This Infographic Breaks Down Careers In Finance, From Hedge Funds to M&A
Careers In Corporate Finance, From Hedge Funds to M&A
Corporate finance is a key pillar on which modern markets and economies have been built. And this complex ecosystem consists of a number of important sectors, which can lead to lucrative career avenues.
From lending to investment banking, and private equity to hedge funds, the graphic above by Wall Street Prep breaks down the key finance careers and paths that people can take.
Let’s take a further look at the unique pieces of this finance ecosystem.
The Lending Business
Lending groups provide much needed capital to corporations, often in the form of term loans or revolvers. These can be part of short and long-term operations or for events less anticipated like the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in companies shoring up $222 billion in revolving lines of credit within the first month.
Next, is investment banking, which can split into three main areas:
- Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A): There’s a lot of preparation and paperwork involved whenever corporations merge or make acquisitions. For that reason, this is a crucial service that investment banks provide, and its importance is reflected in the enormous fees recognized. The top five U.S. investment banks collect $10.2 billion in M&A advisory fees, representing 40% of the $25 billion in global M&A fees per year.
- Loan Syndications: Some $16 billion in loan syndication fees are collected annually by investment banks. Loan syndications are when multiple lenders fund one borrower, which can occur when the loan amount is too large or risky for one party to take on. The loan syndication agent is the financial institution involved that acts as the third party to oversee the transaction.
- Capital Markets: Capital markets are financial markets that bring buyers and sellers together to engage in transactions on assets. They split into debt capital markets (DCM) like bonds or fixed income securities and equity capital markets (ECM) (i.e. stocks). Some $41 billion is collected globally for the services associated with structuring and distributing stock and bond offerings.
The top investment banks generally all come from the U.S. and Western Europe, and includes the likes of Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse.
Sell Side vs Buy Side
Thousands of analysts in corporate finance represent both the buy and sell-sides of the business, but what are the differences between them?
One important difference is in the groups they represent. Buy-side analysts usually work for institutions that buy securities directly, like hedge funds, while sell-side analysts represent institutions that make their money by selling or issuing securities, like investment banks.
According to Wall Street Prep, here’s how the assets of buy-side institutions compare:
|Buy side institution||Total assets|
|Mutual Funds, ETFs||$21 trillion|
|Private equity||$5 trillion|
|Hedge funds||$3 trillion|
|Venture capital||$0.5 trillion|
Also, buy-side jobs appear to be more sought after across financial career forums.
Breaking Down The Buy Side
Mutual funds, ETFs, and hedge funds all generally invest in public markets.
But between them, there are still some differentiating factors. For starters, mutual funds are the largest entity, and have been around since 1924. Hedge funds didn’t come to life until around 1950 and for ETFs, this stretched to the 1990s.
Furthermore, hedge funds are strict in the clients they take on, with a preference for high net worth investors, and they often engage in sophisticated investment strategies like short selling. In contrast, ETFs, and mutual funds are widely available to the public and the vast bulk of them only deploy long strategies, which are those that expect the asset to rise in value.
Private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) are groups that invest in private companies. Venture capital is technically a form of PE but tends to invest in new startup companies while private equity goes for more stable and mature companies with predictable cash flow patterns.
Who funds the buy side? The source of capital roughly breaks down as follows:
|Source of capital||Capital amount|
|Pension funds||$34 trillion|
|Insurance Companies||$24 trillion|
Endowment funds are foundations that invest the assets of nonprofit institutions like hospitals or universities. The assets are typically accumulated through donations, and withdrawals are made frequently to fund various parts of operations, including critical ones like research.
The largest university endowment belongs to Harvard with some $74 billion in assets under management. However, the largest endowment fund overall belongs to Ensign Peak Advisors. They represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), with some $124 billion in assets.
Primary Market vs Secondary Market
One of the primary motivations for a company to enter the public markets is to raise capital, where a slice of the company’s ownership is sold via an allotment of shares to new investors. The actual capital itself is raised in the primary market, which represents the first and initial transaction.
The secondary market represents transactions after the first. These are considered stocks that are already issued, and shares now fluctuate based on market forces.
Tying It All Together
As the infographic above shows, corporate finance branches out far and wide, handles trillions of dollars, and plays a key part in making modern markets and economies possible.
For those exploring a career in finance, the possibilities and avenues one can take are practically endless.
Animated Chart: The S&P 500 in 2023 So Far
Track the S&P 500’s performance in 2023, including all 500 companies, and the sectors they belong to, in this animated video.
The S&P 500’s Performance in 2023 Q1
With one quarter of 2023 in the books, how has the S&P 500 performed so far?
The index had a tumultuous 2022, ending the year down 18%, its worst performance since 2008. But so far, despite dealing with tight monetary conditions and an unexpected banking crisis, the S&P 500 has promptly started to rebound.
The above animation from Jan Varsava shows the stock performance of each company on the S&P 500, categorized by sector.
Biggest Gainers on the S&P 500
The S&P 500 increased 7.5% during the first quarter of 2023. Though it was led by a few big outperformers, more than half of the stocks on the index closed above their end-of-December prices.
Here are the top 30 biggest gainers on the index from January 1 to March 31, 2023.
|4||Warner Bros. Discovery||59.3%|
|12||Monolithic Power Systems||41.8%|
|14||GE Healthcare Tech||40.5%|
|22||Royal Caribbean Group||32.1%|
|23||ON Semiconductor Corp||32.0%|
|25||Cadence Design Systems||30.8%|
Nvidia shares gained the most of all the companies on the S&P 500 in Q1 2023, posting a staggering 90% return over three months.
As the world’s largest chipmaker by market cap, Nvidia gained from both strong earnings and semiconductor industry performance. It also benefited from the rising prevalence of artificial intelligence (AI) through software like ChatGPT.
Meanwhile, other tech giants Apple and Microsoft gained 27% and 21% respectively over the same time period.
Tech Leads Returns by Sector
The technology sector as a whole was the best performing sectoral index thanks to these big moves, up 21.7% at the end of March.
Shares of other tech-adjacent companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) and Tesla—listed on the S&P 500 under the categories of communication services and consumer discretionary—also had a strong start to the year and lifted their respective sectors.
Meta in particular is up 76% in Q1 2023, continuing its rebound after falling to an eight-year low in November 2022 on the back of better-than-expected fourth quarter results and share buybacks.
Biggest Losers on the S&P 500
On the other side of the S&P 500, the financial sector was rocked by sudden collapses.
Signature Bank and Silicon Valley Financial Group shares lost the most ground in the first quarter, after both banks collapsed, shedding nearly all of their value in a matter of 30 days.
In fact, seven of the 10 worst performers on the index to start 2023 are banks or financial companies. The visualization shows the ripple effect on the market after the collapse of regional banks in March, and the ensuing rout driving the entire sector down 5.6% year-to-date.
Here are the top 30 biggest losers on the index from January 1 to March 31, 2023.
|2||Silicon Valley Financial Group||-99.6%|
|3||First Republic Bank||-88.5%|
|6||Charles Schwab Corp||-36.9%|
|10||Lincoln National Corp||-25.8%|
|14||Citizens Financial Group||-22.1%|
|15||Enphase Energy Inc.||-20.6%|
|16||Baxter International Inc.||-19.9%|
|17||Truist Financial Corporation||-19.9%|
|18||American International Group||-19.8%|
|19||CVS Health Corporation||-19.7%|
|27||PNC Financial Services||-18.8%|
|29||Fifth Third Bancorp||-17.8%|
Despite the tight monetary landscape, traditionally defensive sectors like energy, consumer staples, and healthcare also underperformed the broader index. This is a reversal from market trends seen in 2022.
Investment Trends to Watch for in 2023
Experts predict a pause in U.S. interest rate hikes “sometime in 2023” but it’s unclear when (or at what level) the pause will take place given persistent inflation in the economy.
However, if interest rates level off in 2023, it could be a key momentum maker for the S&P 500. As Barron’s points out, the index tends to rise after hikes are paused.
Meanwhile, the current tumult in the financial sector is fanning the flames of recessionary fears. How effectively regulators manage the crisis might be the story of the year.
Finally, as we have seen in 2023 so far, investor interest in AI has sent tech stocks soaring. Is this a quick fad, or an overarching trend for the year?
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