Corporate finance refers to the acquisition and use of funding for private companies, for purposes including capital financing, capital investments, and short-term budget. As such, savvy decision-making in this area can have critically important consequences for the successful strategic management of a business, with impacts on valuation, cash flow, and other key determinants of financial health.
On the capital financing side, companies must consider the pros and cons of different funding strategies, given their stage of development. For example, early-stage companies may depend on venture capital (VC) financing or angel investors, while more mature companies may consider taking on private equity investment or even undertaking an initial public offering (IPO). Corporations may also consider borrowing debt instead of equity financing.
Corporate finance is also concerned with the uses of capital, particularly when it comes to project finance and other capital investments. Financial managers and analysts must carefully evaluate projections of future revenues generated by these capital investments, compare them to the net present value of other potential uses of funding in order to make decisions that maximize shareholder value. And, in the near term, managers must ensure that there is enough working capital and operating cash flows to meet the needs of day-to-day operations.
Because corporate financing decisions can have such a huge impact on a company’s bottom line in the short term and long term, top executives such as CEOs must have at least a basic understanding of this field. However, the primary responsibility for giving decision-makers the data and advice they need to make these choices lies with financial managers, such as chief financial officers (CFOs) and treasurers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers earned a median annual salary of $129,890 as of May 2019. Professionals in these high-paying roles typically have at least a bachelor’s degree and 5 years or more of experience in business or finance. Given the importance of this job, many companies preferentially seek out candidates who also have a master’s degree in finance, business administration, or economics.
Absolutely. Whether you’re a student or a mid-career professional, Coursera has courses and Specializations to help you learn about corporate finance and related business topics. Coursera gives you the opportunity to learn remotely about this field from top-ranked schools from around the world, including the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Melbourne. You’ll get to learn the same course materials from the same great faculty as on-campus students while paying a significantly lower tuition, making this a wise investment in your own financial success.
Before starting to learn corporate finance, the skills and experience that you might need to already have include a good understanding of finance, accounting, economics, financial data and analysis. You might be able to gain these skills and experience in financial roles like a data entry clerk, bookkeeper, research associate, accountant, internal auditor, loan officer, or financial analyst. Having this experience can introduce you to the fundamentals of three key areas of corporate finance—capital budgeting, capital structure, and working capital. For example, people working in financial planning and analysis are responsible for helping corporate departments set financial goals in terms of revenue and expenses. Jobs in corporate finance may involve work in data consolidation, data management, and variance analysis to assess the key metrics of a department’s financial targets.
The kind of people best suited for work that involves corporate finance are those who are already financially inclined and interested in learning more about the finer points of budgeting, capital expenditures, and financial analyses. These people may have already gained experience and skills from working in banks, insurance companies, or attaining a business degree from a college or university. Working in corporate finance means having the ability to increase shareholder wealth value by balancing internal and external risk with sound financial strategic planning. It’s not a job for the faint of heart and demands special requirements of those working in corporate finance.
You might know if learning corporate finance is right for you if you have an interest and knowledge in data and numbers, knowledge of financial practices, and interest in working your way up the corporate ladder in the finance area. If you're a financially-oriented person who has an interest in how organizations spend money, invest money, and manage financial risks, then a career in corporate finance might be the right step for you to pursue.
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