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It’s a rocky road between the back and front office

It’s the career break that many back and middle-office candidates long for, but just how realistic is it for them to shift into a front-office role?

While highly sought after, these moves are rare, says Richard King, managing director at Michael Page International.

“In exceptional cases extremely bright junior back and middle-office candidates, who have had exposure to complex products and familiarity with the high-pressure, fast-paced front-office environments, are able to make the transition. However, we see this more frequently done as an internal transfer within an investment bank than as an external hire,” says King.

He occasionally sees JCPA accountants or other back-office candidates with strong valuations and cash flow analysis expertise enter the M&A divisions of investment banks.

While during downturn there was almost zero chance of making the front-office switch, Melissa Kuwahara, a senior consultant at recruitment firm CDS, says now the economy is getting gradually better some front-office roles are beginning to open up.

However, she also believes these are predominantly limited to internal transfers.

“In these cases it is really less about the function they are currently in, but a case-by-case situation where they are compared with the external talent applying for the role. The biggest factor for being chosen and being able to move is an aggressive sales mind and a cultural fit to the FO team in that particular company,” adds Kuwahara.

King agrees that personal qualities are key. “Only those with the strongest communication and influencing skills and ability to cope under high pressure are successful.”

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  1. The most successful front office people I have met have deep back office knowledge.

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