Working life

What it’s like to work at FTI Consulting in corporate finance

21 Jun 2023, 15:41

Economics graduate Anna Cunningham made an early career plan to work in corporate finance. She explains why, and how she is enjoying the curiously high profile and under-the-radar world of restructuring and insolvency at FTI Consulting.

Image for What it’s like to work at FTI Consulting in corporate finance

What was your approach to a career in finance?

I knew I wanted to study economics at uni (Durham University) after becoming really interested in finance when I was at school – I was taught by some excellent economics teachers. When I started looking for a graduate job I sought out roles in corporate finance, in particular in mergers and acquisitions (M&A), because, like many economics students, I thought it was really glamorous. The more research I did the more I realised my interest lay in the distressed and ‘bad book’ stuff. Every case we deal with in corporate finance restructuring (CFR) is unique and the outcomes are both tangible and impactful. It seemed an excellent fit for me.

Anna Cunningham, Corporate Finance and Restructuring Associate at FTI Consulting.

Corporate finance associate, FTI

Why don’t we know more about CFR?

Many people seem to only find out about restructuring and insolvency (R&I) while on rotation in, say, audit, when they happen across a company in distress. I genuinely don’t know why R&I goes under the radar as a career because when high profile companies get into financial difficulties they hit the headlines.

What does your job involve and what do you do in a typical day?

I’m an associate in corporate finance and restructuring here at FTI Consulting . As a graduate everything is case dependent, budget dependent and varied. What you’re doing each day depends on who you are working with, and what the requirements of a particular case are.

As a general guide, when you start you’ll be doing a lot of reporting, accounting and traditional stakeholder communications, which gives you a great insight into how companies work and what happens when they are in distress.

As a firm FTI does a lot of market and company analysis, so we scope out which sectors look like they might go wrong and what areas might need help in future. That aspect of the job is super interesting as well, especially from a grad perspective, because you can apply your studies, uni degree, or reading to a real-world situation. That’s when you start realising ‘this company is going to need financial restructuring’ or ‘that event is going to lead to an insolvency’ – we get to do all of that in our team. Not every company that needs financial restructuring is in distress; sometimes a company has come to the end of its financial life cycle, or maybe the creditors or shareholders just want to wind it down. Also, while restructuring may seem inherently bad to outsiders, there are times when we are saving jobs and realising the best value possible for everyone involved in a company.

As FTI is a big firm, what options and pathways does that open up that might not be available at a smaller organisation?

We are not expected to fulfil a strict series of rotations or progression. FTI offers such a range of sector and advisory expertise that everyone receives a lot of support and you can really craft your own career. One of my co-workers, who is a year or so ahead of me, has recently taken up a long-term secondment to our office in Vancouver, Canada. As we have offices and projects all over the world, it’s possible to work internationally for a few weeks or few months. Within corporate finance as a whole, there is quite a large group of graduates, but not many in R&I. So I get individual attention and development opportunities within my team, but with the bigger grad cohort typical of elsewhere.

Does FTI support you through your professional studies?

Emphatically yes, and I didn’t realise just how supportive the firm was until I met people studying from elsewhere. Through my own research I knew professional qualifications were important to set up my career in corporate finance and that it was usual for an employer to allocate study time and offer support with costs. FTI goes further and not only covers our professional ACCA tuition and exam fees, it has a really good system of alternating quarters. That means I split my role with a graduate who joined alongside me, and when one of us is in a study quarter the other is covering at work, so we have less pressure. It really gives you time to focus on your studies. My advice to students is to research the finer details of your prospective employer’s study support policies because they can be so varied.

The world of corporate finance, and R&I in particular, seems to involve long working hours… how have you found that?

I think long working hours can be common across finance in general, not just corporate finance or R&I. I have never worked late alone; it’s a team thing and you are supported by senior colleagues. Our workload and cases go in peaks and troughs and some days are long, but other days are fine. In our sector long hours bring about tangible outcomes and you know the reason you are doing extra. It is really rewarding work.

Do you have volunteering opportunities? How do you relax?

FTI puts on sponsored corporate citizenship days, which you can volunteer for, and as graduates we do our own charity and fundraising challenges across the firm. Through that kind of event you really get to know people on other grad schemes, not just those in corporate finance. Most of my relaxation is done in the gym – membership is one of employee benefits I selected – and quite a few of my team go in there to do the same.

Can you offer any tips to students thinking of a career in corporate finance and R&I?

It may seem obvious, but keep up with news and current affairs, and research whether corporate finance and R&I are for you. Being able to demonstrate a genuine interest and knowledge in this area will set you apart, particularly as it’s not a well-known field. Personally I think it would be cool if more people knew about restructuring as a career path. You don’t have to go into say, audit, and get your professional qualifications beforehand, you can find R&I graduate roles – save yourself a step!

People reading this also searched for roles in these areas:

Related careers advice

undefined background image

We've got you

Get the latest jobs, internships, careers advice, courses and graduate events based on what's important to you. Start connecting directly with top employers today.