The Definitive Guide to Corporate Banking
Or, you might be confused about what “corporate banking” means and how it’s different from commercial banking and investment banking.
In either case, your thinking would be justified.
The corporate banking division at a bank does advise on loan issuances, but the work goes well beyond that.
There are some similarities to commercial banking and investment banking, but there are fundamental differences as well.
We’ll look at all those points and more, including the job description, recruiting, interview questions, compensation, and exit opportunities here:
(Special thanks to Angela Choi for her technical expertise in the area of corporate banking.)
The Corporate Banking Job Description
As a corporate banker, you’ll be like the hub in a wheel for clients who need to access the bank’s products and services.
Your job is to get the other areas of the bank, such as markets, treasury, trade, transactions, and debt capital markets, to assist with deal execution.
These deals are usually credit-related, but there’s a lot more to it than traditional loans.
For example, the corporate banking division also offers cash management (collecting cash and managing changes in foreign exchange rates) and trade finance (e.g., factoring and export credit and insurance) services.
It might also offer services for liquidity management, supply chain finance, and risk management.
Often, these services and loans are not very profitable by themselves, especially in a low-interest-rate environment.
Instead, corporate bankers aim to win and retain clients who then hire the bank for M&A deals, debt and equity issuances, and other transactions with higher fees.
In short, a corporate banker tries to maximize the revenue per client through an expertise in credit.
In the Asia-Pacific region, corporate banking is often called “Relationship Management” or “Coverage Banking,” both of which describe the role more appropriately.
Your clients in corporate banking (CB) could be divided into domestic vs. multinational corporations vs. financial institutions, or they might be divided by revenue, such as $100 – $500 million vs. $500 million+.
At the junior levels, you focus on crunching the numbers, assessing companies’ risk profiles, and executing deals.
As you move up, the role turns into a sales job – just like any other role at an investment bank.
The two main branches are relationship management (retaining existing clients and suggesting additional services/products to them) and business development (winning new clients), and many roles are a hybrid of the two.
Corporate Banking vs. Investment Banking
Investment bankers advise companies on mergers, acquisitions, and debt and equity issuances and earn high fees from one-off deals in the process.
By contrast, you will not advise directly on mergers, acquisitions, or equity issuances in corporate banking, and the debt deals you do will be smaller, with lower fees.
You focus on winning repeat business from clients over the long term rather than earning high fees from a once-in-a-decade $50 billion M&A deal.
The other difference is that you’ll never work on the other services offered by CB, such as cash management and trade finance, in investment banking.
You will also earn significantly less money in corporate banking and you will not have access to the same breadth of exit opportunities, but in exchange for that, you will have a much better work/life balance.
Note that at some banks, corporate banking is a division of investment banking – in which case there will be more overlap, and the rules above may not apply as readily.
Corporate Banking vs. Capital Markets
CB and Equity Capital Markets (ECM) are completely different because ECM bankers advise clients on equity issuances such as IPOs and follow-on offerings, while CB does credit-related deals.
There’s more overlap between CB and Debt Capital Markets (DCM), but the difference lies in the products: You advise on investment-grade bond issuances in DCM, while you work on Term Loans, Bridge Loans, Revolvers (or revolving lines of credit), and the other services clients might need in CB.
Corporate Banking vs. Leveraged Finance
Leveraged Finance focuses on high-yield bond issuances that are often used to fund transactions such as mergers, acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, and recapitalizations.
By contrast, the credit facilities you arrange in corporate banking are used mostly for “everyday purposes,” such as a company’s Working Capital requirements.
Also, everything in corporate banking is investment-grade and intended for safer, relatively healthy companies.
Corporate Banking vs. Commercial Banking
Commercial banking is broader than corporate banking and services clients such as individuals and small businesses that are “below the bar” for corporate banking coverage.
For example, you might work on a $50 million loan for a small business in commercial banking, but a $500 million loan for a public company would be more common in corporate banking.
Commercial banking also includes services such as checks and credit cards that corporate bankers do not offer.
Finally, commercial banking is not tied to the capital markets and investment banking as closely as corporate banking is.
However, this distinction gets confusing because some banks combine their corporate banking and commercial banking groups, or they label their corporate banking teams “commercial banking” and create separate CB teams that are more about risk management.
So… read the fine print closely.
How to Become a Corporate Banking Analyst: Who Gets In?
Entry-level professionals tend to be a 50/50 split between undergrads/recent grads and those with several years of work experience.
That experience might consist of work at a credit rating agency, a credit research firm, or other departments at the bank, such as commercial banking.
This experience must be related to accounting, finance, or risk analysis – you’re not going to break in after spending 2-3 years at a marketing agency or a newspaper (for example).
At the undergraduate level, your grades and school reputation do not need to be quite as good as they do for investment banking roles at top firms.
For example, if you have a 3.4 GPA, you majored in accounting at a public university ranked #20-30 in the country, and you have 1-2 accounting or credit-related internships, you would have a good shot at corporate banking roles.
With that same profile, you would be far less competitive for investment banking roles.
The “minimum” requirements for undergrads and recent grads are probably around a 3.2 GPA, a reputable-but-not-Ivy-League school, a finance/economics/accounting-related major, and 1-2 internships.
Banks do offer internships in corporate banking, but the process is not as structured or accelerated as it is for investment banking internships.
So, you may have to do more of the networking and application legwork yourself.
Sometimes banks also refer to this area with slightly different names, such as “Global Banking” or “Global Banking and Markets” or “Relationship Manager,” depending on your region.
Corporate Banking Interview Questions
Interview questions for these roles could be summarized as: “Accounting and financial statement analysis, credit analysis, and fit questions.”
They’re a smaller subset of the standard questions in IB interviews because you’re unlikely to get anything about valuation or DCF analysis, merger models, or LBO models.
Common Fit Questions and Answers
Walk me through your resume / tell me about yourself.
See our guide and examples for the “Walk me through your resume” question.
What does a corporate banker do? How does this division fit into the bank as a whole?
See everything above.
Why are you interested in our bank specifically?
See this article.
Why corporate banking rather than investment banking?
Don’t say that you “want to work on deals but have a better lifestyle” – instead, say that you like how the corporate banking role is central to everything at a bank, and you want to manage long-term client relationships rather than just working on one-off deals.
What are your strengths and weaknesses? / Give me an example of a time when you led a team.
See our walk-through, guide, and examples.
Common Accounting Questions and Answers
Walk me through the 3 financial statements and how you link them.
This one is covered in our Interview Guide and pretty much every other guide and course out there.
What is EBITDA, and how do you calculate it starting with Net Income or Operating Income?
EBITDA stands for “Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization” and it’s a proxy for the recurring cash flow from the core-business operations of a company. You can compare it to the company’s Debt or Interest Expense to assess its creditworthiness.
For the calculations, see our tutorial (start with Operating Income on the Income Statement, add D&A on the Cash Flow Statement, and then look for potential non-recurring charges to add back).
If you start with Net Income instead, add back income taxes, reverse Interest & Other Income/Expense, and then add D&A from the Cash Flow Statement (and then look for non-recurring charges, time permitting).
For more about these concepts, see our full tutorial for EBIT vs. EBITDA vs. Net Income
What happens on the statements when Accounts Receivable or Depreciation goes up by $10?
See our tutorials for both of these.
Common Credit Questions and Answers
How would you evaluate the creditworthiness of a company?
One approach is the “5 C’s”: Look at the company’s Character (track record of repaying debt), Capacity (stats like Debt / EBITDA and EBITDA / Interest), Capital (contribution from the company’s assets), Collateral (what the lender can claim if the loan is not repaid), and Conditions (purpose of the loan).
In practice, at the corporate level, you’ll conduct both financial and industry/qualitative analysis of the company.
The financial analysis might focus on whether or not the company can maintain its targeted credit stats and ratios even in downside scenarios, and the probability of default.
The industry/qualitative analysis might focus on the points that impact risk for lenders: for example, a high percentage of locked-in or recurring revenue, industry leadership in a high-growth market, and low CapEx requirements will boost creditworthiness, and the opposite will reduce it.
What are maintenance and incurrence covenants?
Maintenance covenants relate to financial metrics that the company must maintain after it raises debt – for example, it must maintain Debt / EBITDA of less than 5x and EBITDA / Interest of at least 2x to avoid penalty fees. These are most common on “bank debt” issuances such as Revolvers and Term Loans.
Incurrence covenants relate to specific actions that a company must take or not take. For example, if the company sells assets, it must use 50% of the proceeds to repay the lenders. These are more common on high-yield bonds.
A company has EBITDA of $100, Debt of $500, and a pre-tax Cost of Debt of 6%. Its maximum Debt / EBITDA is 6x, and its minimum EBITDA / Interest is 2x. What are the EBITDA ‘cushions,’ and what do they tell you?
The company’s Debt / EBITDA is $500 / $100, or 5x, and 6x would represent EBITDA of ~$83, so the company has an EBITDA cushion of ~$17 there.
The company’s Interest Expense is $500 * 6% = $30, so its EBITDA / Interest = $100 / $30 = 3.3x.
2x EBITDA / Interest would mean EBITDA of $60, so the EBITDA cushion is $100 – $60 = $40.
These cushions indicate how close the company is to violating its covenants and, therefore, how much risk there is for the lenders.
What’s the difference between Revolvers and Term Loans?
They’re both forms of Senior Secured Debt with floating interest rates and maintenance covenants, but Revolvers are more like “overdraft accounts” for companies.
If a company needs to borrow beyond its current capacity, it can do so by drawing on its Revolver, which is usually undrawn at first. The company then pays interest on the drawn portion until it can repay that amount (there are commitment/undrawn fees as well).
By contrast, Term Loans are drawn initially and amortize over time – anywhere from 20% per year over five years (fully amortizing) to 1% per year until maturity (closer to “bullet maturity”). The company pays interest on the full principal remaining in each period.
What is original issue discount (OID)?
See our full tutorial on original issue discount!
Corporate Banking Products: Loans, Fees, and Written Documents
It’s difficult to describe service such as cash management and trade finance because banks do not publicly disclose the documents for them, so we’ll focus on the most common loans here instead:
- Term Loans: See above. You lend a fixed amount of money that the client draws on upfront and that requires annual principal repayments.
- Bridge Loans: Quick financing until a more permanent funding source is put in place. A financial sponsor might use a bridge loan after a bond offering is launched and before the proceeds are raised.
- Revolvers: See above. The client pays a commitment fee for access to a credit line that can be drawn on as needed; often used to meet short-term borrowing needs if mandatory debt repayments or capital costs exceed the company’s available cash flow.
- Letters of Credit: Written agreements in which the bank backs payment in case the borrower defaults.
- Asset-Based Loans (ABLs): These use inventory or receivables to ensure payment is made; see the coverage of Structured Finance on this site.
These loans are often syndicated, i.e., a group of banks will jointly issue the loan to the borrower to distribute risk.
Fees tend to be significantly lower than the ones on M&A deals and IPOs because the deals are more straightforward and they serve a different purpose: staying on the client’s radar and generating future business.
When you work on these loans, your bank could assume a few different roles:
- Lead Arranger: Similar to a bookrunner in equity and debt offerings; in this role, you’ll handle a larger portion of a capital raise.
- Agent: Similar to a co-manager in equity and debt offerings; you’re responsible for a much smaller portion of a capital raise.
- Administrator: Monitors the interest payments and debt principal repayments.
The more responsibility your bank has, the higher the fee.
Fees may also be split with industry coverage, capital markets, and other teams at the bank, depending on the nature of the deal and who sourced it.
Much your work as an entry-level professional is similar to the tasks in other credit-related groups like DCM and LevFin: debt comparables, committee materials describing a client’s business to win deal approval, and presentations and information memoranda for clients.
The financial modeling includes similar elements, such as a Sources & Uses schedule, Pro-Forma Capitalization table, and analyses of key leverage and coverage ratios as well as liquidity metrics such as the Revolver Availability.
The key difference in corporate banking is that you tend not to use projected financial statements in lender presentations and other documents.
You focus on the company’s historical performance and what it will look like immediately after the debt issuance takes place.
Also, you’ll sometimes draft Ratings Agency Presentations, or RAPs, which are shown to credit rating agencies to demonstrate stable cash flows and low volatility.
Your task is to prove your client deserves a higher credit rating, which will result in a lower cost of borrowing.
Here are a few examples of lender presentations and memos by industry:
Technology / Payment Processing / FinTech:
- Vantiv / Worldpay by Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse – For an acquisition, so it’s slightly different from the usual CB deals.
Restaurants / Retail:
Chemicals / Materials:
- Lenders Presentation by Credit Suisse for Rockwood (Note the “Financial Targets,” but lack of specific projections)
- Walter Investment Management by Credit Suisse, RBS, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley
Power & Energy:
- WireCo WorldGroup (This one is also for an acquisition)
Corporate Banking Salary, Hours, and More
First, note that there is a big difference between banks that classify corporate banking within investment banking and ones that place it in commercial banking or other groups.
If your bank puts CB within IB, you’ll tend to earn significantly more; if corporate banking is within commercial banking, you’ll earn less.
In the first case – CB within IB – base salaries for Analysts tend to be slightly lower than investment banking base salaries (think: a $5-10K discount).
However, bonuses tend to be far lower, and they’re often capped at a relatively low percentage of base salary regardless of your performance.
In investment banking, full-year bonuses for Analysts often represent 70-100% of base salaries, and that only climbs as you move up the ladder.
But in corporate banking, your bonus will be much lower – perhaps 35-45% of your base salary.
So, as of 2018, you will most likely earn around $100K USD all-in, as opposed to the $140K – $160K that First-Year IB Analysts might earn.
Your base salary will increase as you move up, but there will be a modest discount to IB pay at each level and a significantly lower bonus as well.
For example, MDs in corporate banking won’t earn in the low millions USD as some MDs in investment banking would. A more realistic range would be ~$500K – $600K (with about 50/50 base/bonus).
Associates might earn bonuses representing 50-70% of their base salaries, but not 100%+ as in investment banking.
That’s a rough idea of compensation for the “corporate banking within investment banking” case.
If it’s the “commercial banking” case, Analysts might earn ~$70K all-in and not reach $100K until they become Associates. Directors might earn in the $300K – $400K range.
There’s a lot of confusion about this point because people don’t understand that different banks classify corporate banking differently, so be careful whenever you see compensation numbers online or in surveys.
In exchange for lower total compensation, you get a nice work/life balance: the average workweek might be around 50-55 hours.
There will be occasional spikes when deals heat up, but you’ll still have a good amount of free time.
Corporate Banking Exit Opportunities
So… decently interesting work, good hours, and the potential to earn in the mid-six figures once you reach the top levels.
What’s not to like?
The main disadvantage is that corporate banking doesn’t give you access to the same exit opportunities as investment banking. In fact, it’s not even close.
For example, it is almost impossible to move directly from corporate banking to private equity, hedge funds, or corporate development.
Even credit-focused exit opportunities like mezzanine funds and direct lenders are unlikely because you won’t have the depth of modeling and deal experience they’re seeking.
If you want to pursue those opportunities, you’re better off moving into investment banking first.
If you stay in CB, the exit opportunities are similar to those offered by DCM: Treasury roles in corporate finance at normal companies, credit rating agencies, or credit research.
If you make it to the Relationship Manager level and you develop a solid client list, other options might be private wealth management or private banking.
After all, you’ll know many executives who need someone to manage their money, and you’ll be familiar with all the departments at your bank.
Many professionals end up staying in corporate banking for the long term because it offers a nice work/life balance, reasonable advancement opportunities, and high pay at the mid-to-top levels.
Corporate Banking: Final Thoughts
If you are looking to work crazy hours and make the most amount of money humanly possible in the finance industry, then corporate banking is not for you.
But if you want a good work/life balance, you’re interested in credit and the other services a bank might provide, and you like the idea of relationship management, then it’s a good fit.
It can also be a solid way to get into IB through the side door, but if you want to make that move, you have to do it quickly, or you risk getting pigeonholed.
If you understand all that, you can never be confused about corporate banking again.
If you liked this article, you might be interested in reading The Corporate Finance Analyst: Promising Career Path, or “Plan B” if Investment Banking Doesn’t Work Out?
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Thank you for this article. I was wondering if you are in corporate banking at JPM (High Growth Tech) can you easily switch to consulting? Is there even a slight chance to go to M&A (previous experience) or corporate development? I am a bit stressed in not finding the right exits..
Can you go from audit or tax at a big 4 into corporate banking?
Brian, hey great article and thanks so much for your detailed information as always. I was always interested in moving into CB because I wanted to be involved in the day to day credit side rather actual deals. I was in military for a year and plus five years of risk-compliance experience having graduated from a top 30 college. I was just wondering if you could double check whether my profile doesn’t deviate too much from what CB expects for an Analyst/Associate role. Thanks.
Also further to the previous note, I’m planning to use our internal transfer as a way to break-in into corporate banking. Do you believe internal transfer gives better chance than candidates outside of organization? Much appreciated for your assistance.
The main issue is that 5 years of full-time experience means you might have too much experience to win an entry-level role in CB. But I am not sure how much they actually care about previous experience in CB. It’s worth at least reaching out to corporate bankers to present yourself and see what they say.
Thanks so much Brian. HR who handles internal transfer said CB is willing to accept candidates who have five years of full-time experience for an entry-level role. The main issue is of course, HR’s view often is, irrelevant to the actual hiring process. I will try to reaching out to corporate bankers and see what they say. Thank you.
Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge about CB.
I currently am at a mid-sized bank and hoping to transition into their relatively recently formed CB group. I have approximately 6 years of experience in internal strategy roles, and one of my recent projects was focused on implementing a commercial lending technology system within the bank. I am hoping to use this experience as a springboard to network my way into the group.
Considering my lack of any former corporate finance/accounting experience, I was wondering if you think transitioning into CB through internal networking would be doable (I am planning to brush up on some of my technical knowledge)? I was considering going back for my MBA to break into CB, but it seems you believe the MBA route wouldn’t make financial sense.
Yes, I think you can do it through internal networking. An MBA seems like a very expensive option for something like CB (it’s not nearly as competitive as IB roles).
Thank you for the article, hope this comment finds you. I am considering a shift into corporate banking from consulting. I have an Econ degree from a top school and have been working at a boutique consulting firm for about a year. I was wondering if there were any lateral routes into CB at the associate level?
It’s doable, but I’m not sure of specifically what you have to do coming from a consulting background. My guess would be a combination of networking with bankers and learning some of the accounting and credit analysis skills independently. CB is less competitive than IB, so you can probably do it with enough effort and a bit of luck.
How likely it is to move from corporate banking to asset management or equity research in your opinion? Any chance at all?
Asset management is unlikely. Equity research is still difficult but may be more doable if you’re in more of a combined corporate banking/investment banking group and/or have some additional modeling/valuation/public markets experience.
I’m currently deciding between staying at a big 3 rating agency in securitisation or going into corporate lending at a dutch bank (not ING).
I was wondering which one would give me the best options to lateral into a lev finance team (given at a rating agency i could do CLO’s etc).
I don’t think there’s a huge difference between those, but you would probably have a slightly higher chance at the Big 4 rating agency, or you could use it to move into structured finance at a bank and then LevFin.
Hi Brian, thank you for the article and all the information on your site are so useful.
I am currently working as a corporate bank (actually a mix of corp and commercial bank) analyst and find out that relationship management role is not for me and there are just too many routine and meaningless tasks in corp bank. Is investment banking a good way out or is the crazy hours at IB really worth? Many thanks.
I can’t really answer this question because I don’t know what you want or what your long-term goals are. IB is “worth it” for some people, but you have to be a bit crazy and willing to put up with a terrible work environment for at least a few years. If you just think that CB is too boring, there are better options, such as working at a normal company in a finance or corporate/business development role or in treasury or something like that.
Do you happen to know what the current salaries and bonuses in corporate banking are now a days? More specifically what are the investment banks offering a 2nd year analyst in corporate banking? Also, do you know what firms like BBVA, Santander, and SocGen are offering in comp for that type of role at the moment? I have tried doing some due diligence and I think I found some answers but would love to get your take on it if you have any current information on it.
Thank you in advance!
Corporate banking base salaries are up a bit but not to the same extent as IB base salaries. So the base might be closer to $100K now, with variation between banks. But I don’t think it’s to the $110K – $130K range of IB. Bonuses are still a smaller percentage of base salaries as well, so pay is up but less so than in IB.
I can’t speak to salaries/bonuses at specific banks, sorry.
Thank you, Brian. This is really helpful. One last question. Is it easier to move into LevFin or DCM as an associate from a Corporate Banking team or from a Business Management team?
Hi Brian, is it possible to go directly from audit at a Big 4 (specializing in banking & capital markets) to corporate banking? Or do you think it’s better to go from audit to valuation before making the career change to corporate banking? Thanks in advance!
You might have a small advantage if you go to valuation first, but I think Big 4 banking/capital markets audit to corporate banking is doable.
Hi Brian, first of all, thank you for providing such wonderful insights on Corporate Banking. I am currently keen on Corporate Banking, however I do not have any Corporate Banking experience. In my first year I was at big4 doing Audit. In my second year I was at a corporate finance and group strategy team of a F500 company. I am currently in my third year and am at a regional MM IBD on their ECM desk as an off-cycle analyst. As I am graduating in summer the following year, I would not be able to apply for the corporate banking summer analyst. Should I defer by a semester and apply as a summer analyst or should I apply directly for a Grad role? I am aware IBD FT roles are fed from the SA pool and breaking in at a Grad role is virtually impossible. Is this the same for Corporate Banking?
I would just apply directly for FT roles. We don’t specialize in corporate banking recruiting on this site, but if you already have all that experience, it should be plausible to get into the industry without necessarily doing a summer internship in CB first.
Hiya! a wonderful article, I am just wondering what I should specifically expect to do as a corporate banking intern at BB!
Also, who are the major players in Corporate Banking? I cannot really find the ranking or market share on the internet!
The major players are the large commercial banks with big Balance Sheets (think: Wells Fargo, BAML, Citi, HSBC, JPM, etc.). You can expect a lot of work monitoring clients, contributing to deal memos, and pulling data for clients and potential clients. It’s similar to any other internship: you’re effectively an assistant to the full-timers, and your job is to make their lives easier by doing things they don’t want to do or don’t have time for.
Thank you very much! I did my final interview for CB (under investment banking) in one of the BB banks you mentioned. Hope I secure it!
I have another IB (a very boutique one specialising M&A in gaming and software industries and very small around 20 employees, so far about +65 deals and +25bn in transaction value) interview coming up next week. Assuming I get this one too, do you think this boutique IB would give me better exit opportunities to buy-side (PE, VC)?
Like you said, I know IB is a better course to PE, but I just want to hear your opinion on this considering the size of this boutique IB.
I think it depends on how separate/together CB is with IB at the BB bank. If they really are the same group and people do leave the group for PE/VC, then the BB bank is better. But if they’re actually more like separate teams, the boutique is better.
Hi Brian, I want to ask about the headcount in corporate banking. I have heard that even the largest players in the market(Citi, JPM) only hire a few summer analyst every year, is that true?
I don’t know, but that sounds low to me. I get about 3,500 results for “corporate banking analyst” on LinkedIn, so group sizes must be larger than that. It’s plausible that there are fewer openings and fewer annual hires than in IB groups, though (partially due to lower turnover).
Hi Brian, thank you so much for this thorough and insightful guidance!
I have secured a full time offer at CB in BB at APAC area, dealing business with multinational companies. I’m not actually very interested in moving to IB due to work-life balance problem, but do you think it would flexible enough for me to move around different locations within the same department and the same group? e.g. from BAML/Citi/JPM’s China or Taiwan CB to those firms’ Hong Kong or Singapore CB branch?
Thanks. Yes, you should be able to move around within APAC at different firms.
I have an undergrad from UVA in Economics and starting Masters in Finance from University of Rochester this fall. Currently i am interning as an Analyst in Corporate Banking. I want to break into IB after i graduate next Summer. Should i apply for an internship in IB this fall or apply for full time IB jobs? I have heard they prefer undergrads with prior IB internships. Please guide me through.
It’s always best to get an IB internship first.
I am going to do a Commercial Banking internship in Middle Markets at Wells Fargo this summer.I just got invited for with JPM where I will have the chance to interview for either middle markets or their corporate banking. My question to you is, do I risk my possibilities of going for the corporate banking role (where I really want to be) or do I secure the Middle markets route with JPM (they do way bigger deals than wells fargo, but I will have super relevant experience with this group).
I would focus on one role per bank at a time. If you want to do corporate banking at JPM, aim for corporate banking. I’m not sure how middle market commercial banking there would help you much over the same role at Wells Fargo.
Hi I would like to speak in corporate banking exit opportunities into IB a bit more. Let me know how we can connect
Sorry, what is your question? You can ask questions on this site in the comments. There’s no one to connect with here because one of our writers researched and wrote this article.
Thanks. What does the IB side route from Corporate Banking entail?
You network extensively, learn the technical side on your own, and eventually ask your contacts for interviews after you have enough corporate banking experience (maybe 6-12 months).
Just wanted to say thank you for putting out such informative content, it has helped me massively.
I’m currently a 2nd Year student from the UK studying economics at a non-target Russell Group University.
I’m set on going into corporate banking and have applied to numerous corporate banking internships.
As a backup plan in case I don’t receive CB offers, I am also applying for internships with the Big 4 and other auditing firms such as Grant Thornton. What area within the big 4 do you believe is the best to apply? Would a deals advisory program such as that at KPMG be more useful than an auditing role? Thanks again
Yes, if you can get in. But usually it’s difficult to move straight into an advisory role without doing audit or something else at the firm first.
Spot-on summary. Younger Corporate Banking MD at a Super Regional, $500k all-in. Zero outside job opportunities other than similar role at different bank. But hey, who am I to complain, this is a great gig. I’m dang good at it and the hours/people/clients are excellent.
Hey man, just wondering what your hours a week are approximately?
35-55 (max) hours / week. Rarely work weekends unless: i) entertaining a client, or ii) in the middle of a deal. On email a lot, which I don’t count in the weekly hours count. Travel once or twice a month. I’ll be honest the job gets extremely routine and boring eventually, but I’m actively trying to make it more interesting (picking up hobbies, trying to get back in the gym, etc.). Heck maybe I should write a book about this adventure of mine, like the time I was walking into my client’s building for a pitch and my college roommate walked out of the elevator (in the middle of nowhere, without any knowledge we were in the same vicinity, mind you). Or the time my b-school buddy texted me a hilarious picture, with the CEO and CFO of a client next to me at a conference table and clearly seeing it pop up.
Great article – thanks for all of the knowledge you’ve provided. I currently work at a Big 4 in Tax for the past 2 years and graduated from a top 25 school with a 3.5 GPA. How would I best position myself for a potential switch to corporate banking? I was debating going back to school for an MBA but from one of the other comments, it seems that you don’t think it’s a great use of an expensive MBA program. I’m also not sure how interested recruiters/employees of CB’s would be in a CPA/Big 4.
I would not bother with an MBA for corporate banking. You can probably just network into the group directly from where you are now. If not, try to move into a more relevant group at your current firm first, such as anything related to transactions or due diligence on deals rather than tax.
I have a degree in Finance, but when I graduated I stepped away from finance and went directly into tech sales. It’s been a year and a half now and I want to get into CB, how do I transition myself back into finance and set myself up for a role in CB?
Start networking by finding people on LinkedIn and reaching out to them via email. Review your accounting/finance. Come up with a solid story that explains why you went into tech and now are moving away from tech after only 1.5 years.
This is an amazing breakdown; I wish I had found it when I was doing my interviews. I am a third-year student from a non-target that was able to secure a Corporate Banking internship at a mid-tier BB for my third-year summer internship (Summer 2020). I know my technical cold (Bought your guides!), have begun networking heavily (I actually got 3 IB interviews for the top M&A group in the country, and some other banks but wasn’t confident to drop my exploding offer) etc. I think CB would be great experience, and I’ve networked with a majority of my team already after my offer. I also networked with our VP of HR and she said internal mobility is very possible. But how quickly through my internship should I begin to network with pure IB individuals? I’ve been avoiding it at the bank I’ll be working at to not give the wrong impression…
I would start maybe halfway through the internship, but it depends on what you want to do – are you trying to move into IB for a full-time role?
If so, that will be very difficult because so many people try to switch banks around that time. See: https://mergersandinquisitions.com/investment-banking-accelerated-interviews/
You might be able to follow that process there and do it, especially if you’re in a regional office and not NY, but it’s usually easier to start out full-time in CB, stay for a year, and then move into IB as a lateral hire. People start dropping like flies once their full-time roles begin and they realize they can’t handle it or don’t want to, so groups need to keep making lateral hires.
Thank you for the feedback and advice Brien, much appreciated!
For CB analysts looking to make the switch to IB, which groups are the most feasible to transition to? DCM and LevFin I assume, but what about Restructuring or M&A?
Restructuring and M&A will both be more difficult. DCM, LevFin, and any industry groups that do a lot of debt deals (such as Industrials) are the best bets.
Appreciate the insight. Besides industrials, which other groups typically do a lot of debt deals?
Real estate/FIG (but highly specialized), Utilities, telecom/media, healthcare, increasingly tech
Make sense, what about FSG? Less specialized than FIG, so thought that might make sense also.
They don’t really do debt deals in the same way because they mostly maintain relationships with the sponsors. Some groups are more technical, but it varies widely, and you probably won’t be doing as many debt deals overall.
Can you explain in detail how I can jump into investment banking from corporate banking?
Network with bankers in DCM groups once you’ve had some deal experience. Follow up with them a few times and ask about lateral openings. Repeat this process for many banks.
is there any chance for new immigrants to break into CB? I am moving to Canada soon, I have nearly 10 years work experience in CB but the problem is that I don’t have local experience. I am afraid they would consider me overqualified for analyst position and underqualified for Associate position (because of lack of local experience).
I would be really grateful if you could share your thoughts and suggestions on this
thank you very much!
I’m not sure about Canada, but if you have a work visa there, sure, you could potentially win a job offer. I think the main problem is that with 10 years of experience, you’re over-qualified for Analyst and Associate roles… but that might be less of an issue in CB than it is in other fields.
I’m currently in corporate banking at a BB in NYC. I could have the opportunity to transition over to the investment bank if I’d like. The question is, should I? I personally don’t have an interest
in moving over to PE/HF/VC so the biggest upside for investment banking isn’t affecting me. I also love the culture and the people in corporate banking and appreciate the work-life balance (we also
get paid almost the exact same as the investment bankers all-in compensation despite the difference in hours) compared to the investment bankers.
On the other hand, the investment bankers role is all technical focus while ours is a combination of relationship management and technical and I feel as though it would be beneficial to attain the technical experience beforehand in the investment bank. My question is moving into the investment bank from the corporate bank worth it if I don’t intend on transitioning into the buy side? My plan for life is to either: 1) continue in the corporate bank 2) work for a F500 firm 3) start my own business and in that order. Thanks for you advice!
I don’t think it’s worthwhile to transition to IB if you’re happy in corporate development, you have no plans to move to the buy-side, and you are only thinking of leaving for a F500 firm or your own business. Also, the IB role is far less technical than what people typically describe – yes, some groups do more modeling than others, but it is something you can learn independently as well, and it’s not rocket science.
Thanks so much for this article! Are there any options to use an MBA (Top 15) to career change into CB? I know quite a few people who have done that with IB, wondering if this is possible for CB as well and what they route may look like.
Thanks in advance!
Potentially, but I’m not sure offhand how much corporate banking groups hire out of MBA programs. But I think it might be a not-so-great use of an expensive MBA program because you can probably get into CB without the degree, even if you’ve graduated and have been working in another field for some time.
Thanks for the insight!
Hi Brian! You have provided one of the most comprehensive guides out there about CB and I seriously can’t thank you enough for this. I personally think CB is a great place for me to start off my career right out of college. To give a brief background, I am currently an accounting major with a 3.5 GPA at a top 100 uni in the nation who is going to a corporate finance internship (not huge name but F1000 and very meaningful internship role) in the coming summer.
Given that, I have a few questions:
1) How do I leverage this internship to get a FT position at a BB?
2) Should I also sell myself as CPA eligible for this position when interviewing?
3) What else should I do to boost my chances in terms of college extra-curriculars and networking strategy throughout the summer?
1) Start reaching out and networking with CB professionals midway through the internship, if not before, and ask about roles. The networking process is the same as it is for IB, but it’s easier since there’s less competition and fewer super-competitive students.
2) I don’t think corporate bankers care about the CPA.
3) I really wouldn’t worry that much because corporate banking is not insanely competitive in the same way as IB/PE. If you have a good GPA, university, and internships, and you do even a moderate amount of networking, you should be good.
Thanks, and nice to see the site going strong after these many years. I’m a CB’er whose deal activity is 80% M&A financing, i.e. Lev Fin, and less “commercial banking”. What are your thoughts about spinning this toward the private credit/mezz community to pivot toward that side?
I still think it would be difficult to move directly into private credit or mezzanine because recruiters are idiots and don’t understand that your experience can be more or less relevant within a specific group. They like to put people in buckets regardless of what you did. You might be able to make this move if you network in directly, but I think you’d have a much better chance if you joined an official IB group first just so you could write “Investment Banking” on your resume.
Thanks for this. If you have a mix of Corporate Banking and Lev Fin experience, would you have a decent shot at getting into Direct Lending or Private Debt?
Thank you for your really comprehensive guide to corporate banking, just some questions here:
What are the differences for a corporate banker handling clients from domestic vs. multinational corporations vs. financial institutions?
How would you rank these 3 divisions according to prestige, if such hierarchy exists?
I don’t really know, but I would imagine that multinational corporations probably need to focus more on services like trade finance and supply finance, while the others probably focus more on credit. If you’re looking to use the CB experience to move into IB, domestic clients are probably best. Financial institutions could work as well, but it might be difficult to use that experience to move into a non-FIG role.
How competitive would you say CB internships are at firms like BAML or Citi during undergrad and how competitive it is to win a FT role out of university?
Moderately competitive? I don’t know. Not as competitive as IB roles, but more so than, say, commercial banking or most jobs outside of tech/finance. You can definitely win these roles with a worse profile than you would need for IB roles. Winning a FT role out of university might still be tough because most firms only want to recruit their interns, but it’s more feasible than in IB or consulting.
What are your thoughts on going into direct lending vs investment banking?
Completely different profile in terms of work, compensation, exit opportunities, etc. Compensation and exit opportunities are generally worse, but the lifestyle is better and the work is arguably more interesting. It can be good if you want to stay on the credit side and go into something related afterward, but it’s not as good as IB in terms of the breadth of exit opportunities (e.g., you won’t get into corporate development coming from direct lending).
In Ukraine in the period of deep recession There was a common path from IB to CB. I saw several VPs from reputable (on Ukrainian IB market) investment firms that made a switch to relationship positions in well known financial institutions (BNP, Unicredit, EBRD, PASHA holding etc.).
I think this type of switch could be typical for emerging and frontier markets (think Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, North Africa, most of Asia)
Thanks for adding that. Yes, I could see how corporate banking might be more appealing during a recession.
I have the opportunity to get into an CB internship of a large bank. I’m studying two majors: applied math and economics. Do you think it would be a smart idea to accept it, win experience in the banking / finance industry and then get an internship in IB?
For a 1st or 2nd year internship, yes, corporate banking is a solid option. As a 3rd year option, it’s not as good because at that point, you really need the IB internship. But the recruiting timeline is so screwed up now because it begins over a year before the summer of your 3rd year that it’s not clear what the best timing for everything is anymore.
How difficult is it to move up the corporate banking hierarchy and become an MD? I know the article mentions that more people choose CB as a long term career, does that lower the chances of upward mobility compared to IB?
I’m not sure about that one, but it’s probably somewhere in between the difficulty of advancing in IB (i.e., there’s a clear path with clear timing, but you have to survive, which is a tricky) and the difficulty of advancing in corporate finance at a big company (less of a clear path, and it takes much longer, but it’s not as brutal on your way to the top). I think it’s the type of field where, if you’re really motivated and willing to outwork everyone, you can reach the top. That’s harder to do in IB because everyone else is also trying to outwork everyone else, and politics become a huge issue on your way to the top.
You absolutely nailed it on all points with this post. I’m trying to pivot OUT from a Corporate Banking Role that was paired with IB, just as you described in the post. Are there any other exit opportunities outside of “Treasury roles in corporate finance at normal companies, credit rating agencies, or credit research”? How about FP &A roles at large corporate / multinationals companies similar to those covered in large CB’s? How would a CB’er transition into corporate development w/o an MBA?
I think it would be difficult to move into corporate development because you need experience with M&A deals and joint ventures to do that. FP&A might be more feasible, especially since some companies offer rotational programs in corporate finance. Other than those, you could always move into a capital markets role in IB or maybe even an industry group if that industry group does a lot of debt deals.
But it all depends on what you want to do. Corporate finance is quite different from corporate development, which is also quite different from IB groups at the bank. People do transition over from CB into IB, but they typically do so quickly because it gets more difficult the longer you stay in CB.
Do the 50-55 hour weeks apply to BB corporate banking as well? I’ve heard from other sources that BB corporate banking hours are more like 60-70 a week.
You’re right that the hours could be worse depending on the group. But I think it’s less about whether the bank is a bulge bracket or boutique/middle market and more about how the bank classifies corporate banking. If it considers CB a part of “investment banking,” the hours will probably be worse; if it’s more a part of “commercial banking” or a separate group, the hours will be better (and the pay lower).
Hello, I’m in corporate banking at a BB (think WF, BAML, JPM) that does a lot of syndicated & leveraged finance deals. I was recently promoted to an associate and did a three month training program that was focused on credit & investment banking at my current bank. What are my chances for moving into IB as an associate? Any recommended routes/paths? I’m not looking to make the move internally as we do not have a big IB presence in my city.
It’s possible, but your chances are still lower than someone from another/smaller bank trying to move into IB at a large bank like your current one. To make the transition, network, network, network… find people on LinkedIn, email them for advice on moving from CB to IB, set up calls, and rinse/wash/repeat. Make sure you know the technicals and can discuss recent deals in their industries.
Thanks. Follow up question. I’ve been offered a job internally in ESOP advisory. Would you happen to know if that will improve my chances to moving into IB or PE from corporate banking? It might also be helpful if you did an article on ESOP advisory since they are growing in importance.
I don’t think it will help much over corporate banking because ESOP Advisory, like Tax Advisory, is perceived to be quite specialized.
Brian – Thank you for the article. CB is one of the more nuanced positions in the industry and this article articulates it very well. I work in CB at a large Canadian bank and my only disagreement with the article is that from my experience the base salaries are in line with those of IBs. As you point out correctly, though, there is a large bonus discrepancy.
My question is, why do some banks combine both IB and CB into the same group? I’ve seen analysts with titles of “Corporate and Investment Banking Analyst”. Does this mean some banks have analysts doing both roles? I can’t imagine how an analyst would have enough time to do that.
Thanks for adding that. Not sure about the base salaries, but maybe they’re a bit different in Canada.
I think banks combine IB and CB into the same group for cross-selling/up-selling opportunities and because some of the skill sets are similar. I’m assuming that most people with titles like “Corporate and Investment Banking Analyst” are probably working on debt deals in both areas. Banks might also combine them because CB doesn’t exactly fit anywhere else, and it might just be easier to put anything client-facing into the same category.
Do all the BBs have corporate banking divisions? How actively do they recruit fresh college graduates?
Yes, the large banks all have corporate banking divisions, but sometimes it has slightly different labels depending on the firm (e.g., https://www.goldmansachs.com/careers/divisions/consumer-and-commercial-banking/). They are less proactive in recruiting university students than investment banking groups because there’s less turnover and competition for students. The set of targeted schools are also a bit different.
Would you say there is more job security in corporate banking compared to IB? Also, how important is an MBA for career advancement in corporate banking?
Yes, there’s probably more job security in corporate banking because even if there’s a recession and deal activity falls off a cliff, CB clients will still need to use the other services of the bank for everyday business purposes.
I don’t think an MBA helps too much in corporate banking unless you’re using it to move in from a completely different industry.
Hi Brian, What is the career advancement like in corporate banking? is it the same as investment banking (Analyst > Associate > VP > Director > MD)? Is progression at the same pace as investment banking or slower?
The progression is similar and at about the same pace.
Is this the same thing as “wholesale credit” or is that a different animal?
Second, in reference to one of the other comments, is the market much smaller than IB? especially in Canada? you don’t here a lot about corp banking recruitment to the same extent as IB
I believe Wholesale Credit is a subset of Corporate Banking or works closely with the group. I think the issue is that there’s less turnover in corporate banking, so banks do not necessarily need a structured recruiting process each summer each year like they do with IB. With constant turnover, they always need to be in recruiting mode there.
I don’t think the market is that much smaller than IB – it’s just that you tend to hear less about it for the reasons mentioned here, and banks tend not to advertise the roles as much.
Hi Brian, Would people ever move from investment banking to corporate banking? I understand that the pay would be less, but would it be a good option for someone looking for a better work/life balance? Thanks!
I’m sure some people do occasionally move from IB to CB, but I think it would make more sense to move from a traditional IB industry group, M&A, etc. into a capital markets team like ECM or DCM if you’re looking for a better work/life balance because the pay differential is much smaller, and if you change your mind, it would be easier to move back into a different IB group later on.
Hi Brian, amazing article and amazing blog, it was posted a while a go but I hope my comment finds you.
I’m looking to make a switch to corporate banking. I have about 5 years of accounting experience and CA, CPA in Canada earned while working at large O&G company mainly in financial reporting and some planning/corp. tax. I do have descent exposure to debt reporting and reading debt agreements for various type of loans (Notes, Bonds, ABLs, revolvers) and creating calculation models and future ratio forecasts, as well as cash flow models.
I wanted to see if you thought it would be reasonable to expected to get a job in CB switching from my current position in reporting? I see some credit/banking jobs post CPA along side with CFA or MBA as potential background/requirement, so I though by background can help especially with debt reporting/ some modeling exposure. Any recommendations on how to improve my chances?
Thank you for your help beforehand!!
I think 5 years might be too much experience to move into CB because they wouldn’t know where to put you (too much experience to be an Analyst, not enough to be an Associate). But it’s worth reaching out, doing some networking, and seeing what people say. The requirements might not be as strict as IB where you can’t go beyond X years of experience or you won’t get in.
The best way to improve your chances is to find professionals in CB on LinkedIn, contact them via email, explain your background, and see what they say. Getting a CFA or MBA is time-consuming, expensive, and not required for these roles, and you already know many of the technical skills required.
Thank you Brian! That’s a fair comment, we’ll see what I can find.
I’m going to be a transaction banking sophomore SA at a BB. Do you think it’s plausible to leverage this experience to get into IB? If so, what groups should I target?
Yes. Target LevFin, DCM, or any industry group that does a lot of debt deals.