Interview with a Manager in M&A
In this interview, Walid gives us an insight into his career, shares his experiences, and provides advice for those considering a career in an M&A boutique
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your academic and professional background?
My name is Walid Benmostefa, I am 29 years old, and currently serve as an M&A Manager at Crowe RSA Corporate Finance.
I completed two years of preparatory classes before enrolling in a business school in Paris. I took a gap year between my Master 1 and Master 2 and had three internships, one in internal audit and another in credit analysis. My third and final gap-year internship was in a hotel investment fund. This last internship allowed me to work for 5 months on complex financing schemes and to produce reports for investors. This internship played a crucial role in shaping my career, as it helped me deepen my understanding of corporate finance before pursuing my Master 2 in London with a more solid grasp of finance activities.
After completing my Master 2, I did an M&A internship at Crowe RSA Corporate Finance, where the partner quickly made me aware that by joining the company, I would be involved in all aspects of the deal process.
Can you tell us about the company you work for and the types of deals you handle?
I am currently employed at Crowe RSA Corporate Finance, a Paris-based M&A and financing advisory firm. We are part of the Crowe network, which is ranked as the 9th largest audit and advisory network globally. Our parent company, RSA Group, offers services in financial audit, accounting, and transactional audit. Our specialty at RSA Corporate Finance is providing advisory services for acquisitions and transfers, as well as financing advice for activities such as leveraged buyouts, management buyouts, management buy-ins, financial engineering, and fundraising.
We assist shareholders, companies, and investment funds with their M&A operations in France and internationally through our extensive network of contacts in the small to mid-cap market segment.
How would you describe your role to someone with little knowledge about it? Can you walk us through a typical day in your work?
As an M&A Manager, my main responsibility is to make sure the sale or acquisition of a company is optimized and secured. In terms of a typical day, it can vary greatly as we need to be flexible and respond to our clients’ needs. I may spend two days working on financial models and valuations and then spend the next two days in client meetings. No day is the same in my line of work.
Why choose to pursue a career in M&A as opposed to Transaction Services, Private Equity, or another department within the banking industry?
One of the key attractions of M&A is the tremendous growth opportunity it presents. M&A deals with a company’s strategic issues and requires analysts to understand how companies develop, organize and adapt to enter new markets. The global understanding of the company’s business plan is also accompanied by a more technical but equally important aspect: the development of financial and accounting skills.
Therefore, I chose M&A because I wanted to develop both my financial and strategic analysis abilities and be exposed to all stages of a deal, both on the buy and sell side. Furthermore, the generalist and formative nature of a first experience in M&A provide numerous career opportunities in Private Equity and Investment Banking.
👉 For more information on this topic, find our dedicated article: Why work in M&A (especially at the beginning of your career)?
What do you enjoy about your job? Is there anything you dislike about it?
What I enjoy the most about my job is the support and exchange that comes with accompanying a company throughout the M&A process. This requires frequent communication to understand their needs, perspectives and level of understanding of an M&A operation.
The only downside of this profession is the intense competition. At times, you may feel confident in your relationship with a fund or company, only to find out that they have chosen another boutique for their transaction. This business demands a calm and composed demeanor, as you can never be sure you will get the deal. In my opinion, the key to a successful operation is the personal relationship you will build with companies and funds.
What differences do you see for an intern between working in M&A in a large bank, in a boutique, in a big 4 firm and in the finance department of a company (M&A in house)?
Working in a large bank usually involves working with large teams and dealing with big-cap transactions. As a result, the intern may have limited responsibilities and may not get much recognition.
In contrast, boutique firms tend to have a more personalized approach, with smaller teams (usually no more than 3-4 people per deal). This means that the intern’s contribution and skills may be more valued.
Big 4 audit firms have more advanced expertise, as they advise many of their long-standing clients. The long-standing relationship allows for deeper analysis and a better understanding of the industry.
Finally, M&A in a group’s financial department offers a totally different perception of the business, as it places more emphasis on the strategic aspect of deals. This includes a focus on synergies and post-operation integration.
What tasks can an M&A intern be responsible for?
As an M&A intern, one can be involved in two types of activities: origination and transaction execution.
During the origination phase, the analyst will create presentations that include an analysis of the industry, researching potential partners, target companies or conducting initial valuation work.
In the transaction execution phase, the analyst will assist in preparing all aspects of the information memorandum, setting up the data room, and supporting the team with the overall organization of the deal.
Depending on the firm, the intern may also have opportunities to communicate with clients, counterparties, management teams, or lawyers.
We often talk about the very dense work pace in M&A? What about it?
Yes, the workload can be very intense. Employees are often required to handle multiple projects simultaneously while maintaining high quality standards.
For instance, at Crowe, mornings and afternoons are usually dedicated to team or client meetings. We often spend the rest of the day/evening writing pitches and memos.
Is it possible to do a first internship directly in M&A? If not, what would you recommend for a first internship before joining an M&A team?
While it’s possible to start with an M&A internship, it can be quite challenging. I would suggest starting with internships in areas such as audit, transaction services, credit analysis, or financial analysis. These types of internships are valued by recruiters and provide a strong foundation in corporate finance.
M&A requires a fast-paced work environment, so it’s advisable to have a strong technical background before pursuing a role as an M&A analyst. Without this foundation, a junior analyst may quickly feel overwhelmed and miss out on the opportunity to shine as a good intern.
In your opinion, is it necessary to have M&A experience before pursuing a career in Private Equity, Venture Capital, or Corporate M&A?
Having M&A experience can be beneficial and make it easier to enter these fields. Some recruiters may prefer candidates with M&A experience, but it is not an absolute requirement.
Can you tell me about the recent increase in M&A activity? What are the main drivers behind this growth?
The recent surge in M&A activity can be largely attributed to the high levels of liquidity in the market. The trend has become even more pronounced since the Covid-19 pandemic, due in part to government-backed loans provided to many companies. These loans have had a positive impact on the number of transactions and led to an increase in valuations for certain sectors.
The growth in M&A can also be attributed to the resilience of sectors such as technology and healthcare during the crisis. These sectors have seen an increase in transactions, accounting for 50% of M&A activity at Crowe.
What advice would you give to individuals interested in a career in M&A, in terms of interview preparation and understanding the industry?
Preparation is crucial when it comes to interviewing for an M&A position. Interviews in this field can be stressful, especially for students and juniors. The aim of the interview is not to trick candidates, but rather to assess their knowledge, motivation, and profile, and to ensure that they align with the values of the company.
My second piece of advice is to make sure that you have the right motivation for a career in M&A. A key factor in success in this field is a genuine interest in M&A and curiosity about the complexity and diversity of transactions.
Interview conducted by Florian Tupinier