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Big Three Consulting Firms| McKinsey, BCG and Bain (MBB)

Which one is the best for you?

The ranking of the top world consulting firms in the top three positions has rarely changed since the first time the list was compiled. Whether the list makers consider in terms of reputation, seniority or remuneration, MBB (stands for Mckinsey, BCG and Bain) are always come to first. Determining the best out of the three for you, however, is not that easy. Not only because the answer depends on a wide range of factors, but also many of those factors are subjective. For example, in most cases, your assessment process should start with your intention, which is whether you are going to work there or hire them. For that reason, this article provides you only facts in key aspects of MBB consulting firms that hopefully will help you figure out the destination of your choice.

Remuneration package:

Recently, we have trawled through a number of reports for the salaries that each MBB firm offers to their employees at different levels. The finding is compiled in our article “Top management consulting salaries”. In general, the total income an MBB consultant would receive comprises of a base (~80%) and a performance bonus (~20%), but those figures vary by a number of factors such as time, location and job position. We concluded that the total incomes for a consultant in these firms are relatively the same, at about $100,000 per year, for example, for an entry-level in the US.  If you are applying in one of the following countries (US, UK, Aus, Ger and Ind), you can visit our article here to figure out how much you should expect to earn in each firm.

Work/life balance:

When it comes to a satisfying work experience, there are many different factors that come into play, everything from the ability to challenge, compensation, hours in the office to vacation policies, and so on. Vault has identified 22 separate factors that affect a consultant’s daily working life and asks survey respondents to rate their own firms across those factors every year. On its 2018 Best consulting firms for work/life balance, BCG secured a higher position than the other two. Especially, it ranks #1 on Ability to challenge, Benefits and Selectivity.

Though firms always try to improve their working environment for their employees, the job pressure still makes consultant difficult to balance their time allocated to work and other aspects of life.  If you feel you may struggle to achieve a work/life balance in consulting world, some pieces of advice from Kim here would be of a great help.

 Career progression:

You may already hear so many stories of consultants getting managed out after less than 2 years in consulting. At Big 3, the truth is that you cannot stay at the same level for too long. If you are perceived as a rising star, you will progress to the next level after 2 years. In contrast, if you are not perceived as good enough (either because you’re indeed not good enough or you do not try enough), your supervisor will ‘counsel’ you to leave. It happens very often.

 In this article, we compiled a list of career paths at multiple big consulting firms in the world. The careers at big 3 consulting firms, in particular, tend to be much similar, even though the job titles may differ slightly firm-by-firm.  

Global reach:

One of the main reasons for firms to create their global presence is to reach new customers in new markets. Consulting firms love to do repeated projects, which often demands less human effort while still generates reasonable earnings. By establishing new offices in developing countries, MBB can be able to duplicate their previous projects applied successfully at corporations in developed ones.

  • Mckinsey: 120+ offices in 60+ countries, 30,000 alumni
  • BCG:           90+ offices in 50 countries,   20,000 alumni
  • Bain:           56 offices in 36 countries,   13,000 alumni

It is not difficult to figure out which one stands out in this aspect. If you wish to work in places other than your home countries and have more opportunities to meet prestigious people, we believe Mckinsey is a better choice than the rest.

Flexible Staffing:

At Mckinsey, consultants tend to engage in both short and long-term projects, which can last from 1 month to over 1 year. They also have more power in choosing where, when and with who they work; this is especially true for consultants who are perceived as rising stars of the firm. Bain and BCG, on the other hand, normally have projects of at least 6 months and are unlikely to give their consultants that flexibility.

Industry expertise:

All Big 3 have broad practices and each has gained a stronger reputation in certain industries than others. From our own view, McKinsey has considerable expertise in the public sector, logistic, infrastructure, high tech, and healthcare. Bain has mastery of finance, media/entertainment and agribusiness while BCG is best known for retail, aerospace and government.

Traditionally, MBB work stopped at strategic level where there is no touch on the implementation side. Over the last 5 years or so, however, all have been trying to move downstream that even results in a new career track called “implementation consultants”. Consultants in this track don’t just spend 3-6 months with a particular client but instead stay at the client site for as long as a year, helping the client with very real issues.

Corporate Culture:

This is just based on perceptions of our consultants and their friends who have had a time working for 2 or all big 3 consulting firms: Mckinsey tends to have the culture of being perfect and conservative. Senior consultants there reviews every punctuation in the ppt presentation, for example. They also prefer safe, proven solutions rather than innovative yet unproven ones when it comes to final recommendations to clients. BCG consultants, on the other hand, are required to work much more independently. They are given more leeway to suggest and implement new ideas. Lastly, the “Bainies” are reported to be fun and creative, with a “work hard, play hard” culture.