Every aspiring strategy consultant knows the infamous MBB; McKinsey & Co, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Co.
These three strategy consulting firms are the elite. They offer the most prestige if you start a career there. However, there are more factors than prestige to consider when deciding what firm you actually want to work for. Travel requirements and opportunity, culture, and work-life balance all vary between firms. In no particular order, this article provides an overview of the main aspects and differences between the top 10 strategy consulting firms, so, read on and see what ticks your boxes!
McKinsey & Company
McKinsey is an infamous consulting giant; it is the industry leader, with a strong an well-established reputation and history. As a quick fact, it is the largest strategy consulting firm, with around 23,000 employees. Importantly, there is a very high standard of work expected at McKinsey; this translates to performance pressures as everybody strives to put in the long hours, common with consulting, so as to not fall short of the expectations. However, despite these negatives, McKinsey offers a working environment like no other, and the employees are highly trained as a result of the intense, yet diverse and collaborative, environment. Thus, employees are from many other fields and exit opportunities after working at McKinsey are plentiful and varied.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
BCG is smaller than McKinsey however it is very much on the same level. This is another well-known consulting firm, and in recent years has been growing faster than McKinsey. Despite BCG being smaller, the cultures of the MBB group are very similar and hard to differentiate. Having said this, there are minor differences between the cultures. Importantly, BCG does not pressure its employees to conform to any ‘BCG way of work’, and in fact promotes individuality. Moreover, BCG changed its method of feedback in 2016; it went from a weakness-based feedback to a strength-based feedback, which aims to develop peoples strengths and as a by-product the weaknesses develop too. Lastly, there are a wide variety of social events, drinks, and even trips; this makes BCG a collaborative and fun firm.
Bain & Company
Bain is also one of the infamous highly-reputable MBB group. Notably at Bain, the culture is very feedback focused. This feedback nature of consulting is common across a variety of companies. At Bain, feedback is downwards (manager to employee), upwards and across (peer to peer). This is an appealing aspect of Bain’s culture; employees find it easy to grow and quickly develop their skills. Another aspect of Bain is that their projects are very results driven, with Bain preferring to drive clients into making action and creating results. Moreover, Bain has strength in serving financial sector clients and also it is prominent in the consumer good market. Now, as with BCG, there is also a focus on working-hard but playing-hard too, with lots of team socials and bonding exercises.
AT Kearney originally split from McKinsey & Co, and has an impressive history. It is known to be the best sourcing, procurement and operations consultancy in the world, and so is certainly has a high reputation. Also, AT Kearney has a huge span of industries which it specialises in; anything from retail to oil & gas to consumer goods is covered. This firm is particularly small (around 3,500 employees) but nonetheless it is still a strong consultancy. Uniquely, Kearney runs
the ‘Global Mobility Program’ which allows you to live and work abroad. Bain also has a similar scheme. Now, the culture at Kearny is known to have one of the worst work-life balances and an intense workload, but the employees are very collaborative and happy to help whoever, whenever.
Oliver Wyman is another global firm, with around 5,000 employees. It has actually become the fastest growing management consulting firm to date, capitalising on the deregulation of the financial services industry and helping them grow big quickly. This is why Oliver Wyman deals primarily with the Banking and Financial services; they have the level of expertise in this sector only rivalled by McKinsey. Interestingly, the culture at Oliver Wyman tends to avoid long hours for-the-sake-of long hours. They shift their focus on the efficiency of their output, and the quality matters more than the quantity. This characterises their high- performing culture at the firm. Interestingly, people are able to learn from each other through all the ranks, working with seniors is commonplace, creating the perfect environment for growth.
OC&C Strategy Consultants
OC&C Strategy Consultants is another global consultancy with a strong reputation and famed for its unique culture. Specifically, it has a ‘family-style’ culture, with relaxed work environment and a strong entrepreneurial spirit throughout the firm. This culture is complemented by an array of social events and the like, developing friendships with other employees which contributes to the warm atmosphere at the firm. This is a smaller firm, but it was founded on the basis of two former consultants who wanted to develop a firm with a much more strategic approach. As a result of their smaller size, they cover less sectors but are experts in fields such as consumer industries and Telecoms, Media, Technology (TMT) industries. Similarly, as they are a small firm, you receive a lot of responsibilities, early, and as a result, obtain great client exposure
PwC acquired Strategy& in 2014, helping it grow even more so than it had already into a large, worldwide, prestigious firm. For, Strategy& has a long history, being one of the first management consulting firms in the world. Its clients are top businesses and governments; working at Strategy& will provide you with exciting opportunities to consult the worlds largest businesses. Appealingly, the firms key value is ensuring a work-life balance. This is why, despite being near the prestige of the MBB group, Strategy& consultants tend to work less hours. Moreover, the culture at this firm reflects this value; there are happy hours in the office, and plenty of events allowing mingling of staff between other divisions and teams under their parent company, PwC.
EY has long been and traditionally is a Big-4 accounting firm. However, management level and partner level across divisions in EY consists of an abundance of ex MBB consultants. This shows how EY is shifting its business focus into strategy consulting, starting to compete with MBB, making EY an exciting and progressive company to work for. This company not only deals with consulting, it also has tax, strategy and transactions and assurance services, making it a diverse and broad company. Most notably, EY says its purpose is ‘building a better working world’ from the insights and services it provides. This is inspirational, and certainly an attractive company aim.
LEK Consulting is another small consultancy, with 1,200 global employees. Despite this, LEK covers a range of industries, from aerospace to retail, and has a strong presence in the Life Sciences sector and Private Equity due diligence. This firm is unique that the firm has ver low travel for consultants. This can be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view; good as you will be at home a lot, or bad as you do not get the free travel experiences associated with a consulting job. More so, the lack-of-travel means the work-life balance is strong and, by virtue of being at home a lot, you form strong bonds with colleagues. Also, the culture could be described as sink-or-swim; consultants (hired after an MBA) are given huge responsibility from the get-go. Despite this daunting fact, the environment is very collaborative at LEK consulting too.
This firm is the strategy consulting arm of Deloitte, one of the Big-4 accounting firms. It has particular prominence in the healthcare and consumer goods industries, largely dealing with technological innovations in the intersection of these industries. Monitor Deloitte is as a leading consultancy in innovation strategy, helping companies to take advantage of growth opportunities by advising them on new business offerings and launches. The Deloitte culture is one of valuing teamwork and ‘commitment to each other’. This lends itself to creating a collegiate atmosphere at the firm, making this a very friendly and pleasant firm to work for.
Now, hopefully this article has shed some light on the pros and cons of each consulting firm, and helps to point out the subtle differences in the style of work and environments in these leading consultancies. If you are after a bit more information, we highly recommend looking here.
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This article was written by Zac Tiller, an Engineering undergraduate student at Cambridge University and aspiring consultant.