_ TLDR: Disgruntled PWM solo is inspired by CFA exam and AF participants to step into Corp Finance, ends up being a CFO at a highly successful tech startup. _
Exactly 2 years ago, I joined this forum as a PWM solo practitioner. I already had my CFP and was almost done with my MST. I took on the CFA challenge. The CFA curriculum exposed to me what “real finance” is supposed to look like in terms of focus and intensity. It inspired and angered me. I was angry:
That my colleagues lied to everyone (and themselves) about what was really needed to do right by clients.
That I hadn’t started this years earlier.
That clients/prospects (individuals, not institutions) were too stupid to understand the importance of CFA-level material.
Because of the exam and what I saw on the AF forums, I started looking for a way into corp finance or a capital markets job. CFAvsMBA and Numi were supportive, but I think they both knew the chances of me getting into an investment bank were zilch. I appreciate that they were polite without selling me false hope. (Hell, I would have even appreciated if Itera came in and flatout told me to get lost, but that never happened).
Despite all my educational pedigrees and entrepreneurial experience, there I was groveling for an entry-level job at the age of 33. I put in 12 failed apps on Linkedin, but then used a referral to land an interview at a large hospitality company (1 of the 12 companies that initially rejected me). The week before the interview, I used what I had learned in the CFA and my MS program to put together a 15-page demo. I received the highest starting salary for the job out of 150+ candidates.
The best part of the job was also the worst part of the job. I’m used to working with superstars that went to Ivy League schools, hold a CPA/CFA, or survived a few years on Wall Street. What I noticed very quickly was that everyone was a fucking JV player who spent more time making excuses and talking about getting things done, instead of actually getting things done. Not a single person held any ambitions of learning how to use Excel without the mouse, how to run a SQL query, of obtaining their CFA/CPA, or improving our mundane processes with macros.
The VP of finance was a tyrannical hypocrite. She came up to my desk after work and told me I should consider quitting. I told her flat out that she might think I’m the weakest analyst now but that I’d eventually become the strongest analyst (which I did). I built and automated a lot of dashboards that went company-wide, and started doing analysis that went out monthly to our private equity shareholders. My finance manager and the CFO suggested to the VP that I be promoted. For whatever reason, she rejected their advice. I told her that the fairest solution was to put it to test. If I failed to find a senior analyst job paying out 70K-80K, that means I overvalued myself. But if I found a senior analyst role, that’d mean she was wrong.
While my employee evaluations and this discussion was going on, my friend’s tech startup had undergone some major changes. My friend’s company was backed by Y-Combinator and was just approaching the $1M run rate. The startup had already closed deals with F500 clients and sales were growing at 30%-40% EACH MONT H. As such, we are raising money now at a 35M valuation.
He was drowning in the need for some basic accounting and finance work (cleaning the books, filing tax returns, reporting financials to investors). He invited me to the CFO starting in summer 2017, and wanted me to work the weekends for him until then to get my feet wet. I told him I’d need 2 years to get my CPA and learn enough to earn my place as a CFO.
After being denied my promotion at my day job, I asked to join the start-up full time. During my sales pitch, I prepared some numbers for one of their investor meetings and even took the train to NYC to meet with the investor. I am proud to say that my prep helped us seal the largest investor cheque the startup ever received. I joined this company as the head of the finance and accounting operations at the end of September. My official title is a VP and the contract was written in a way that would upgrade me to a CFO after we raised another 5M. Now that our Series A is underway, the founders are going to start discussing raising my compensation to an appropriate level. We’re talking 60% to 100% gain over my last job in cash PLUS the equity in the company (I’m already at 0.75%)
The CFA is a wonderful process, but I’m sure you’d agree that the CPA is more relevant for me now. As I am putting the CFA on a temporary hold, I no longer have a place in this forum. I hope to pass 3 or 4 CPA exams over the next 12 months. I just wanted to thank everyone here for helping me get through CFA L1.