If you’re considering a career in management or strategy consulting, it’s worth undertaking some research to understand more about the world’s best strategy consulting firms.
Good firms are characterized by a number of factors that range from reputation and expertise to company culture and client base. To help you weigh up your options, we’ve summarized some key facts and figures about the world’s top-10 management consulting firms, as selected by former McKinsey consultants.
What are the best strategy consulting firms?
McKinsey & Company
Founded in Chicago by James O. McKinsey in 1926, McKinsey has held the reputation of being the industry leader for many decades. Unparalleled in its reach and prestige, McKinsey is the largest of the top management consulting firms, with over 35,000 employees in over 130 cities around the world.
McKinsey’s size allows it to offer its clients deep expertise in virtually all industries and functions. For senior leaders at most top global organizations, McKinsey is the go-to adviser across a range of critical questions, from strategy and operations through to digital.
Known for being a ‘CEO factory’, McKinsey has many notable alumni, such as Google’s Sundar Pichai, former Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Chelsea Clinton.
As the market leader, McKinsey is often subject to a great deal of scrutiny. Over the years the firm has been criticized for its role in many controversies, including the 2008 financial crisis and the opioid epidemic in the United States, and for its work for authoritarian governments.
Take a look at our articles on McKinsey’s working culture and what it’s like to work there to learn more about life at the firm.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
BCG is a smaller management consulting firm than McKinsey but is growing a little faster, and with 25,000 employees, it’s a clear challenger. Similar to McKinsey, BCG covers most industries and geographies around the world and is present in over 50 countries and 100 cities.
BCG is known for creating and popularizing the ‘growth-share matrix,’ which is a framework that helps large corporations decide how to allocate cash among their business units for the greatest growth.
Notable BCG alumni include former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Grammy award-winning musician John Legend.
Take a look at our article on BCG’s working culture to learn more about life at the firm.
Bain & Company
Founded by Bill Bain, a former BCG partner, Bain & Company covers an array of industries. Along with McKinsey and BCG, it is known as one of the world’s top-3 management consulting firms. With only 15,000 employees, Bain is the smallest, but all three firms are of a similar pedigree and are considered to be in a league apart from other top firms.
Bain is well known for its strengths in serving financial services and private equity clients. It even has a spin-off firm in this space, Bain Capital.
The firm also has a lot of credibility within the field of consumer goods. It invented the widely-used Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures the popularity and success of a brand by the degree to which a customer would recommend it to a friend or family member.
Notable Bain alumni include Nike CEO John Donahoe, former US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay and Hewlett Packard.
Take a look at our article on Bain’s working culture to learn more about life at the firm.
Strategy consulting firm Kearney was founded by Andrew Thomas Kearney, a historic leader within the management consulting industry.
When McKinsey’s first two partners split the firm in 1939, Kearney continued to run the firm out of Chicago as A.T. Kearney and Company. Meanwhile, Marvin Bower took over the New York office and retained the name McKinsey & Company.
A.T. Kearney was sold to the technology consulting firm EDS in 1995, but became independent again in 2005 and has been recovering since.
Today, Kearney is relatively small, with over 4,000 employees working across multiple industries in over 40 countries. The firm has a particular strength in operations work.
Oliver Wyman has over 6,000 employees worldwide, with offices in more than 70 cities in 30 countries.
The management consulting firm is best known for client work within banking and financial services, where its depth of expertise is rivaled only by McKinsey. It’s said that Oliver Wyman serves more than 80% of the world’s largest 100 financial institutions.
Unlike the other top-10 consulting firms, Oliver Wyman is not entirely owned by its partners; it’s a subsidiary of Marsh McLennan.
Take a look at our article on Oliver Wyman’s working culture to learn more about life at the firm.
The strategy consulting firm Roland Berger is German in origin and prides itself on being the only leading global consultancy firm with non-Anglo-Saxon roots. It has over 50 worldwide offices and 3,000 employees, with headquarters in Munich.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its heritage, Roland Berger has a strength in serving clients in industrials and heavy industries.
With over 1,000 employees worldwide, L.E.K. Consulting is much smaller than the other top consulting firms. It covers a number of industries, however, and is well regarded within life sciences, media and private equity, where it’s known for its due diligence work.
Strategy& is the global strategy business of PwC, a ‘Big-4’ accounting firm. Acquired in 2014, Strategy& was originally Booz & Company. To date, it is the biggest management consulting firm to have been acquired by a Big-4 accounting firm.
In its early days as part of the larger strategy consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, Booz and Company was credited with coining the concepts of the supply chain and supply chain management.
Today, as Strategy&, the firm has 75 offices worldwide and over 3,000 employees.
EY (previously known as Ernst & Young) is another Big-4 accounting firm. In 2014 it acquired The Parthenon Group, a global strategy consultancy, to bolster its consulting operations.
This illustrated a shift in EY’s focus towards strategy consulting, and saw the firm enter into competition in a space that had traditionally been held by McKinsey, BCG and Bain (collectively known as ‘MBB’).
Notably, EY has over 160 Partners with experience at McKinsey, BCG or Bain – significantly more than at any other Big-4 firm – who work in a variety of practice areas.
Deloitte, another Big-4 accounting firm, acquired the Monitor Group in 2013. Founded by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, Monitor is now the strategy consulting arm of Deloitte.
It is best known for serving clients within the areas of healthcare and consumer goods, with a particular focus on the intersection between the two, and on technological innovation within this space.
If a career in management or strategy consulting sounds like it might be right for you, you can learn more in our complete guide to the management consulting industry. And if you’re preparing to apply to one of the top-10 consulting firms, the resume and cover letter templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you get your application into great shape.