Career path and advice from a senior consultant in Transaction Services
Transaction Services is a key activity of audit and consulting firms. To learn more about this profession, we asked Thomas Christophe (senior consultant in M&A and Transaction Services at Eight Advisory) to share with us his career path and his advice for joining a consulting firm in TS.
Can you describe your academic background and the experiences you had before joining Transaction Services?
After high school, I decided to go directly into accounting (preparatory school for the DCG). I had never done accounting but I knew that I liked numbers and math in general. To be on the safe side, I went to a business school anyway. This allowed me to have a 3-year core curriculum and better understand the business world. Not being sure of my orientation, I also wanted to learn several components of management and business administration.
During my first three years at ESDES Business School, I developed a keen interest in accounting and finance. As a result, I chose to pursue these areas further by enrolling in the Master’s in Audit and Corporate Finance program for my last two years. Additionally, I opted to take the DCG and DSCG exams independently, as I believed that having a double degree from a “non-target” school would provide me with more opportunities and set me apart from other candidates. Furthermore, I find that the specialized knowledge gained from these advanced accounting degrees is essential for a first job in finance, as the courses offered in business schools typically focus more on developing “soft skills” and are not as comprehensive as the DSCG.
During my final year in the specialized master’s program, I completed my end-of-studies internship at PwC in Lyon, where I worked in the “middle market” department specializing in auditing SME accounts. This internship was extremely beneficial, as it provided me with the opportunity to work closely with clients such as controlling managers, CFOs, and CEOs on a diverse range of audit cycles. In comparison, interns in the “Major Accounts” division are sometimes limited in terms of the scope of their tasks due to the size of the teams and clients. Typically, they are assigned to a specific audit cycle or task within a cycle.
After business school and this audit internship, what was your career path?
After completing my audit internship, I secured a permanent position in a “Major Accounts” division as I believed that it would provide me with better professional opportunities and exposure, given the size of the clients we worked with and the accounting standards used (US GAAP, IFRS). Consequently, I requested to be transferred to PwC’s Major Accounts Audit department in Lyon for my first permanent contract.
While working in this role, I became interested in Transaction Services after meeting PwC’s TS team in the cafeteria and workrooms. I was curious about their responsibilities and the sectors they were involved in. Through discussions with auditors, I learned that Transaction Services was a highly reputable service that handled more complex and high-value missions compared to other departments.
At the end of my third audit season, I expressed my interest in joining the Transaction Services department at PwC. After a series of interviews and a practical case, I was finally offered a position in the Transaction Services team, which I began in September 2021.
Now that you have moved to Transaction Services, what did you learn from your audit experience?
Moving to Transaction Services from a less prestigious school was more challenging for me as it is a selective and renowned field. While some schools easily pave the way to Transaction Services in the “Big Four”, I had to spend a few years in audit and count on internal promotion to join PwC’s Transaction Services division. Joining the department as an external candidate would have been more difficult for me.
Looking back, I believe that my career path provided me with a solid foundation in finance and accounting. Additionally, due to the high level of client exposure, auditing was an excellent learning opportunity for me to communicate clearly with clients, both in person and by e-mail. The profession also required a great deal of rigor and organization, making it a very formative experience.
How would you describe your job in Transaction Services?
In the Transaction Services division, we prepare financial reports for company sales or acquisitions. These reports involve presenting in-depth analyses of the company’s performance and business plan, identifying risks related to the transaction and conducting a “normative” analysis, which studies the recurring nature of one or more financial indicators. The report provides the buyer with an overall view of the target company, which can be used to estimate or negotiate its value.
It is common to draw a parallel (especially for a vendor due diligence report) with the real estate agent’s profession. Indeed, in the context of the sale of a property, the agent will prepare a report containing photos, various indicators, figures, etc. The notoriety of the agency can even have an impact on the scope of the analyses transmitted to the potential buyer.
Transaction Services firms are typically divided into three main areas: Transaction Services, Restructuring, and Valuation and Modeling.
👉 To learn more about these 3 departments, read our guide to Transaction Services, Valuation and Restructuring.
As far as I’m concerned, I am in the Transaction Services department. My role is therefore to intervene for the realization of Buyer Due Diligence (Buy side) or Vendor Due Diligences (VDD).
These due diligences aim at presenting in detail the key elements to be considered for the study of a given company. The objective is to produce a report that the reader can understand even without knowing the company or its sector.
During a due diligence, Transaction Services consultants must maintain their independence from the client. For example, during a Vendor Due Diligence, the Transaction Services team must present the company in an attractive way without concealing elements impacting the company’s profitability. It is therefore important to remain objective and honest about the company’s situation in order to maintain its credibility. It should also be noted that the firm is liable for the transmission of such a document.
Can we discuss the workload and compensation in Transaction Services?
In my opinion, when compared to investment banking or private equity, the workload in Transaction Services is less intense. However, our workload and pace are heavily influenced by the quality of the information we have and the files we’re working on.
Overall, I find the pace of work in Transaction Services to be significant, even during slowdowns, such as when a project is on hold due to process reasons. Typically, a workday starts at 9 am and ends around 7-7:30 pm. If a report needs to be delivered on time, the last week can be a bit busier, and the team may finish around 9-10 pm.
As you progress within the firm, you gain flexibility and can organize yourself to handle personal responsibilities, such as taking your children to school. This flexibility allows to balance work and family life, which is not always possible in all finance jobs.
Regarding compensation, a junior can expect to earn up to €45,000 gross per annum, with variable bonuses based on the deals and the firm’s performance. The academic background also plays a role in determining compensation.
What are the typical career opportunities after gaining experience in Transaction Services?
Recruiters generally favor candidates with experience in Transaction Services. After gaining this experience, it is often possible to join a finance or controlling department within a company. Private equity or Investment Banking positions are also potential career options.
Do you have any advice for candidates seeking a position in Transaction Services, such as interview preparation, firm selection, or practical tips?
Given the specialized strategic assignments and the technicity of the job, Transaction Services remains a relatively exclusive and elitist profession. Therefore, candidates must demonstrate a high level of precision and be prepared to manage a significant workload. Additionally, candidates should have a solid understanding of accounting principles, including the ability to effectively analyze financial statements.
While attending a well-known school may make it easier to enter the Transaction Services field, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have that advantage. A motivated and dedicated individual can quickly advance within an audit firm and then apply for an internal transfer. If the request for an internal transfer is not granted, candidates can also apply for a position in the Transaction Services department of a competing firm. Remember, nothing is impossible, and you need to be organized and hardworking to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.
Finally, can you describe what you enjoy most and least about your job in Transaction Services?
In my experience, there isn’t necessarily a “bad” aspect to the job. However, it is demanding and requires sometimes the ability to manage a heavy workload while dealing with stressful situations. It can also make achieving a good work-life balance difficult, and after a few years, some of the tasks can become repetitive.
On the positive side, what I find most appealing about the job is the opportunity to work with a variety of companies. This is especially true at the Lyon offices, which have a generalist approach and are not limited to a single sector. Working with a range of clients has allowed me to grow my network and gain valuable knowledge across multiple industries. Additionally, the profession provides an opportunity to gain solid accounting and financial knowledge.