The global consulting industry is estimated to be worth $155 billion. Corporations around the world depend heavily on consulting companies to maintain and sharpen their edge in an increasingly competitive world. Who are among the main players in the consulting industry? What services do they offer? What work culture have they developed?
We list a few giants in the field (in alphabetical order), also adding some interesting facts about them.
After you’re done with the list, scroll back up to try your hand at this case interview sample question. You’ll find out if you have the aptitude to do well in the consulting interviews for the companies we’ve listed below.
Top 10 consulting firms in the world
First glance: Founded in 1989 (from Andersen Consulting). HQ: Dublin, Ireland. Revenue: $34.85 billion (2017). Employees: 435,000 (2018), including 130,000 in India.
Services: Consulting, strategy, digital, technology, and operations.
Work culture: Accenture is credited with great leadership that supports employees and helps create an interesting workplace. But because it is a large organization, there is some red tape.
Tidbits: Accenture (the name supposedly comes from “Accent on the future”), invested $941 million in 2016 in employee training and development. It aims at increasing diversity at the workplace, and plans to achieve complete gender balance by 2025. In 2016, 40 percent of its employees were women. As part of a social initiative, Accenture employees have taken up the Skills to Succeed program, which will impart workplace and entrepreneurial skills to three million people worldwide.
Bain & Company
First glance: Founded in 1973 and headquartered in Boston, Bain is one of the Big Three management consultancies along with McKinsey and BCG. It functions from 56 locations. Revenue: $4.5 billion (2017). Employees: 8,000 (2018).
Services: Bain mainly advises Fortune 500 companies in corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, private equity investments, market analysis, and finance.
Work culture: Bain has been noted for its company culture and its “fun” workplace environment, thanks to its highly motivated employees. The hours are long, but travel is a little less for Bain employees compared with those of its rivals. Bain regularly figures among the top companies to work for in Glassdoor and Consulting Magazine lists.
Tidbits: Bain claims that it increases its clients’ profits five to ten times the money they spent on its services. Bain is a known as a secretive organization, and is nicknamed “the KGB of consulting.” The company helps its staff do pro bono work through its Bridgespan Group. Its social responsibility engagements include programs for the UNHCR and the World Childhood Foundation.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
First glance: BCG, founded by Bruce Henderson in 1963, has 90 offices in 50 countries. HQ: Boston, Massachusetts. Revenue: $5.6 billion (2016). Employees: 14,000, including 6,200 consultants worldwide.
Services: BCG is known for its work in the areas of retail, health, care, and chemicals.
Work culture: Talented colleagues, excellent client work, and great professional development are the pluses pointed out by employees. But there’s too much travel, the hours are long, and it is tough to achieve work-life balance, according to some. BCG was on Glassdoor’s 2017 highest-paying companies in the US (annual median total compensation: $147,000) and its “Best companies to work for” list. It has been among Consulting Magazine’s “Best firms to work for” since 2001 and has featured among Working Mother magazine’s “Best companies for working mothers.”
Tidbits: It was BCG that created the growth-share matrix, an easy-to-use tool that helps companies decide how much cash to allocate among their business units; the experience curve, according to which, “the more often a task is performed, the lower the cost of doing it will be”; and the advantage matrix.
Booz Allen Hamilton
First glance: Headquartered in McLean, Virginia, in Greater Washington DC, Booz Allen Hamilton primarily serves the US Government in IT strategy and integration. Originally established in 1914, it has 80 offices worldwide. Revenue: $5.48 billion (2014). Employees: 22,000 (2014).
Services: In 2008, the parent company Booz Allen separated its two main divisions (one that dealt with the government and one that worked with private companies) into two companies—Booz Allen and Hamilton and Booz & Company (now Strategy&). Although IT consulting is the main service that Booz Allen Hamilton offers the US government, its initiatives have reached almost all departments, including Homeland Security.
Work culture: In 2013, 50 percent of BAH employees had top-secret-level security clearances. The negative factor in working with federal clients is that they move at their pace, not yours. The positive factor is that work-life balance is better than at other consulting firms.
Tidbits: Edward Snowden, who leaked sensitive documents from the National Security Agency, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton. Although reports say that Snowden was paid $200,000 annually despite not having a college degree, BAH says he was actually paid $122,000.
First glance: Deloitte, incorporated in the UK and one of the Big Four professional services companies (along with Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers), was founded in 1845 by William Welch Deloitte. HQ: London. Revenue: $38.8 billion (2017). Employees: 263,900 (2017).
Services: Deloitte provides consulting, audit, enterprise risk, tax, and financial advisory services. The company is organized into three service areas: human capital, strategy and operations, and technology.
Work culture: Work at Deloitte, rated by consultant responses as the best place to work among the Big Four and described as “the Stanford of consulting,” is “impactful and interesting.” Career development and team collaboration are important aspects of personnel management. However, new roles outside of specialization are hard to get.
Tidbits: Fortune ranked Deloitte one of the “Best 100 places to work” in 2016. Bloomberg Business has regularly put the company among the best places to launch a career. The company was a sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics, 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and 2010 Winter Paralympic Games. Deloitte has faced its share of controversies, litigation, and regulatory action, including the Australian illicit tobacco, Canadian Bar Association, and email hacking controversies.
Ernst & Young
First glance: With 700 offices in 150 countries, Ernst & Young is one of the Big Four. It was founded in 1989, though the original component company was established in 1849. HQ: London. Revenue: $31.3 billion. Employees: 250,000 (2017).
Services: Assurance, including financial audit and accounting advisory services, comprises 38 percent of EY’s revenue from its services; tax, including international tax services, 26 percent; advisory, including risk and performance improvement, 26 percent; and transaction advisory services 9 percent.
Work culture: According to employees, EY provides consultants “incredible exposure” to clients and high-performing executives. The work is described as enjoyable and challenging. However, the company’s thinking is “old and stagnant.” The salaries are good and so are the perks, but the hours and their unpredictability make EY quite a mixed environment.
Tidbits: In 2017, Forbes listed EY among the best management consulting firms. The company was a sponsor of the 2016 Rio Games and the 2012 and 2014 Ryder Cups. In 2010, EY was accused of engaging in balance-sheet window dressing, and the company settled related lawsuits. In 2014, tax arrangements reportedly designed by EY for a few multinational corporations became public through the “Luxembourg Leaks.”
First glance: KPMG, founded in 1987 with the merger of Klynveld Goerdeler and Peat Marwick, is one of the Big Four, and operates in over 150 countries. HQ: Amstelveen, Netherlands. Revenue: $26.4 billion (2017). Employees: 188,982 (2016).
Services: KPMG provides services in the broad categories of financial audit, advisory (management consulting), and tax, with revenue shares (2016) of 40, 38, and 22 percent, respectively.
Work culture: KPMG was ranked 12th in Fortune’s list of “100 best companies to work for,” voted by employees. It also often features in Working Mother magazine’s “100 best companies for working mothers.” KPMG is known to offer opportunities to new recruits that can help them make an impact early in their careers. Among the minuses are the long hours (though the work schedule is often flexible), compensation, and travel. Among the Big Four, KPMG has been referred to as being the most committed to work-life balance.
Tidbits: KPMG has 80 offices and a presence in all 50 US states. It has faced a number of controversies and charges, some of which it has had to settle for millions of dollars. In 2018, it has been in the spotlight for its auditing of the collapsed US construction firm Carillion, and in 2017, it was embroiled in controversies involving the Gupta family.
McKinsey & Company
First glance: Founded in 1926, McKinsey is widely considered the most prestigious management consulting firm in the world and is one of the Big Three firms along with BCG and Bain. It has 127 offices worldwide. HQ: New York. Revenue: Over $10 billion (2018). Employees: 27,000 (2018).
Services: It addresses strategic, organizational, operational, and technological problems for its client companies in a wide range of industrial sectors from technology, natural resources, and commodities to entertainment and media.
Work culture: Global staffing model; great opportunities for professional growth; and excellent training are how employees see their company. But they say the environment is fast-paced with “up or out” policies. Professional commitments make for a tough lifestyle for McKinsey employees.
Tidbits: McKinsey claims to serve 90 percent of the top 100 companies in the world. It publishes the McKinsey Quarterly (since 1964) and runs the McKinsey Global Institute, spending $50 million to $100 million on research each year.
– Life as a McKinsey Consultant
First glance: Mercer, founded 1945, is a subsidiary of Marsh and McLennan, a global professional services firm. Locations: 180 cities in 40 countries. Revenue: $4.3 billion (2016). Employees: 21,200 (2016).
Services: Mercer focuses its business on the areas of health, wealth, and career.
Work culture: According to employee feedback, Mercer provides good exposure to top experts in the investments industry. It has a sustained focus on innovation. But the big workload and poor work-life balance are negatives.
Tidbits: Mercer is considered among the largest HR consultancies in the world and made it into the list of 2015 Forbes’ “America’s best employers list.” Mercer was adjudged “2018 Vault’s No. 1” in the list of best consulting firms for HR consulting. The company helps create an ideal workforce ecosystem for its client companies and designs employee health plans and retirement plans, helping them bring out the best performance of their employees while also being employee-friendly.
First glance: Formed in 1998 with the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, the history of PwC’s component companies dates to the mid-19th century. It has about 800 offices in 150 countries. HQ: London. Revenue: $37.7 billion (2017). Employees: 236,000 (2017).
Services: Assurance (42 percent), advisory (33 percent), and tax (25 percent) are PwC’s main service lines.
Tidbits: PwC has been Vault’s PwC No. 1 in the Accounting Top 50 list and No. 1 in Overall Prestige. PwC has helped the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tally the votes for the Academy Awards since 1935, but in 2017 was also responsible for handing over the wrong envelope containing the name of the award-winning film to the presenters in a “bad mess-up.” The company sponsors sports events and teams and has been the official sponsor of the Dutch soccer team since 1992.
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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9