Corporate M&A specialists are usually the individuals within corporations tasked with overseeing M&A processes. Often working in tandem with the company’s strategy
manager, a corporate M&A specialist focuses on a company’s acquisition strategy – or put another way, the non-organic component of a company’s growth strategy.
What does a corporate M&A specialist do?
The short answer is – anything concerned with M&A.
This includes everything involved in the M&A cycle, from start to finish:
- Providing input into overall corporate strategy
- Developing an acquisition strategy
- Market analysis (Is now a good time to acquire? If so, in which industry segments?)
- Developing a target longlist
- Developing a target shortlist
- Initiating and fielding conversations with third parties (investment bankers, business brokers, third-party companies)
- Engaging with investment bankers to see if they know of suitable companies for sale or looking to merge
- Developing a market overview (which companies are for sale/likely to arise for sale, what are price levels judging by the feedback from the market)
- Maintain an ongoing dialogue with internal teams about the feasibility of different acquisitions from various perspectives (e.g. legal, financial, etc.)
- Providing internal feedback on how the acquisition strategy fits into the overall market as well as the company’s own
- Corporate development strategy
- Maintaining an ongoing dialogue with parties potentially interested in dialogue (many companies will only wish to sell after achieving certain parameters, e.g. revenue levels)
- Developing valuation methods, tools, and strategies for target companies
- Conducting due diligence, including selecting who is responsible for which part of the process, and what needs to be analyzed
- Making pre-arrangements for the integration phase
- Involvement in negotiations with third parties, setting the company agenda for the acquisition
- In-house discussions about acquisitions and strategy to be taken within negotiations
- Arranging deal closing (usually with some assistance from intermediaries)
- Coordinating the integration phase (possibly in conjunction with an integration specialist or a change manager).
Skills needed by corporate M&A specialists
While there is considerable overlap between an M&A specialist role and that of an investment banker, the corporate M&A specialist has more of an M&A project
management component than that of an investment banker (which tends to be more focused on in-depth financials and communications).
Required skills include:
- Self Starter: This so-called soft skill is arguably the most important trait that any corporate M&A specialist can possess. Deals don’t happen by themselves. As good as Walt Disney’s acquisition of Marvel was, Disney CEO Robert Iger had to go to painstaking measures to convince Marvel’s CEO that the deal made sense. This involves tapping up mutual friends, visits to homes, dinners the works. Put simply, you have to possess an insatiable hunger for deals.
- Project Management: As mentioned in the first paragraph, this role is ultimately all about managing projects (i.e. efficiently finding, acquiring, and integrating acquisitions). This involves keeping a lot of plates spinning at once, with several different deals often running concurrently at different phases.
- Financial Skills: Strong numerical and accounting skills are an absolute necessity. Some deals can be discarded as soon as you see the balance sheet – but that depends on the viewer being able to read the balance sheet. Investment bankers are also prone to using finance jargon, so understanding this can help corporate M&A specialists navigate their environment.
- People Skills: The role involves engaging with multiple internal and external stakeholders on an ongoing basis. Anyone involved in M&A needs to have strong listening and communication skills.
A day in the life
The day of a Corporate M&A specialist will depend to a large degree on how many deals the company is currently involved in, and where the company is in its process with those transactions (i.e. in negotiations, at the closing phase, etc.).
However, a typical day might look something like the following:
8 am-8:30 am: Reading and responding to emails from contacts in the market (investment bankers sending teaser documents, M&A platforms sending lists of what buyers and sellers in the market are offering, etc.).
8:30 am-9 am: Catching up on industry and market news. Has anything happened in the market overnight that will influence the day? (e.g. shock acquisition, resignation, rates change, Fed comments, etc.).
9 am-10 am: Internal strategy meeting. Maybe just to confirm the existing agenda, and conduct some brainstorming. Check progress on potential targets. Confirm updates to the presentation to be made to the board at the end of the month.
10 am-12 pm: Rounds of calls with sellers of other companies which appear potentially interesting, and can use the discussions to outline what the company is looking for. This will usually involve exchanging some NDAs and possibly follow-up calls.
12 pm-1 pm: Lunch with the management team of a company with which the company is in negotiations. The negotiations are at an advanced stage, and the lunch should provide a good opportunity for everyone to get to know one another better and discuss business.
1 pm-2 pm: Check progress on the virtual data room on where current deals are in progress. Are there any bottlenecks in any of the processes that need to be checked? Have any of the due diligence processes thrown up issues that need to be investigated further?
2 pm-4 pm: Internal strategy meeting about current targets. Updating on progress. Which owners look more likely to sell? Should the company hold off on an acquisition until the end-of-year financials are available? Address diligence issues that arose in the previous hour.
4 pm-6 pm: Valuation work with the finance team. Financial model walk-through with quantitative analyst, discussing why certain components were chosen, and how the target is likely to respond to an offer of this magnitude.
The average pay for an M&A analyst (near the bottom of the rung) is estimated at $70K per year.
This is slightly below an investment banking salary and also lacks the commissions and other bonuses that investment bankers avail of.
However, this is compensated for by the fact that Corporate M&A specialists are more likely to come from diverse academic backgrounds than their counterparts on Wall Street.
The cap for Corporate M&A specialists is somewhere north of $150K per year and less than $200K per year.
Typically, this would mean that the individual is of investment banking quality (in fact, many will come into these roles from investment banks).
Corporate bonus packages expected by directors are also typical at the highest levels, as the M&A department is invariably a key component of a large company’s growth strategy.
The first steps toward a corporate M&A specialist career
The M&A Science Academy was designed with the intention of creating outstanding M&A professionals.
The academy provides new students with in-depth modules on topics such as strategy, diligence, integration, culture, and leadership, all delivered by experienced industry professionals.
Whether you’re from a non-finance-related background or you’re working in the finance industry, there’s material here that can add value to your career in M&A, with new courses being added every month to ensure that you’re getting the very latest industry thinking.