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Harvard Baker Scholar’s McKinsey Corp. Fin. Prep

Did you enjoy the program? If yes, how?

The program was a very pleasant experience. The FC team was polite, professional and very accommodating to my hectic IBanking schedule! They were also very honest and this honesty, more than anything else, made me want to work with them. I was one of their first CF clients back in 2010 and Michael was upfront  they could train me, but had never before trained someone targeting CF. He offered to reach out to an INSEAD professor whom he knew and had been a super-star at McKinsey Corporate Finance, and use his thoughts on building the program.

Overall, my coach took the time to explain concepts in great detail and build an effective program around my limited weekend availability.

I liked the constant availability of my coach. I could always reach him on Skype to get a response. This is a BIG advantage since not everything can be planned in the short 1-hour sessions we had to practice cases. I felt Michael was always willing to answer questions and take the time to find better explanations if I did not understand anything.

Michael also never tried to dismiss or belittle a question when he did not have an answer. I recall a call where I wanted to know if McKinsey would test my ability to calculate betas in a case interview. He did not know and followed up with his professor friend. This greatly improved my confidence in the program.

Did the program meet your expectations? If yes, how?

Yes, because I obtained an offer from McKinsey Corporate Finance. I liked the emphasis on communication, networking and values but that was not my main interest areas. They were more a “nice-to-have” rather than anything I expected or felt was that crucial to my success.

The balance between detailed finance and strategy training was good. There was enough of both and while the program was new, the coaches knew the material well enough to get me to understand the basics better. I did learn lots of new ways to handle corporate finance issues from the training.

What was the most important learning’s from the program?

I was very impressed with the way Michael taught me corporate finance strategy cases. The shareholder-value-creation approach was sublime! That was the biggest lesson for me: all of the frameworks I was learning to create through brainstorming had to snuggly fit into the SVA approach: if it did not, there was a problem with the framework I created.

This easily topped any other learning’s I had. By knowing this master framework, I could tackle any corporate strategy or corporate finance case. It was like having a map to any strategy case. Thanks for teaching me this Michael.

One thing business schools can do better is link up all the different skills we learn. My training did this. I was trained what skill to deploy and when to deploy it.

Do you feel the program provided an advantage for you versus your own/other preparation? If so, in what way?

I cannot speak for others but there is no corporate finance case interview advice anywhere! It was the problem when I did the training and I believe it is still a problem. In my case, having this program was a big advantage.

The advantage came from three areas:

1) Michael’s knowledge of corporate finance was very high and he was able to discuss something at the high strategy level of an M&A decision and then zoom into a technical concept like calculating Beta’s to see show how changes in assumptions would affect the valuation and the decision on the deal. This was a good skill which I did not have but seems obvious to have – now anyway! People with whom I trained, and even at McKinsey, where good at one or the other. Very few are good at both and these are the people who become partners and can handle complex client issues.

2) The decision tree approach to build frameworks was great. I did not have time to study every type of case and by focusing my training around decision trees I was able to develop a technique I could apply to any case. I am not saying this was easy to learn at first, but I figured it out at the end.

3) Hypotheses are poorly taught in other books. Michael has this neat trick to develop hypotheses from decision trees. That was so simple and obvious to me – after the training. I never really thought about MECE hypotheses until the program and was previously encouraged to just throw out some ideas. Michael’s pounces on that like a cat and brings cold structure to things.

Can you recall any memorable moments?

In my first session, Michael wanted to demonstrate how effective structuring of a case can yield better insights. He asked me to pick either a deal I had worked upon or a client I knew well and had worked upon.

I picked a public company where I had 3 deals under my young belt!

Michael played the role of a candidate and wanted to develop their corporate strategy, while I played the role of an interviewer. He asked me a few questions about their business model, balance sheet, portfolio, types of deals done previously and their sizes. It was about 7 questions in all. He quickly zipped through a good objective function developed a structure around creating SV and developed some great hypotheses. The hypotheses were very close to those we have discussed internally – that was scarily impressive: Since the company was highly geared; it would need to sell non-cash-flow generating assets to maintain their debt covenants.

That was impressive to see how strategy and finance could be blended to work together. I was sold from that point on.

What would you like changed in the program?

The program was very good and the suggestions below relate to the fact that I was one of the first corporate finance clients FC had ever had. That was about 2 years ago so many of my suggestions may be redundant:

• It would have been nice to have had videos with the solutions to some tough corporate finance cases. This could serve as a good guide between the sessions.

• Hopefully in time FC will have more corporate finance clients and allow us to practice together. The rules around client confidentiality are great, but we should have a system to practice without disclosing any details.

• Michael has a tonne of useful advice and stories. He should consider creating a type of podcast station on iTunes to share these. I especially liked his detailed stories about his own engagements in consulting.

• I found the sessions so useful that I spent most of my time taking notes and not enough time listening. If the sessions could be recorded and made available to clients that would be very useful.

• I found our cases to be heavily focused on data and graphs and would have preferred less of these and more strategy cases. This is a personal preference and other clients may prefer FC’s heavy data focus in cases.

Do you believe your coach was effective?

Michael is very polished. He knows what he is doing and is able to consistently articulate that purpose through the sessions.

We did face some obstacles, since the corporate finance program at FC was being developed as we progressed, but Michael was able to keep me simultaneously focused on addressing my brainstorming skills, case skills and corporate finance skills. It is very hard to find good preparation services for corporate finance cases and Michael and the FC team are a standout here. More than once Michael would refer to a famous finance paper and give me the page number to review! He knows his stuff.

Although the values focus of FC did not seem important to me, it was nice to see someone take this so seriously and practice it every day. I was impressed with this and it validated my decision to join management consulting. The culture is truly different.

Do you personally believe the sessions were tailored for your own development?

I would say yes. As an early corporate finance client Michael was transparent that no corporate finance program existed and it would be developed for me as my skills developed or did not develop.

What are your thoughts on using former McKinsey/BCG worldwide practice leaders to coach clients?

I worked with FC two years ago so it is nice to see they have grown so far in such a short space of time. Given the quality of the program it was expected they would expand and I am impressed they have not chosen to grow too quickly by selecting analysts and consultants to do the training.

Personally, I think some analysts and consultants could do fine as coaches, but my experience with Michael was that his knowledge was much deeper as a partner. The senior partners will only deepen this difference so I think it is a good idea.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

No, I thought FC was a great investment and experience for me.

We have published the most useful client feedback. Our commitment to confidentiality prevents us from disclosing the identity of our clients and other confidential information, and we may alter details to prevent such disclosure. Some client feedback may be lightly edited for grammar, spelling or prose, though we never alter or remove any information. Clients in our consultants coaching program are forbidden from sharing sensitive client data with us.

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