Oliver Wyman is a leading global management consulting firm, with 5,000 employees and offices in 60 cities around the world.
In this article we take an in-depth look at Oliver Wyman, including its history, what the firm is known for and what it’s like to work there. We also consider how candidates can articulate their motivation for applying to Oliver Wyman in an interview.
A brief history of Oliver Wyman
The Oliver Wyman of today is the result of a complex history of mergers and acquisitions that began in 1969. The predecessor of the modern-day Oliver Wyman – Oliver, Wyman & Company – was founded in New York in 1984 by six former Booz Allen Hamilton consultants.
In 2003, Oliver, Wyman & Company merged with Mercer’s financial services strategy and risk units. Originally named Mercer Oliver Wyman, this firm was consolidated with two other Mercer business units in 2007 to form Oliver Wyman.
Today, the firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies. This means that, unlike other management consulting firms, Oliver Wyman is not entirely owned by its Partners.
What is Oliver Wyman known for?
The founders of Oliver, Wyman and Company had a vision to establish a management consulting firm with specialist industry expertise. Consequently, when the firm was founded in 1984 it had a strong initial focus on the financial services industry.
Today, Oliver Wyman continues to be a global leader in financial services, with a depth of expertise that’s hard to rival. The firm serves more than 80% of the world’s 100 largest financial institutions.
However, Oliver Wyman has expanded its reach in recent years, with a growing presence in industries such as technology, public sector, consumer goods and aviation.
What is Oliver Wyman’s working culture?
When it comes to working at Oliver Wyman, there are a number of factors that make life at the firm both unique and appealing:
A high level of trust and responsibility
At Oliver Wyman, consultants are trusted implicitly and provided with as much responsibility as their knowledge allows from the very beginning of their time at the firm. Speaking to clients, leading meetings and interacting with extremely senior stakeholders could all be on a new joiner’s agenda. This is supported by the firm’s non-hierarchical approach to seeking input from consultants and listening to everyone equally.
Another hallmark of Oliver Wyman’s high-trust culture is the flexibility the firm allows consultants when it comes to the prioritization of work. The priority is for deadlines to be met and consultants can largely choose how to go about achieving this.
Some may feel out of their comfort zone as a result of the large amount of responsibility they are given at Oliver Wyman, but their development tends to accelerate rapidly. Unlike at other firms, consultants who demonstrate their ability at a higher level have the opportunity to be staffed at that level before the next promotion cycle. While this doesn’t impact their compensation, it provides them with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience at the higher level and strengthen their case for promotion.
A focus on substance over style
Oliver Wyman has a very strong culture of providing fact-based recommendations and ensuring that proposals are sound and robust. An Oliver Wyman consultant won’t present a weak or unsupported argument, even if it can be beautifully packaged or delivered with perfect presence. However, if the content is rock solid and time doesn’t allow for it, consultants are not put under additional pressure to prepare or deliver an extremely polished presentation.
While giving consultants a large amount of responsibility, the firm ensures that everyone has the tools they need to succeed. This includes access to an internal knowledge base, insight from subject matter experts and access to a large amount of data (e.g. annual company reports, market data, stock prices and aggregated industry data). When consultants need to find a specific piece of data, the highly-skilled researchers in Oliver Wyman’s Knowledge Services team are on hand to help them find it.
New joiners are supported by a number of advisors, who are responsible for helping them develop their capabilities and manage their career with the firm. In addition to this formal support, consultants at Oliver Wyman also have access to informal mentorship from the senior colleagues they work with on projects.
An emphasis on fun and friendship
Oliver Wyman attracts a diverse but like-minded group of people who tend to be friendly, supportive and sociable.
There’s an annual retreat for each office – often in an exciting location – where teams can have fun and celebrate their achievements together. Project teams frequently organize optional weekend social activities, while practice offsites, regional offsites and sports tournaments also feature regularly in Oliver Wyman’s internal calendar.
Outside of the firm’s organized events, Oliver Wyman consultants often enjoy socializing on weekends and sometimes even go on vacation together. Many form life-long friendships during their time at the firm.
How to answer the “why Oliver Wyman?” question in an interview
If you’re preparing to interview at Oliver Wyman, it’s important to be able to articulate your reasons for applying there in a clear and compelling way.
Aim to be as specific as possible in your answer and avoid making generic statements. Having an example of how your strengths, goals or values align with the firm can be especially effective. This might be in relation to the work that Oliver Wyman does, the types of clients it supports or its working culture.
It can be also helpful to highlight the research you have done into life at the firm, and to articulate why you have built such a positive impression.
If a career in management 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 Oliver Wyman or another top consulting firm, the templates and specialized advice in our Free Resume Course will help you get your application in great shape.