As we discussed in the first chapter, many professionals and advisors refer to themselves as consultants. There is no simple way to provide a snapshot of the overall Consulting industry and there is clearly overlap among firms. For example, McKinsey, which is mostly a pure strategy-focused Consulting firm, does perform some Human Resource and IT Consulting, although neither is their core service. Conversely, Accenture is a leading IT consulting firm and does a significant amount of IT implementation work, but also does some Major/Strategy Management Consulting. We make the following attempt to segment the industry to facilitate understanding, but appreciate that there is often overlap across Consulting practice areas within firms:
- Major/Strategy Management Consulting Firms such as McKinsey & Co., Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Bain & Company, Roland Berger, Booz & Company, A.T. Kearney, L.E.K. Consulting, Monitor Group (now owned by Deloitte), Oliver Wyman, etc. These firms primarily perform strategy-related projects.
- Information Technology Consulting Firms such as Accenture, IBM Consulting, Unisys, etc.
- Human Resources Consulting Firms such as Mercer Human Resource Consulting, Watson Wyatt (now owned by Towers Perrin), and Aon Consulting.
- Niche/Boutique Consulting Firms that are often single-industry, single-region or single-methodology focused, such as The Cambridge Group (Customer Demand), West Monroe Partners (Transformation/Change Consulting), and PKF Consulting (Hospitality & Tourism Industry).
There are also other firms that provide Management Consulting-type services as part of their specific work, including law firms, accounting firms and banks. However for these firms, Consulting is not the primary business focus, and often do not have a specific division nor the resources to conduct full-scale Management Consulting projects. These firms will often hire Management Consulting firms on larger client engagements for specific tasks.
The main focus of the Street of Walls Management Consulting Training material is on the Major/Strategy Management Consulting firms (such as McKinsey, BCG, Marakon, etc.), although much of the material presented will apply to and be useful for a wide variety of Consulting firm interviews. Specifically, we feel that the Consulting Case Study Training material will be of interest to a broad set of job candidates, as case studies are being used increasingly in interviews for Human Resources and IT Consulting firms, as well as a number of corporations (such as Google, General Electric and Capital One).
Leading Major/Strategy Management Consulting Firms
Assessing Major/Strategy Management Consulting firms is not a simple task. Ranking them is even more challenging, because there are so many different criteria to consider. Employees have varied experiences at the same firm, and much depends on the project and team that one works with during his or her career. The firm that is right for you will depend on the location of the firm, your specific areas of interests (e.g. some firms are generalist while others have an industry or capability focus), quality of life, professional development opportunities and career prospects beyond consulting. It should be noted that our focus is management/strategy consulting. Certain firms (e.g. Accenture) also have a strong presence in human capital and technology consulting. There are clearly career opportunities in these areas but they do not offer parallel career opportunities to the management/strategy firms and are not the focus of our research and insights.
There is no perfect science to assess each firm in the absolute or versus one another. What we offer is a snapshot of what we believe are the top ten leading firms. A large number of fabulous careers have started at these firms. Some people have made consulting a career while others have used their experience as a springboard to a variety of opportunities. Consultants from the top firms have made their mark in all areas of business, finance and politics. Examples include John Paulson (ex-BCG), Mitt Romney (ex-Bain), Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. (ex-McKinsey), and Michael Porter (ex-Monitor) to name a few.
We have spoken to employees at all major firms and also reviewed publicly available information on the firms. While many of these firms have offices across the globe, there is a general focus on the U.S. and Europe. No snapshot can offer a full and comprehensive description of a firm, because their businesses are so large and varied. Therefore, our goal is to provide you with a starting point to help you identify the firms you wish to learn more about and ultimately apply to work for.
There is fierce competition to get a spot in any leading Consulting firm, even when the economy is good, and with good reason. The work experience gained at these firms and the opportunities that stem from being an alumnus of one of these firms are tremendous. In many ways, it is like having the stamp of a very prestigious college on your resume. Fellow firm alumni typically make real efforts to help you be successful; this benefit is quite unique to the Consulting field.
Most regard the following global firms as the most prestigious and therefore hardest to break into:
- Bain & Company (10,000 employees, Founded in 1973)
- Boston Consulting Group (BCG) (6,000 employees, Founded in 1963)
- McKinsey & Co. (15,000 employees, Founded in 1926)
The next group of firms that forms the “second tier” includes:
- A.T. Kearney (2,700 employees, Founded in 1926)
- Booz & Company (22,000 employees, Founded in 1914)
- FTI Consulting (3,500 employees, Founded in 1982)
- L.E.K. Consulting (900 employees, Founded in 1983)
- Monitor Group (now owned by Deloitte) (1,500 employees, Founded in 1983)
- Oliver Wyman (3,000 employees, Founded in 1984)
- Roland Berger (2,100 employees, Founded in 1967)
These are all terrific firms that offer excellent professional and career opportunities. Most are based in the U.S. (usually New York City, Boston or Washington, D.C.), but all of these firms have international scope, with multiple offices across the globe. The median age across these firms is typically about 30, and on average, about 2/3 of the employees are male and 1/3 female.
Interestingly, over the past 20 years, the Major Management Consulting firms have become more and more alike. Therefore, despite differences between firms in compensation and culture, the work done at these firms and their structures are generally similar. Twenty years ago it was not common for a partner to move from one firm to another; today this is more commonplace, further impacting the similarity of the firms. The interview process is also remarkably similar at most firms. That being said, the firms often insist on their uniqueness, so when you interview with Consulting firms, you need to be prepared and know the features and history that distinguish a particular firm from other firms. Each firm’s website provides a rich amount of information that can be used for this purpose.
We have access to consultants at every firm who can answer your questions, so please contact us to inquire about any particular firm.
Niche/Boutique Management Consulting Firms
Outside of the most well-known firms, there are a number of solid Consulting firms that offer attractive career opportunities, but are smaller or specialize in one or more niche areas. Some are generalist Consulting firms while many are more industry focused (e.g. Kurt Salmon Associates, which specializes in retail and consumer products) or technology, analysis, or region-focused. This list is a good place to start getting familiar with niche consulting firms in the industry:
- AlixPartners, LLP
- Alvarez & Marsal
- Analysis Group, Inc.
- The Cambridge Group
- Celerant Consulting
- Censeo Consulting Group
- Charles River Associates
- Cornerstone Research
- Corporate Value Associates
- PWC/Diamond Advisory Services
- Droege & Company
- Easton Associates LLC
- Gallup Consulting
- Huron Consulting Group
- Jabian Consulting
- Kurt Salmon Associates
- Navigant Consulting
- North Highland
- Novantas LLC
- OC&C Strategy Consultants
- PA Consulting
- The Parthenon Group
- Point B
- Portland Group (PGI)
- PRTM (Japan)
- Putnam Associates
- Strategic Decisions Group
- Stroud Consulting
- Trinity Partners
- Value Partners
- West Monroe Partners
- ZS Associates
We have provided insights into which Management Consulting firms we feel are the best to work for and most competitive. Additionally, there are various publications that rank Consulting firms each year across a number of dimensions. We would not place too much emphasis on firm-by-firm rankings for a number of reasons. For example, while the list of top firms might not change very often, the rankings among those firms might vary greatly from year to year in one publication, in an attempt by the publisher to garner attention, or simply because of small differences in the publisher’s weighting criteria.
However, we offer these links below for you; they offer another take on some of the leading firms and more broadly about the variety of Consulting firms in operation today. In addition, Consulting Magazine also profiles the top 25 Consultants of the year. Often, this list contains Consultants who have somehow distinguished themselves with the work they’ve performed over the past year. One benefit of reading such profiles is to gain more insight into the projects and experiences of these leading Consultants across the globe—and to provide you with great detail about their accomplishments should you be fortunate enough to interview with one of these people!
- Consulting Magazine Best Firms to Work For (2013) (2011 article includes a breakdown by industry)
- Vault Consulting 50: Firm Rankings for 2013/2014
- StormScape Consulting Firm Rankings
- Consulting Magazine top 25 Consultants by year