Doing your research on the top management consulting firms is essential to deciding how and where you want to apply. In this article we will take a look at top 10 management consulting firms. Read more…
Research Behind the Top Ten
Vault.com, an industry-leading career intelligence site, recently published its 2012 rankings of the world’s top management consulting firms. The list offers few surprises, as the usual industry front-runners make a strong showing. Bain & Company, McKinsey & Company and The Boston Consulting Group dominate the top three, as they did in 2011. Booz & Company rejoins the top ten this year after placing 16th last year. That said, the only substantial surprise is the presence of the Monitor Group, ranked at number five, up from 25th place last year.
Coming Trends in Management Consulting
As 2011 comes to a close and the new year begins, a handful of trends are emerging in the management consulting field:
- A resurgence of corporate profitability in certain fields may see a spike in private-sector corporate demand for consulting services.
- As this demand for consulting services increases, hiring possibilities may also improve. While staff retention/attrition is worsening, the recruitment picture seems to be rosier than in recent, leaner years, with much of the hiring emphasis being on experienced consultants.
- Sustainability is having its day in the sun. All major consulting firms are taking sustainability seriously and are either already there or going there in the near-term.
The Top Ten
1. Bain & Company
For the second year running, Bain & Company is Vault.com’s pick for the top management consulting firm in the world. While not the largest and not the oldest firm, Bain is among the most prestigious global consulting firms because of the standards it set early in its existence. From the beginning, Bain chose innovative approaches, did not actively market themselves and often took no fees until they had proven themselves. Later, Bain aligned its incentives with client performance, sometimes taking equity in its clients’ companies instead of consulting fees. Having a stake in the client’s success was seen as an innovative business model.
Differentiating Bain from its major competitors are these kinds of innovative approaches as well as its pioneering position in private equity consulting and its specialization in M&A and organizational restructuring. To accomplish these kinds of aims, Bain hires consultants who have the ability to think conceptually and translate concepts into action. Flexibility is highly valued, as the opportunity for cross-training across industries is prevalent (even if at the expense of being able to specialize in a specific field).
2. McKinsey & Company
Touting its ability and drive to do things differently, McKinsey sits nearly atop the heap of the world’s top-ten management consulting firms. Despite its big-name recognition, McKinsey operates at a fairly low profile, perhaps due to its controversial practice of non-exclusivity with clients. Emphasizing ideas as the most important engine of McKinsey’s operations, McKinsey offers a good starting place for new consultants but does not appear to offer an environment conducive to collaboration and teamwork because consultants are bound to secrecy about their projects (due to the non-exclusivity/possible conflicts of interest issues).
Similarly, the firm employs an “up and out” policy, whereby consultants need to advance upward in their career or leave the firm within a specific amount of time. This ensures a built-in turn-over rate that renews the firm’s staff at regular intervals (which may contribute to the constant stream of new ideas on which McKinsey runs), but which may foster an environment of “horizontal stagnation”, that is, consultants may be “promoted” by adding additional duties to their existing job. Essentially, a heftier workload without progressive responsibility or upward momentum but also not an invitation to leave the company.
3. The Boston Consulting Group, Inc. (BCG)
BCG still made it to the top 10 strategy consulting firms. Beyond its prestigious name and reputation, BCG is behind many of the industry’s best-known concepts, such as the “experience curve” and “growth-share matrix”. With these principles as its backbone, BCG values conceptual thinking and reasoning and places emphasis on continued growth and learning for consultants. As a Big Four consultancy firm, BCG competes head-to-head with much larger firms with greater name recognition but differentiates itself by focusing on, for example, fields like branding and marketing (in addition to more traditional disciplines).
Based in Boston with a global reach, BCG is widely praised as a solid place to work, offering among the most competitive compensation packages for consultants.
4. Deloitte Consulting LLP
One of the “Big Four” accountancy firms and the second-largest professional services firms globally, Deloitte is well-respected and a massive name, major player in the management consultancy field. Its depth of expertise among its over 40,000 employees is virtually unparalleled. Focused primarily on human capital, strategy and operations and technology across multiple industries, Deloitte leads its competition in terms of aggregate revenue, growth and market share.
In short, Deloitte is a giant, and as such, can offer an expansive career trajectory to consultants, who will have the opportunity to take advantage of Deloitte’s global presence and its sheer size and scale. The downside is that an organization of this scope can be hampered by layers of bureaucracy and unneeded complexity that develop naturally when a firm reaches these proportions.
5. Monitor Group
Monitor Group has leapt into Vault.com’s top-ten firms this year. Its smaller size versus other, bigger firms against which Monitor competes head-on coupled with its global footprint makes it an agile and dynamic firm. A flexible consultant can join what is undoubtedly an innovative organization that is not saddled by too much legacy structure, in part because of its size and in part because it, like many firms, was affected by the economic crisis and has adapted to current economic conditions. Though based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Monitor Group has a presence in every corner of the world – again, much like larger, better-known consulting firms.
As Monitor Group places a premium on getting sustainable results for its international array of clients, having a presence in key locations is key to capitalizing on its expertise and information. The firm has been lauded for its pro bono service and for its collaborative, feedback-oriented, lessons-learned corporate culture, which is one of its strongest distinguishing factors. Monitor Group itself characterizes its placement in the Vault rankings as being due to “morale and momentum”.
6. A.T. Kearney
Headquartered in Chicago with more than 50 offices worldwide, A.T. Kearney has a storied history that is tied up in the history of one of the industry’s oldest and best-known consultancies, McKinsey, from which Kearney split off in the 1930s. In the early days, Kearney focused on manufacturing and operations, which has expanded across industries and practices. This history imbues Kearney with a sense of long-standing tradition and culture, which has been cited as a bonus in terms of being a good place to start out as a management consultant.
History could also be seen as a handicap in terms of innovation. Like most large consultancy firms, Kearney has broad cross-functional, cross-industry focus areas in which consultants can expect to work. Its distinguishing offering is The Global Business Policy Council, which Kearney created as a strategic service designed to cater to the world’s top CEOs and business-minded thought leaders. The Council brings together leaders from the corporate, government and academic disciplines to foster discussion about issues relating to all these groups, such as globalization, foreign direct investment and offshoring. Kearney offers three separate strategic services to these leaders as a part of this council.
7. Oliver Wyman
Based in New York with 55 international office locations, Oliver Wyman operates across industries all over the globe. Oliver Wyman is part of a larger group of professional services companies, which contributes to its cross-functional, multinational presence. This network of affiliated companies deepens the pool from which expertise is drawn, which adds value to the consulting services offered by the Oliver Wyman Group. Known as a firm that values ideas and creativity, this is a place where driven, hungry, internationally-minded consultants will thrive, as they will be expected to travel extensively and put in a lot of extra time.
8. The Cambridge Group
More than anything else, The Cambridge Group aims to help clients attain higher growth rates and profit margins. In large measure, the big factor that differentiates Cambridge from other consultancy firms, particularly those that specialize in economic services, is its insistence that demand supersedes supply in terms of importance. This drives the firm’s focus on identifying profitable demand opportunities and optimizing processes and pricing. The Cambridge Group claims to provide its clients actionable insight and growth blueprints as opposed to more general plans and recommendations. Its size and scope make this attention to detail possible. As a small, Chicago-based firm with just two offices, the firm is small enough in scale that a consultant can expect to work hands-on with analysis and growth strategy from the get-go while being on-board as the firm itself grows.
9. Analysis Group, Inc.
Headquartered in Boston with ten offices in the United States and Canada, Analysis Group is highly regarded for its commitment to delivering economic and financial analysis and strategy across sectors. Employing these specialties, Analysis Group, as a place to work, is reportedly collegial and has a small-firm feel in what is actually a much larger company. Unlike larger, global firms, the primary focus on economic and financial consulting creates room for specialization and carves out a solid reputation in its areas of expertise. Given this emphasis at the Analysis Group, potential consultants with strong analytical and academic skills have an edge.
10. Booz & Company
Widely touted as a great place to get started with a career in management consulting, Booz is a company whose global presence, wide areas of expertise and emphasis on wholesale organizational change (“discontinuities”) will ensure that a new or mid-career consultant never sees a shortage of opportunity. The firm pushes its consultants to learn and contribute and demands a lot (a heavy workload) but supports its hires with its team-oriented structure, training and intelligent staff and subject-matter experts from whom to seek advice.
On the prestige front, Booz is recognized, respected and highly visible with its focus on an exceptionally vast landscape of fields. The firm’s big name will be a draw, as will the chance to work across industries in a global environment. Detractors state that the firm suffers from some internal inertia following the spin-off of one of Booz’s former core businesses – government consulting. The firm still enjoys legacy prestige, despite distancing itself from its biggest differentiator, and has moved more firmly into specializing in business-transition consultancy (the aforementioned discontinuities, when a business moves from one major focus to another).
For a comprehensive guide to your own career in management consulting, download our guide on how to land a job in management consulting. ConsultingFact.com offers guides for resumes, cover letters, case interviews, case frameworks, and other material that will help you land a consulting job in one of the top 10 strategy consulting firms.