The top three strategy consulting firms in the world serve nearly all Fortune 1000 companies and are commonly referred to as MBB:
They earn the highest revenue among strategy consultancies and have generally been around the longest.
The remaining 6 consultancies covered here include the strategy arms of the Big 4 and other mid-tier sized firms known to be amongst the top strategy consulting houses in the world:
We'll cover each of these firms in-detail below. And if you're curious about how the Big 4 and MBB firms compare to each other overall, you can check out our Big 4 vs. MBB article.
You'll notice that the chart below is from 2016: Unfortunately we haven't been able to get the data from recent years to update it but you can be assured that although the numbers will have changed, the distribution will be fairly similar.
Why should you work for them?
You might be wondering why you should become a management consultant in the first place? There are plenty of reasons but let’s only cover the main ones here.
First, it's a great way to set yourself up for a successful career. You will travel a lot and earn a top salary. Your consultancy may sponsor your MBA and you'll have great exit opportunities. Many consultants end up becoming CEOs, as the below list of notable alumni shows.
Second, being a management consultant is one of fastest learning experiences you can get out of University. You will work with senior executives (e.g.: CEO, CFO, etc.) on a regular basis. Your job will be interesting and high-pressured. It may be tough at times, but you will meet and work with a supportive group of bright and talented colleagues.
The following overview of 8 top management consultancies will help you decide which firm you want to target for your career.
1. McKinsey & Company ↑
McKinsey was founded in Chicago in 1926 by James McKinsey, a professor of accounting at the University of Chicago. The firm started out by offering consulting services on accounting principles as a management tool. McKinsey’s second partner was Andrew Thomas Kearney, who went on to found A.T Kearney.
McKinsey grew quickly in the 1940s and 1950s, especially in Europe. But in the 1960s, competitors like the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company started competing with McKinsey by marketing specific branded products, such as the Growth-Share Matrix, and by selling their industry expertise. In the 1970s the firm therefore shifted its focus from geographic expansion to industry specialisation.
Today the firm employs 26,000 staff across 120+ offices and generates $8.8bn in revenues. Many of McKinsey’s alumni went on to be CEOs of major corporations including Morgan Stanley, Google and Boeing.
"Extremely steep learning curve, great opportunities for growth."
"Excellent exposure, great people."
"Working with really smart people."
"I would say one of the worst jobs out there in terms of work-life balance."
"Strong pressure environment independent of the long-hours."
"Very intense lifestyle, lots of travel."
"Launch pad for everyone important."
"Harvard of consulting."
2. Boston Consulting Group ↑
Bruce Henderson founded the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in 1963 after working 18 years for the Westinghouse Corporation (a manufacturing company). Initially, BCG was a subsidiary of the Boston Company (an asset manager), before becoming independent in 1975.
One way Henderson thought he could revolutionise the corporate world was by writing essays on business strategy. He called these essays Perspectives, they remained a BCG tradition and are still influential to this day.
When BCG started, the traditional consulting approach was to look at a company's specific internal issues. But Henderson decided to take another approach and to focus on external factors such as markets and competition instead. This approach led to new important business concepts still used today such as the "cash cow," the "experience curve," and “time-based consumption.”
Throughout the 1960s, BCG grew and develop overseas. It suffered a slight setback in 1973 when BCG vice-president Bill Bain left the company to found his own consulting firm, Bain & Co. During the 80s it continued to expand, with a radical boost in growth in the mid-90s.
The early 2000s put BCG under threat because of the economic crisis and rise in technology. But with $5.6bn in revenues and offices all over the world, the firm remains one of the most prestigious strategy houses in the world.
"Good starting place."
"Juniors and partners very good; middle management less impressive. Project managers don't have incentives to really develop their employees."
"Hours can be tough."
"Low work-life balance."
"Hire consultants with high IQs."
"Prestigious but cocky (and demanding)."
"One of the big boys, very rigorous with great exit opportunities."
3. Bain & Company ↑
Bain & Company revolutionised the consulting industry by taking a different approach to client relationship management. When it started, it decided to only take one client per industry and to focus on developing long-term relationships with these clients.
This enabled Bain to win multiple projects from the clients it focused on and to maximise value per client. Before then, consulting work was mostly done on a project by project basis. And trying to win multiple projects from single clients was not a common strategy.
The company's CEO Bob Beckek has a 99% approval rating on Glassdoor, reflecting how well employees are taken care of. In fact, Bain has won several "Best Employer" awards and has a strong reputation for taking care of its people's work-life balance.
"Great culture and values."
"Excellent team, ethos and calibre of employee. Still in touch with many alumni."
"The focus is very much on results - not how many hours you spend at your desk, which is a refreshing change from other workplaces. Management is very inspiring and colleagues really act in a 'one team' mentality."
"Long hours and travel can make experience less sustainable for certain cases."
"Highly political, hard to get ahead if you don't play the game."
"No personal life."
"Solid strategy house, some very good people."
"Gets a bad rep for being intense."
4. Accenture Strategy ↑
Accenture was founded by Arthur Andersen in the early 1950s. The company’s first project was to study the feasibility of installing a computer in one of General Electric’s research centres. General Electric is believed to have been the first company in the US to use a computer for commercial purposes as a result of this project.
Today, Accenture is a consulting behemoth generating ~$35bn in revenue. It does a lot of different “types” of consulting with one unifying theme: technology. The part of Accenture that’s most similar to McKinsey, BCG and Bain is called Accenture Strategy. It accounts for less than 10% of the company’s revenues but is the most prestigious part as it tends to work for C-suite clients.
Accenture Strategy’s brand has steadily been getting stronger over the past few years, particularly in Europe. This is partly due to the fact that digital strategy is more and more important and Accenture has strong credentials in that space.
"Opportunities to learn new technologies."
"Smart people and varied challenges."
"Good training and fun social life."
"Difficult to find work life balance."
"Promotions influenced by a lot of internal politics."
"It’s up or out."
"Place where your career can go wherever."
"Lots of technology and innovation."
"Work from home options available."
5. Oliver Wyman ↑
In 2007, three global consultancies (Mercer Delta, Mercer Management Consulting and Mercer Oliver Wyman) combined to form Oliver Wyman.
Mercer Oliver Wyman was the oldest of these firms. It was founded as Oliver, Wyman & Company in 1984, and was then acquired by Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC). MMC also acquired Temple, Barker & Sloane in 1987 and Strategic Planning Associates in 1989. These two companies merged in 1990, becoming Mercer Management Consulting in 1992. MMC also acquired Delta Consulting in 2000. In 2007, MMC merged its subsidiaries under the name Oliver Wyman.
Recently, Oliver Wyman has been growing at a rapid pace, largely thanks to a series of acquisitions made in 2008. It also managed to build a very strong reputation for itself in the financial services sector as well as in digital strategy thanks to the creation of its Oliver Wyman Labs unit.
Currently, the firm holds over 60 offices in 27 countries and boasts 4,500 employees.
"Lots of exposure and responsibility right out of the gate."
"Truly smart people."
"Fun and collegial atmosphere within the junior consultant ranks."
"Style over substance."
"Will not progress if you are a quiet worker."
"Very poor work life balance."
"Well-known name for finance-related consulting projects."
"Have very good diversity policies, and seems as though everyone is very nice."
"Tough but intelligent."
6. Strategy& (PWC) ↑
Edwin G. Booz founded Strategy& in 1914 as Edwin G. Booz Surveys. It was the first consultancy to use the term "management consultant" and calls itself "the oldest continually existing strategy consultancy in the world." Its focus was and remains on practical strategy, which it calls "strategy-with-execution".
The firm continued to grow in the 50s and 60s, reaching an annual revenue of $55 million in 1969. By 1980, the company's revenues were at $150 million. As the 80s rolled on, Booz & Company was overtaken in management consulting by McKinsey & Company.
Booz & Company was sold to PWC in 2014. Its name was changed to Strategy&, echoing Booz's reputed business publication Strategy + Business.
"Good place to start a career."
"Very entrepreneurial and open minded culture with inspiring fellows."
"Multidisciplinary, team based, young atmosphere, challenging projects, multi-sector."
"Long hours during the week."
"You will work with some of the sharpest, most career-minded young people you will meet in a business career. It can be tough!"
"Growing due to merger with PwC."
"Top strategy firm whose prestige was slightly diluted after the acquisition."
7. A.T Kearney ↑
The firm began to expand internationally to Düsseldorf, San Francisco, Milan, Paris, and London in the 60s and continued to grow in the 70s. The late 80s and the 90s were AT Kearney's "golden years". 1993 marked its 10th year of double-digit growth.
The company began to lose in revenues after its acquisition by EDS in 1995. Nevertheless, it reached $1.5 bn in revenues 2000. The firm was bought back by its partners in 2005. In 2015, AT Kearney saw its 2nd consecutive year of double-digit growth.
The firm's current goal is to double its revenue to $2 bn by 2020, as part of its Vision 2020 strategy.
"The salary is good."
"Most people are down to earth." "Collegial atmosphere."
"I've worked with some of the brightest people I've ever met at A.T. Kearney."
"The promotions can be slower than at McK / BCG."
"Work life balance is very bad."
"Low levels of innovation."
"More personable than at McKinsey."
"Good for some niche areas."
"Go-to firm for sourcing work."
8. Roland Berger ↑
Roland Berger was the manager of his own laundry business before going to work for BCG in its Milan offices. The 29 year old Berger founded his consulting firm in Munich in 1967. The company is currently the leading German-based global consulting firm.
The company has succeeded over the years largely thanks to the young Roland Berger's talent for marketing and strategy. By 1974, McKinsey & Co. and Kienbaum were the only consultancies in Germany with revenues that were higher than Ronald Berger's. The company's profits continued to spike throughout the 70s and 80s.
By 1987, Roland Berger was Germany’s largest consulting firm. This happened in part thanks to the firm's international engagements, which it focused on from the start.
In the 1990s, Roland Berger opened offices in Eastern European capitals, then in Moscow, and finally in China as early as 1993. It has continued to expand since, and now holds 49 offices all over the world.
"Probably best work/life balance of any consultancy I've heard of."
"Great client exposure."
"Very clever people and generally very nice."
"Can be sent anywhere at any time at the drop of a hat."
"Intense working environment."
"Small player in North America but growing well."
"Good name in strategy consulting."
"Localised culture and chasing for scale."
9. Deloitte S&O + Monitor ↑
Porter revolutionised business strategy by focusing on the structure of the market and how to make market barriers profitable. He is the inventor of Porter’s 5 forces business analysis. He wrote that "the essence of strategy is coping with competition."
After the economic crash of 2008, strategy consulting was not as popular anymore amongst clients and Monitor neglected to shift its work toward more operational consulting. Additionally, a more customer-based approach was necessary for the age of Internet and globalization.
Partly because of these issues, the firm filed for bankruptcy in 2012. It was then bought up by Deloitte. Monitor Deloitte now has about 800 employees and its revenues are estimated to be ~$300m.
Deloitte also has another strategy division called S&O (Strategy and Operations). This part of the firm mainly grew through acquisitions of smaller consulting firms over the past few decades. Deloitte S&O's brand is particularly strong in the US but less so in the rest of the world. Today we estimate it houses ~2,000 consultants and generates about ~$700m in revenues.
"One of the least corporate atmospheres you'll find at a consulting firm."
"Great collegial atmosphere among the peer group, youthful, vibrant community."
"Significant international travel (good, but huge investment over the years)."
"Business approach was too academic."
"Incredibly high expectations of employees."
"Strong work ethic."
"Interdisciplinary staffing of projects with specialists from different areas of Deloitte."
We believe that our ranking shows some of the consultancies with the highest prestige. Nevertheless, other lists will help you gain a wider perspective.
The Vaults have for instance published a 'peer-reviewed' list in which 9000 practicing consultants ranked their competitors from 1 to 10. The list includes other firms we don’t mention here including EY and KPMG.
Preparing for interviews
First of all, to land an interview at any of these firms is tough - you may want to check out our resume review service before applying.
If you have got an interview, well done - but the hard work starts now! Once you've used the free materials on our site to prepare, you may want to give yourself an advantage over other candidates. That's why we’ve created a coaching service where you can do mock interviews 1-on-1 with ex-interviewers from MBB firms. Start scheduling sessions today!
Article sources: LinkedIn for number of employees. Glassdoor and Vault for gossip sections. Various websites for firms' revenues and alumni.