As an external observer, you might useliquidity ratios such as the current ratio, quick ratio, and cash ratio to evaluate a company’s liquidity – but when you’re internal to the company, you can do far more in-depth analysis.)

The three main areas at most companies are Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A), Controllership, and Treasury.

In FP&A, you create forecasts for the company or division’s Income Statement (“P&L”), analyze performance against forecasts, and explain why departments did or did not meet their targets (“variance analysis”).

In Controllership, you work with auditors and check the company’s internal accounting and compliance to ensure accuracy while also making sure the CFO is happy.

And in Treasury, you manage the company’s cash flow and cash balance to ensure the company has enough to survive – and that it also doesn’t let too much cash sit idle.

For more detailed descriptions, see our article on the corporate finance career path.

Some companies also put groups like investor relations, corporate development, corporate strategy, pricing, tax, and internal audit/risk within “corporate finance.”

To limit the scope of this article, though, we’re going to focus on the three main roles.

The Corporate Finance Analyst Job Description

As a corporate finance analyst in one of these teams, you create monthly reports, scoreboards, and dashboards, and you work with other departments and outside parties such as auditors (in Controllership) and bankers (in Treasury).

You create these reports and dashboards in Excel and analytics platforms like Spotfire, Tableau, and Power BI, and possibly even programming languages like Python, depending on the company and industry. Something like Excel power query could also be useful.

Overall, you’ll spend 60-80% of your time working in Excel and other programs to analyze and consolidate data, create reports, and automate processes.

You’ll spend the remaining 20-40% working with people in other divisions at the company, often on calls or in meetings.

The “average day” varies widely: you might be on calls for an entire day, while you might spend 90% of another day adjusting journal entries for the close of a quarter.

Work tasks vary based on your group and whether you’re working in a business unit of a company or the “central division.”

For example, you’ll spend a lot of time on variance analysis and budgets in FP&A.

But in Controllership, you spend more time reviewing historical records, closing months and quarters, and working with external auditors.

The Best Companies for Corporate Finance Jobs

The best companies for entry-level corporate finance jobs tend to be Fortune 500 firms with global presences and many different divisions.

For example, tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon all offer solid rotational programs for new graduates (often called “Financial Leadership Development Programs” or FLDP).

Large companies in other sectors, like industrials/manufacturing, healthcare, commercial banks, and energy, offer similar programs as well.

It’s not in your best interest to start in corporate finance at a startup or smaller company because they tend to lack structured training/rotational programs.

Corporate Finance Analyst Hours and Lifestyle

At the entry-level, you’ll usually work between 40 and 50 hours per week.

However, that varies based on the group and the time of year.

For example, FP&A Analysts might work more like 50-60 hours per week because the role tends to be more strategic and involves more interaction with management.

In Treasury, the hours vary widely and could spike to a much higher level (60-70 per week) if your company is in “crisis mode,” and you need to get cash ASAP to survive.

One commonality is that hours always get worse when you’re closing quarters and years.

For example, you might go from 40-50 hours per week up to 60-70 in the week just before the end of the quarter.

Aside from those weeks, however, you follow a regular schedule where you create reports and complete set tasks.

Corporate Finance Analyst Salaries

The rules of thumb are:

  • Entry Level (Analyst): The “average” base salary is ~$70K USD at most large companies. But you might earn less than this in Controllership (more like $50K), and more than this at large tech companies (see below).
  • Next Level (Senior Analyst): After 4-5 years on the job, you’ll advance to the $100K+ range, and possibly even go beyond that depending on the company and industry.
  • Next Level (Manager): And then after another 4-5 years, you can reach the $200K level.

Past that, advancement slows down, and you need to wait for a promotion to Director or switch companies to advance.

Divisional CFOs can earn into the mid-six-figures each year, and top executives such as the CFO of an entire large company can earn millions per year.

But reaching that level may take decades, so you’re in for a long and drawn-out path.

One Final Note: Some big tech companies, such as Microsoft, are known for paying well above the figures quoted above.

For example, they might offer $85K base salaries to Analysts, bonuses worth 20% of that, restricted stock, and various reimbursem*nts and perks.

Altogether, you could earn somewhere in the $100 – $125K range in your first year.

(NOTE: Salary estimates as of 2020.)

A Day in the Life of a Corporate Finance Analyst

The average day varies by time of year and group, but here’s what it might look like if you’re an FP&A Analyst in “normal times” outside a quarterly or annual close:

8 AM – 9 AM: Arrive at work and start reading emails with requests from department heads that came in overnight.

Respond to a few of them and send over data and explanations for certain journal entries in one report.

9 AM – 11 AM: Join a long conference call where another department presents its budgeted vs. actual spending and gives the full-year forecast.

You realize that this department is going to miss its Net Income targets, which matches most other groups this year.

11 AM – 12 PM: Your boss asks you to review some actual vs. budgeted numbers for this past month and fix a few bookkeeping mistakes, such as expenses that were classified incorrectly.

12 PM – 1 PM: Head to lunch with a few other Analysts.

1 PM – 2 PM: You start working on a new spreadsheet and some SQL commands that will automate parts of the data retrieval process for monthly reports.

Your company still operates a lot of legacy systems, so these small improvements make a big difference over time.

2 PM – 4 PM: You sit in on various meetings, including one with a team that needs clarification on revenue recognition issues, and one with an operations team that needs better sales data from other groups to improve their analytics.

4 PM – 6 PM: You go back to responding to emails from this morning, some of which require custom Excel work.

You also start working on next year’s budget – it’s not due for a while, but you have some downtime today and want to get started on it.

6 PM – 7 PM: Another group is struggling with data consolidation tasks, so you send over a few of the tools you’ve developed and explain how to use them. You head home right after this.

If you’re in a business unit, you’ll work more closely with the specific revenue and expenses in that unit.

If you’re in a “central FP&A” role, you’ll spend more time reviewing each department’s numbers and reporting them to upper management.

Corporate Finance Recruiting: How to Break In

The competitiveness of corporate finance analyst roles varies widely based on the company and the prestige of its program.

For example, it would be quite difficult to win a job offer at Apple or Microsoft, but it would be much easier to work at a smaller company with a lesser-known corporate finance program.

In general, though, corporate finance roles are easier to win than investment banking or private equity roles:

  • GPA requirements tend to be lower; a 3.0 might be enough to pass an initial screening at many companies.
  • You don’t need to recruit a year, or over a year, in advance, and you don’t need multiple internships in Year 1 and 2.
  • You don’t need to be at a top 10 school to win offers; companies recruit widely for these roles, and a university in the top ~50 might work.

The application process is fairly standard: apply online, do a HireVue or initial phone screen, and then interview with different people in the group.

In normal times, you might attend a Superday round with dozens of other candidates as the final step and complete additional interviews there.

Interviewers focus on the standard “fit” questions: Why this company? Why corporate finance? What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you work in a team?

If technical questions come up, they’ll be based on accounting, perhaps with basic financial concepts thrown in (PV, NPV, IRR, etc.).

Unlike in investment banking interviews, they are not going to ask you about valuation or DCF analysis, merger models, LBO models, or debt vs. equity.

However, they could go into a lot more depth on the accounting questions, including points like journal entries that are uncommon in IB/PE interviews.

How to Succeed and Get Promoted

The general progression in corporate finance is Analyst à Senior Analyst à Manager à Director à Controller à Regional CFO à Company CFO.

But each one may have several sub-levels, and it’s rarely a straight path to the top.

To reach the CFO level, you’ll normally need Controllership experience, so you may have to switch groups as well.

The advancement process is very political in corporate finance; it’s not like a hedge fund where you will earn more if you make money for the firm.

You need to make yourself known to senior management and become highly visible to them to advance.

There are no clients, and you don’t generate revenue directly, so advancement is mostly about grinding it out and networking with the right people.

If you hibernate in Excel all day, you’ll never advance no matter how much fancy VBA, SQL, or Python code you write – that’s not how big companies work.

One “trick” to get around this slow advancement process is to join a high-growth startup as an early employee in the corporate finance team (once you have experience elsewhere).

If you do this, you could get promoted far more quickly because you’re an early employee and can build the organization from the ground up.

Exit Opportunities

Corporate finance is not an ideal pathway into investment banking or private equity.

The skill sets are quite different because you do not gain experience with valuation or deal analysis.

And while “accounting” is useful in IB/PE, you use it at a much higher level in those fields (no one cares about journal entries, just financial statement analysis).

It’s not impossible to move into IB – we’ve had coaching clients who have done it – but you’ll have to do it relatively quickly and in a good hiring market.

The more likely exit opportunities are corporate finance roles at other companies or switching into different roles at your current firm.

For example, you may be able to move into the strategy group, business development, or even corporate development from corporate finance.

Those can be nice “backdoors” into working on M&A deals and joint ventures or eventually moving into consulting.

The Corporate Finance Analyst Job: Right for You?

I’d sum it up as follows:

Pros:

  • You gain significant exposure to senior management and different groups and job functions within your company.
  • The lifestyle and hours are quite good most of the time, with occasional-but-predictable spikes to higher levels.
  • The role is fairly stable because all companies above a certain size need an in-house accounting/finance team, even if there’s a recession or other crisis.
  • Salaries can be fairly good for the hours you work and the relatively low stress levels, especially if you’re at a big tech or energy company that pays above-market rates.

Cons:

  • The work can get quite repetitive because you complete the same processes every month, quarter, and year.
  • You need to be patient because you’ll spend a lot of time dealing with IT and accounting problems from other departments, especially at older companies with fewer tech-savvy workers.
  • There is a modest risk of automation because technology could automate many processes and tasks, so the number of junior-level roles may decrease in the future.
  • The exit opportunities are worse than those offered by investment banking, private equity, and corporate development, and they are not even that great compared to other “Plan B” options such valuation firms or corporate banking.
  • The compensation and advancement opportunities also don’t stack up well next to IB/PE – yes, there is a high ceiling, but it can take decades to get there at big companies.

In short: while you can use a corporate finance analyst job as a “Plan B” if options such as IB or PE do not work out, that’s not the best way to think about the role.

It’s fundamentally different because you’re not working on deals or investments, and you develop a different skill set as a result.

You should go into corporate finance because you want the benefits above and because you want to stay at a normal company and build it over the long term.

Do that, and the job will never seem like a “Plan B.”

Further Reading

You might be interested in:

    • Wealth Management vs. Investment Banking: Career Deathmatch
    • Capital Markets vs. Investment Banking: Deals, Careers, Recruiting, Exits, and Offer Decisions
    • The Investment Banking Career Path: The Complete Guide
    • Corporate Finance vs Corporate Strategy: The Never-Ending Debate?
Corporate Finance Analyst: Description, Salaries, Hours, and Exit Opps (2024)

FAQs

How many hours do finance analysts work? ›

At the entry-level, you'll usually work between 40 and 50 hours per week. However, that varies based on the group and the time of year. For example, FP&A Analysts might work more like 50-60 hours per week because the role tends to be more strategic and involves more interaction with management.

How many hours do corporate finance work? ›

Lifestyle. During normal weeks, expect to work approximately 60 hours per week with weekends off. Quarter/year end closes and planning sessions are your busiest weeks, and it can even approach investment banking hours in extremely busy periods.

What is the job description of a corporate finance analyst? ›

What Does a Corporate Financial Analyst Do? Corporate financial analysts monitor market trends and evaluate company financial data. They utilize this data to help management make economic and investment decisions.

What is a day in the life of a corporate financial analyst? ›

A Day in the Life of a Financial Analyst. Financial analysts gather information, assemble spreadsheets, write reports, and review all non-legal pertinent information about prospective deals. They examine the feasibility of a deal and prepare a plan of action based on financial analysis.

Does corporate finance have good work-life balance? ›

The role of a Finance Manager is inherently demanding, with the need to oversee financial planning, manage risks, and ensure the fiscal health of their organization. These tasks often extend beyond the typical nine-to-five workday, encroaching on personal time and challenging the very concept of work-life balance.

Is there work-life balance in finance? ›

It's a bit counterintuitive to enter finance and then optimize for work / life balance, but there are some very comfortable finance jobs out there. It is entirely possible to earn >$300k and work <50 hours by your early 30s if you pick your spots right.

Is corporate finance high paying? ›

Corporate Finance Salary in California. $68,600 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $117,400 is the 75th percentile.

Is corporate finance harder than accounting? ›

Generally speaking, people consider accounting majors to be more difficult to study and pass than finance majors. And there are a few different reasons for this. The content of accounting majors is, on average, much more technical than for finance majors, and this can make it more difficult.

Is corporate finance a stable job? ›

Finance degree jobs can provide relatively high pay, stability, opportunities for advancement and consistent demand projections. Careers in finance may also offer flexibility for employees by allowing them to work remotely or in hybrid environments.

Do financial analysts work long hours? ›

Financial analysts work in offices. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.

What GPA do I need to be a financial analyst? ›

Minimum GPA: Minimum cumulative 3.3 GPA required, 3.5 GPA preferred. Certifications: All are optional: Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA), Certified Public Accountant® (CPA), or MBA.

Do financial analysts work from home? ›

If you're looking for a simple and affordable solution for your business' financial analysis operations, you may be considering hiring a remote financial analyst. These professionals work from a distance, using their skills to turn complex financial information into clear plans and aid your company's decision-making.

Are you happy as a Financial Analyst? ›

Financial Analysts report above-average job satisfaction, and nearly 40% feel that their job improves someone else's life or helps make the world a better place.

Is corporate finance a good field? ›

Some of the primary benefits of a job in corporate finance include: Stable career with relatively high salary and decent work life balance. The potential for career advancement.

Do you travel as a Financial Analyst? ›

Analysts must do a lot of reading on their own time. They tend to peruse The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, and The Economist, as well as financial websites. Being an analyst also often involves a significant amount of travel.

Do all financial analysts work long hours? ›

On average, Financial Analysts can expect to work between 40 to 70 hours per week, with the longer end typical for those in investment banking or during busy financial reporting periods. Workload can fluctuate with market conditions, fiscal year-ends, and the specific demands of their employer.

Do financial analysts have long hours? ›

Most financial analysts work full time and some work more than 40 hours per week.

Do analysts work long hours? ›

Many Analysts might be working more like 80-90 hours per week rather than 70-80. That may not sound significant, but it's the difference between 12.5 hours per day for 6 days with one day off and 12.1 hours per day with no days off.

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