Corporate Finance Overview

An overview of the corporate finance industry.

What is Corporate Finance?

Corporate finance deals with the capital structure of a corporation including its funding and the actions management take to increase the value of the company. Corporate finance also includes the tools and analysis utilized to prioritize and distribute financial resources.

The ultimate purpose of corporate finance is to maximize the value of a business through planning and implementing management resources while balancing risk and profitability.

Corporate Finance Overview

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The 3 Important Activites that Govern Corporate Finance

 

#1 Investments & Capital Budgeting

Investing and capital budgeting includes planning where to place the company’s long-term capital assets in order to generate the highest risk-adjusted returns. This mainly consists of deciding whether or not to pursue an investment opportunity through extensive financial analysis.

By using financial accounting tools, a company identifies capital expenditures, estimates cash flows from the proposed capital projects, compares planned investments with projected income, and decides which projects to include in the capital budget.

Financial modeling is used to estimate the economic impact of an investment opportunity and compare alternative projects.  An analyst with often use Internal Rate of Return (IRR) in conjunction with Net Present Value (NPV) to compare projects and pick the optimal one.

 

#2 Capital Financing

This core activity includes decisions on how to optimally finance the capital investments (discussed above) through the business’ equity, debt, or a mix of both. Long-term funding for major capital expenditures or investments may be obtained from selling company stocks or issuing debt securities in the market through investment banks.

Balancing the two sources (equity and debt) should be closely managed because having too much debt may increase the risk of default in repayment, while depending too heavily on equity may dilute earnings and value for original investors.

Ultimately, it’s the job of corporate finance professionals to optimize the company’s capital structure by lowering its Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) to be as low as possible.

 

#2 Dividends & Return of Capital

This activity requires corporate managers to decide whether to retain a business’s excess earnings for future investments and operational requirements or to distribute the earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends or share buybacks.

Retained earnings that are not distributed back to shareholders may be used to fund a business’s expansion. This can often be the best source of funds, without incurring additional debts or diluting the value of equity by issuing more shares.

At the end of the day, if corporate managers believe they can earn a rate of return on a capital investment that’s greater than the company’s cost of capital, they should pursue it, otherwise, they should return that capital to shareholders via dividends or share buybacks.

 

How Important is a Company’s Capital Structure in Corporate Finance?

A company’s capital structure is crucial to maximizing the value of the business. Its structure can be a combination of long-term and short-term debt or common and preferred equity. The ratio between a firm’s liability and its equity is often the basis for determining how well balanced or risky capital financing is.

A company that is heavily funded by debts has a more aggressive capital structure and therefore, potentially holds more risk for stakeholders; however, this risk is often the primary reason for a company’s growth and success.
Capital Structure in Corporate Finance

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What are the Career Paths in Corporate Finance?

At the CFI, we specialize in helping you advance your corporate finance career.

The best place to start is by exploring our Career Map and discovering the various jobs and positions that exist in corporate finance.

corporate finance careers

The main career paths in the corporate finance industry include Investment Banks (the Sell Side), Institutions (the Buy Side), Corporations and Public Accounting Firms.

 

Additional Corporate Finance Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide and overview of the corporate finance industry.  To keep learning and advancing your career these additional resources will help you along your path:

Financial Analyst Training

Get world-class financial training with CFI's online certified financial analyst training program! Gain the confidence you need to move up the ladder in a high powered corporate finance career path.  

Learn financial modeling and valuation in Excel the easy way, with step-by-step training.