• Name: James Smith
  • Job Title: Corporate Finance Analyst - Merger and Acquisitions and Private Equity
  • Location: Birmingham
  • University: Imperial
  • Degree: Material Science and Engineering
  • Areas of Specialism: Corporate Finance

I am currently eight months into a 12-month internship as an analyst with RSM Corporate Finance sitting within the M&A and Private Equity team.

I joined the internship programme after completing four years at Imperial College London reading, what is on the surface, a completely unrelated course – Materials Science and Engineering. Recently I was offered a graduate position and a training contract to attain the ACA qualification.

Why did you choose to do an internship?

Ultimately my decision to undertake an internship out of university was the flexibility that the role provides. Although I had a long-term interest in Finance I was undecided as to what career path I wanted to pursue: Academia or Industry. I found that the prospects of a graduate role and three-year contract were too rigid – especially if I found that I was not suited to the role or if the role did not peak my interest.

For me a 12-month internship was the perfect option – you gain all the responsibilities and ultimately experience of a graduate role but are not tied long term.

On the other hand, and as I have experienced, if you find the role rewarding and identify it as an excellent platform for future development there is the potential to re-join a team and firm that you know provides a good fit to your personality and will help you maximise your potential

How does the internship tie in with your overall career plans?

Since starting my internship, I have come to appreciate more and more the platform it provides for future development. Without having to balance work and studying in the first year is a real advantage and allows you to maximise your initial development and quickly get to grips with the demands of a role in Corporate Finance.

Taking this experience into a graduate role is invaluable as you can really hit the ground running and take on more and more responsibility from the outset and achieve a better balance between the demands of your role and studying for the ACA qualification. Gaining the ACA qualification opens up a significant number of opportunities, and when combined with real deal experience, includes private equity, financial in industry and roles in wider financial and consultancy markets.  Since starting my internship, I have come to appreciate more and more the platform it provides for future development

What was the application process like?

My application process was slightly different to normal – having completed a two-week shadowing / experience role I went from the online tests – circumvented the video interview – to the assessment centre. In the period building up to the assessment I found the RSM recruitment team extremely helpful and always went above and beyond to answer my questions about the process.

The assessment started with a group presentation and one-one interview with a line manager before lunch with an existing member of the team. The afternoon session involved a case study – this was c.90-minute task to analyse an information memorandum and statutory accounts and make a short presentation on the business/opportunity. Following the presentation there was a 60 -90-minute Q&A with two associates / managers. Although the Q&A can feel like a bit of grilling it is great chance to explain your thought process and demonstrate your full skill set while engaging and learning from experienced members of an M&A team.

What attracted you to the role?

Ultimately my attraction was not to a single specific role in Finance, rather a working environment where I felt I could add value to my work based on skills I had development through university. Coming out of university I was looking for a role that would provide a fast paced-dynamic environment that was analytically engaging while providing opportunities to gain commercial experience in outward / client facing environments – a few job markets sprang to mind. Eight months in it is safe to say that the world of Corporate Finance hits these criteria – and more.

What are my main duties?

Within RSM there is an opportunity and expectation that you will have touch points throughout the entire deal process. Throughout the deal you are expected to keep on top of the different lines of communication with shareholders, buyers and legal teams and record dialogues via file notes.

At the outset my main role was to work with an experienced colleague to process, analyse and present the information we received and the insights we gained from the shareholders into an information memorandum (IM) – the main marketing document. This involved working with management information to provide an analysis of the business’ trading performance and communicating the key messages of a business history, processes, growth and future strategy (opportunities) so that a consistent narrative flows throughout the IM.
Alongside the IM, Buyer research documents are produced which provide a synopsis of the market and the strategies that potential acquirers are pursuing – as an analyst there is a great opportunity to assume a large amount of responsibility for these documents.

As buyers are contacted there is a large emphasis on organisation and communication – partners look to the juniors to provide them with insightful information before each call and to stay on top of all communications with buyers – at times you could be contacting > 20 buyers in a day so organisation and keeping on top of the details is key. Towards the back end of deal the role reverts back to planning and creating documentation and providing analysis to support the shareholders through the management presentations. In the final stages I have worked with the shareholder legal teams and internal finance team to prepare the required documents for the process of financial due diligence. Outside of the deal processes I have been involved in creating full pitch documents and company profiles to support partners and directors for tendered bids.

What were the most important lessons learned from the internship?

As an analyst the main-role is to provide continuous deal support to the partners and directors. As they look to you for the broad scope information – keeping on top of the details and communicating the relevant information effectively to the entire team drives an efficient team and a smooth process. As an intern people expect that you will make mistakes, but not being afraid to ask questions, being resourceful to independently find a solution and learning quickly from your mistakes are what people look for.

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