These prestige consultancies, along with the likes of Accenture and A.T Kearney hit a recruitment peak at Chicago’s Booth School of Business in 2015. The sector snapped up 32% of Booth’s MBAs, up 4% on last year and mirroring similar gains across top US and European schools.
“We have a huge demand at Accenture for talented consultants and it can be a challenge to find high calibre talent. As such, we work closely with a number of business schools,” said Gregor McHardy, a managing director for Accenture in the UK and Ireland.
Booth was among the first top US schools to kick off the 2015 careers reporting season.
Consulting firms hired the most MBAs at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business in 2015 for the second consecutive year. 34% of Tuckies were hired by top firms such as L.E.K. Consulting and Deloitte, up by 7% on 2013 but down 1% on last year.
“There’s definitely a demand for more senior people,” said Matthew Guest, head of Deloitte’s digital strategy practice for EMEA. But he added: “MBA is a qualification. It’s not something I always look for or do not look for.”
One reason for the boost in consulting recruitment is the high demand for digital and strategy advisory services. Top consultancy firms have also been expanding their investment advisory wings, as M&A activity continues to boom at a record-setting pace this year. “Fundamentally, a digital strategy is your corporate strategy,” Matthew said.
PwC and A.T Kearney were among the advisory groups that snapped up 35% of Kellogg School of Management’s MBA class, the school reported this month. That followed similarly rampant recruitment by consultancy firms at Kellogg for the past five consecutive years.
“There will always be a need for the MBA profile,” said Peter Hewlett, a principal at A.T Kearney.
The continued demand for MBA talent on the part of consultancy firms has helped push up salaries this year. At Harvard Business School, consulting pay has risen by $5,000 to $140,000 in 2015.
“There is strong demand for the value of the MBA so firms are willing to pay competitive salaries,” said Jonathan Masland, director of Tuck’s Career Development Office. Tuck MBAs were paid $145,000 by consultancies including the three top firms — Bain, BCG and McKinsey — which hired 18% of the Tuck class, he added. “They come back each year.”
Across the pond at top schools in Europe, INSEAD, although it brands itself as a global school, reported that consulting firms hired 41% of its 1,000 MBAs. More than one-quarter were hired by the trio of top firms.
Stephane Ponce, global consulting lead at INSEAD’s Career Development Centre, said: “Consulting firms are looking for well-rounded candidates who can exhibit strong analytical, quantitative and problem solving skills, but also soft skills — strong presentation and communication skills, intellectual curiosity and mental horsepower.”
The expansion into advisory of the Big Four professional services firms — KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PwC — in particular has been noted by European schools’ careers directors, who say that MBA jobs at these companies abound.
Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, said: “As M&A activity has been very active over the last 12 months, the Big Four firms have been expanding their teams.”
Coupled with the rise in hiring by Silicon Valley tech outfits such as Amazon and Google, consulting’s rise comes at the expense of the financial services sector. Banks have been leaking staff, owing to widespread layoffs, onerous regulation and tarnished reputations.
Relative compensation at top investment banks has also diminished. PwC research found investment bank pay is down 19% on 2010, and 21% since a pre-crisis peak. At Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, MBAs employed by financial services firms this year are earning $107,500 — $28,000 less than peers in consulting.
Management consulting, long a top choice for twenty-something business school graduates, is attractive because of its high pay, fast career progression and the prestige status it can give a CV, schools say. McKinsey says more than 400 alumni are CEOs of organizations with revenues north of $1 billion. Also, the cross functional nature of consulting is akin to MBA curricula.