Corporate Finance vs Investment Banking

Difference Between Corporate Finance and Investment Banking

Corporate finance refers to the financial aspect of company and involves decision making relating to funding, investment sources like debt or equity and analysis of financial project overall in terms of profitability and costs whereas investment banking refers to financing activities that relate to raising finance in the company through stock trading or others and it is subpart of corporate financing.

Corporate finance and investment bankingInvestment BankingInvestment banking is a specialized banking stream that facilitates the business entities, government and other organizations in generating capital through debts and equity, reorganization, mergers and acquisition, more are among the most promising career choices for finance students. Both of these areas offer highly competitive job roles and excellent prospects to grow as a professional. Here, we would attempt to study the nature of work, compensation, work-life balance and other aspects and draw a comparison between these two careers. For the sake of clarity, we would first need to broadly define corporate finance and investment banking.


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What is Corporate Finance?

Corporate Finance defined as the finance structure of the corporation which deals with various elements in the entity such as management actions, funding resources. It guides to take necessary steps so as to increase the value of the firm with the help of appropriate survey and implement to assign recourses of finance.

The main objective of corporate finance is to increase the value of the corporation so as to increase the value of shareholders. Corporate Finance enhances mainly of three sectors of the entity such as capital budgeting, capital structure, and working capital managementWorking Capital ManagementWorking Capital Management refers to the management of the capital that the company requires for financing its daily business operations. It is important for the company in order to maximize its operational efficiency, manage its short term liabilities and assets properly, avoiding the underutilization of the resources and avoiding the overtrading, more

What is Investment Banking?

Investment banking is a separate division of banking, which provides services for individuals and organizations to raise the funds through securities. Investment banker helps the securities issuers to go public and also may act as a mediator between the public, organizations, and companies which issue securities to the public.

It shows how to raise funds from the companies which issue the securities by the individuals and other Entities from all over the world. There are few notable investment banking sectors recognized globally such as JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, etc. Investment banking has dealt with various sectors underwriting and acting as mediator etc.

Conceptual Differences

Corporate Finance

  • Corporate finance is basically concerned with the financial activities of a company. Any decisions for investments or for raising capital fall within its domain.
  • The fundamental objective is to maximize the value of a business by making strategic financial decisions which might include allocation of resources, identifying avenues for reinvesting profits or raising capital by issuing equity or debt securities.
  • It must be understood that corporate finance is much broader in scope and investment banking can be defined as more of a sub-area of corporate finance.

Investment Banking

  • It deals with major financing activities including the issue of securities, acquiring other businesses (M&A activity) and similar functionalities aimed at raising capital for a business.
  • Investment bankers are typically hired by big corporations to facilitate these significant fundraising activities, which demand specialized approach and expert knowledge on part of the professionals.
  • This is why, despite technically being a sub-domain of corporate finance, investment banking qualifies as a distinct field in its own right and recognized as investment bankers are recognized as heavyweights for the kind of roles they carry out.


Corporate Finance

Skills needed:

Investment Banking

Skills Needed:

Corporate Finance vs Investment Banking Infographics


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Key Differences

  1. The basic difference between corporate finance and investment banking is the fact that the former is a broader concept while the latter is a narrow concept. Moreover, investment banking is a part of corporate finance.
  2. Corporate financing helps in the management of an entity whereas investment banking allows an entity to grow i.e. raise its capital.
  3. Another difference could be the fact that the former is used to analyze the financial statements of one’s own company whereas the latter is used to analyze the financial statements of other companies. In other words, corporate finance is concerned with the financial operations of an organization and it enables an organization to make crucial decisions pertaining to investment making and raising capital whereas investment banking is concerned with significant financing activities of other companies to help them raise capital for themselves. The financing activities in investment banking may include mergers and acquisitions of other companies, issues of shares, etc solely for the purpose of enabling organizations to raise their share capital.
  4. The purpose of corporate financing is to help an organization in maximizing its worth through financial decisions that are strategic in nature and involves activities like resource allocation, identification of reinvesting options, raising capital through the issue of equity shares or debt, and so on.
  5. The variety of job roles offered in corporate financing are higher as compared to the variety of job roles offered in investment banking.
  6. Corporate financing jobs are not that competitive in comparison to the jobs in Investment banking.
  7. A corporate financing analyst will need to prepare financial reports for the company they are hired in whereas an investment banking analyst will be required to prepare pitch books and memorandums for other companies.
  8. A corporate financing analyst is levied with the responsibility of preparation of tax returns and offers tax advisory services for the company in which he or she is employed. On the other hand, an investment banking analyst is levied with the responsibility of offering advisory services to other companies.
  9. A corporate financing analyst manages short-term as well as long-term business goals of an entity and even takes care of the day to day business operations of the same. On the other hand, an investment banking analyst is concerned with raising capital for organizations, providing underwriting services, mergers and acquisitions, retail and commercial banking, sales and trading and equity researchEquity ResearchEquity Research refers to the study of a business, i.e., analyzing a company's financials, performing Ratio Analysis, Financial forecasting in Excel (Financial Modeling), & exploring scenarios to make insightful BUY/HOLD/SELL stock investment recommendations. Moreover, the Equity Research Analysts discuss their findings & details in the Equity Research Reports. read more.
  10. The skills required to become a corporate financing professional are excellent written and verbal communication skills and a thorough understanding of corporate financing. On the other hand, the skills required to become an investment banking professional are financial skills, excellent oral and written communication skills and mental mathematics skills.
  11. Corporate financing jobs are not as stressful as investment banking jobs. This is merely due to the fact that investment banking jobs are very demanding and it requires an individual to give more of time and be always on the go while corporate financing is quite easy and the professionals will be required to dedicate a fixed amount of time only.

Employment Outlook

Corporate finance is not only broader in its scope but also offers a greater variety of job roles as compared to investment banking. It must also be made clear that investment banking rolesInvestment Banking RolesInvestment bankers play diverse roles and responsibilities in a company as analysts, associates, vice president and managing director. They handle the front, middle, and back-office responsibilities to cater to the clients with all sort of financial more are typically far more competitive than most of the corporate finance roles and are comparatively hard to find as well. In corporate finance, individuals can carve out a career path as an accountant, financial analyst, advisors, account managers or treasurer among other professional roles.

Investment banking is not only a specialized branch of corporate finance with fewer career opportunities. Investment bankers help their clients issue equity and debt securities to raise major capital and facilitate M&As (Mergers & Acquisitions) along with other major financing activitiesFinancing ActivitiesThe various transactions that involve the movement of funds between the company and its investors, owners, or creditors in order to achieve long-term growth are referred to as financing activities. Such activities can be analyzed in the financial section of the company's cash flow more. This kind of role requires people on the higher end of the spectrum in terms of communication skills and negotiation abilities, authoritative knowledge of finance and a flair for mathematics, qualities which can be a little difficult to find in a single individual.

Till about a decade ago, investment banking was the preferred choice of a career in finance. However, the playing field has been leveled out to an extent in the past few years, as investment banking took a hit, especially in the post-credit crunch era as the economy continues to recover and the financial industry is witnessing a large scale restructuring. Even today, investment banking is a prized choice but it has become increasingly difficult to get in. In New York and London, two of the global investment banking hubs, they prefer to hire from the best of Ivy League schools, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

On the whole, as per an estimate by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the financial industry is set to witness nearly 11% job growth between 2012 and 2022. This can be considered a healthy figure, as far as long-term averages go and it bodes well for anyone planning to take up finance as a career.

Corporate Finance vs Investment Banking Salary

Corporate Finance

It would be quite difficult to identify the average earnings of corporate finance professionals as the nature of work varies a great deal from one job role to another.

  • However, as per research by Robert Half International in 2009, an entry-level financial analyst earns anywhere between $35,000 to $50,000 annually.
  • In larger firms, they could earn between $40,000 to $50,000.
  • To put things in perspective, perks have gone up since, taking the median salary for a financial analyst to around $79,000 as of May 2014 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Experienced analysts can earn as much as $55,000 to $88,000 whereas a tax manager might earn between $90,000 to $130,000 per year.
  • Assistant Treasurer could earn between $85,000 to $115,000. On the higher-end, a chief financial officer (CFO) can have a pay package in excess of $250,000 on average.

Investment Banking

Despite a slight downturn in the investment banking sector, it continues to offer much higher remuneration as compared to any jobs in corporate finance.

  • Even investment banking interns might earn $70,000 to $80,000 on average and after joining as an analyst, they could earn between $115,000 to $130,000 with bonuses in the range of $15,000 to $30,000.
  • One of the most significant factors in this respect is the size of the firm which largely determines the kind of remuneration one might be offered.
  • For instance, large firms in New York could pay between $120,000 to $200,000 for top MBA graduates, which is way above the average package.
  • However, in smaller firms, it could be comparatively much lower. After accumulating experience of more than 3 years, associates could earn anywhere in excess of $200,000 per year on average. There has also been a rising trend of equity-based incentives being awarded to investment banking associates.

Both in corporate finance and investment banking, the size of the firm hiring an individual might make all the difference in terms of pay packages and incentives. This is why remuneration for similar positions might vary to a great extent in different firms so based on salary figures Investment banking should clearly be the better choice but it appears that with a large firm, one might be able to earn much higher in a corporate finance position as well.

Comparative Table

Basis of comparison Corporate Finance Investment Banking
Type of work More of back-end work Both front-end and back-end work.
Preparation of documents In corporate financing, the financial reports of a company are prepared. In investment banking, the pitch books and memorandum are prepared.
Purpose The purpose of corporate financing is to take care of the management of an entity. The purpose of investment banking is to allow the client companies to raise their share capital by issue of securities, mergers and acquisitions and such other measures.
Variety of job roles There are higher varieties of job roles offered in corporate financing. There are fewer varieties of job roles offered in investment banking.
How easy it is to find jobs in the respective fields? Corporate financing jobs are easier to find as there are endless varieties and opportunities offered to the professionals willing to make a career in the same. Investment banking jobs are not easier to find as there are fewer varieties and only a few openings available for the professionals willing to make a career in the same.
Competitive Corporate financing jobs are comparatively less competitive. Investment banking jobsInvestment Banking JobsThe investment banking job description is a formal narrative that lists out the essential qualification, basic skills and technical skills required in a candidate to fill in the vacant investment banker position. It also explains the roles and responsibilities to be performed in this job more are highly competitive.
Work lifestyle Less erratic in nature when compared to investment banking. Highly erratic in nature when compared to corporate financing.

Career Pros & Cons

Corporate Finance

  • The average median salary for several corporate finance positions indicates that most of the openings in this domain fall in the higher-earning bracket within the financial industry. Perks are quite good and growth prospects are abundant.
  • There is a greater variety of career roles as compared to investment banking, making it easier to choose a role in keeping with individual skill sets and capabilities.
  • A higher number of openings are available in this field as compared to investment banking. Despite being competitive, it would not be nearly as difficult to land an opening in corporate finance as in investment banking.
  • Work hours are not among the best but stand on a much better level as compared to investment banking. As far as finance careers are concerned, work hours are not bad but then again it might depend on the exact nature of the role and the work pressure.
  • For some of the job roles, a Master’s Degree could be required, and generally, people with relevant certifications to support their career role are preferred over most others. This makes the field slightly more competitive as compared to some other finance areas. However, corporate finance involves key decision-making activities and it would only be reasonable if employers prefer to hire those with a competitive advantage.
  • Most career roles are not nearly as well as paying as the majority of investment banking jobs. However, with a good firm, one could bag a higher pay package.
  • One of the obvious downsides is in terms of recognition. Where investment bankers are often lauded for their contribution to successfully brokering M&A deals or other major transactions, corporate financial analysts are not considered on the same pedestal despite the critical nature of their work.

Investment Banking

  • It is a kind of front-runner choice in terms of a finance career. One of the reasons being that it is one of the best compensated jobs which brings a good deal of industry recognition. Entry-level perks are undoubtedly among the best in the financial industry and even an entry-level investment banker working with a large firm can earn much better as compared to more experienced professionals in other areas of finance.
  • The learning curve is steep for entry-level analysts who get to work in an intensive work environment and interact with some of the best minds in the industry. The initial phase of 2-3 years can help them acquire a solid foundation in investment banking and could be in for the long haul. After putting in a few years of hard work, they can go on to occupy the positions of VP, Director, and Managing Director.
  • This job role is cut-out for those driven by a desire to outperform competition and possess a combination of excellent negotiation capabilities, advanced knowledge of finance and the ability to handle intense work pressure.

Work-Life Balance

Corporate finance appears to be a better choice in terms of working hours as compared to investment banking. In fact, investment banking enjoys a rather poor reputation for intense work hours and there is but little time left for family, friends, recreation or relaxation. As one of the most competitive finance jobs, one would rather expect professionals at higher levels to be incentivized with better work-life balance, but it might not be the case.

Even in corporate finance, work hours are not among the best but professionals usually have enough time and energy left to stretch their legs. However, as most of the roles in corporate finance widely differ in terms of responsibilities, work hours might also vary. Still, on average, they enjoy a more balanced professional existence. Investment banking is usually meant for those who love to be recognized as workaholics.


While making a choice of career, any individual should try to assess in an objective manner if he or she possesses the desired skillset and, most importantly, if they would like the work role or not. The same holds true for both of these careers as well. Both are competitive areas in finance with good perks and excellent growth opportunities but investment banking clearly has an advantage in terms of compensation and possibilities to grow as a professional.

Those who value spending creative time away from work might prefer corporate finance over investment banking as the latter may not be such a good choice in terms of work hours. However, the decision should not be based on any single factor, be it the compensation or work hours. A balanced view of the work role should be carefully measured against the skill set, capabilities and goals of an individual before one decides anything.

Corporate Finance vs Investment Banking Video


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Reader Interactions


  1. Trang says

    Thank you for your detail writing. I’m heading to Corporate finance field and am looking for a certificate to follow. I’m just wondering should I take the CFA exam because it’s too broad and mainly focus on Investment banking, whereas I want to focus on Corporate finance only. Could you give me an advice?
    Thank you so, Dheeraj.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hello Trang,

      Given your association with Corporate finance, my guess is that CFA exam will work well. I agree that it is broad based, however, it does covers large topics of Corporate finance including capital structure, accounting, investment management, portfolio management stuff. In addition, CFA is a globally acceptable certification that adds lot of value to the resume.

      CPA on the other hand may be too accounting specific and may not suit your needs if you do not have keen interest in accounting.

      Hope this helps,

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