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Career in corporate finance is suitable for professionals with varying backgrounds Back  
Although most investment bankers train as chartered accountants, the industry attracts people from all backgrounds including engineering and the arts. Leo Casey writes that what’s important to succeed in the sector are strong analytical and inter-personal skills.
1. What is your educational background? I graduated from UCD with a BComm in 1992 and obtained a Master of Accounting from the Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business in 1993. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in 1995.

2. What has been your career path to date? I left Dublin after completing my articles and spent two years with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Luxembourg working initially on the audit side and subsequently in the management consulting division. I then moved into investment banking and joined Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein’s corporate finance team in Paris from 1998 to 2000. I returned to Dublin and have spent the past 5 years in IBI Corporate Finance.
Leo Casey

3. Are your peers from similar backgrounds? Many investment bankers are chartered accountants but that’s by no means a requirement. I know bankers with backgrounds as diverse as engineering, law and the arts. In some respects, an accountancy qualification gives you a head start over other qualifications but some of the best bankers I know aren’t accountants – creativity and an ability to think laterally are very important and a non-accounting background is arguably a benefit in this regard. Ultimately, strong analytical and inter-personal skills are pre-requisites for a corporate finance career and these skills can be developed across a wide range of academic disciplines.

4. Have you worked abroad? If so where and what did you do? Would you do so again? As described above, I spent about five years working on the Continent before returning to Ireland. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I wouldn’t rule out working abroad again, especially if it’s in a warm climate by the sea!

5. How would you compare career prospects internationally to those in Ireland? From a corporate finance perspective, London is clearly a very attractive location to cut your teeth in the investment banking game. The domestic market is quite small and having a couple of years experience working for a large international bank is certainly an advantage in terms of shaping a career in Ireland. That said, it’s possible to embark directly on a corporate finance career in Ireland although openings are relatively scarce.

6. Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role? Various courses covering valuation, negotiation and communications skills.

7. What skills/aptitude would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector? Strong analytical, inter-personal, project management and communications skills are essential. A flexible and adaptable approach to work is also important – corporate finance is full of variety but it’s not a job for someone who likes a steady, predictable, nine to five lifestyle.

8. What aspects of the job do you like most? The variety is great – jumping on a plane to pitch for new business one day to spending hours trying to solve a complex problem another. Every deal is different – new people, new challenges, new sectors – it can be great fun.

9. What aspects of the job do you like least? When the PC crashes at 11pm and you lose 4 hours work the night before a crucial pitch! Seriously, there are no real draw-backs – sometimes it can be very demanding but that’s part of the attraction in a funny way.

10. How do you define success in your sector?
Success is ultimately about an ability to do deals from start to finish – from winning new business through to executing the detailed transaction documentation.

11. Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry? I’d say Gordon Gekko would have been good value for a night out on the tiles in New York but he’s a work of fiction unfortunately! Seriously though, what Peter Sutherland achieved as an Irishman who rose to the highest level in Goldman Sachs is highly impressive by any standard. Dermot Desmond, Gary McGann of Smurfit and Liam O’Mahoney of CRH are also renowned Irish deal-makers.

12. What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector?
Be dogged in your pursuit of an opening – persistence pays.

13. In what areas are there the most opportunities in Ireland? IFSC/domestic etc.
While the corporate finance market in Ireland is quite small, there are a number of very well regarded advisory houses. Dublin is the main market as openings outside of Dublin are very limited.

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