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McKinsey, Bain, BCG & The Best Consulting Firms To Work For In 2020

McKinsey remains top dog for third straight year. BCG leapfrogs Bain to move into second place

By  Seb Murray

Thu Sep 5 2019

Consulting is a fast-growing market. So, it’s surprising that there’s so little change at the top of the Vault Consulting 50 ranking for the best consulting firms to work for in 2020. 

The ‘Big Three’ firms all held the top three spots. McKinsey & Company beat all competitors to claim the number one spot for the third straight year. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Company—who complete the Big Three—switched places, ranking second and third, respectively. 

They have a penchant for hiring MBAs from Harvard Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Business. Duke’s Fuqua School of Business lists McKinsey, Bain, and BCG among its top MBA recruiters. HEC Paris MBAs have landed jobs at McKinsey and AT Kearney in the past, and the China Europe International Business School lists Bain and Deloitte Consulting among their top MBA hirers. 

The Consulting 50 is a snapshot of worker sentiment at consulting firms. The ranking is based on confidential surveys of more than 17,000 consulting firm employees. They were asked to rate their own firms on a scale of one-to-10 based on firm culture, compensation, work/life balance, the outlook for the firm, overall satisfaction, and other key quality of life factors. 

The respondents also rated the prestige of peer firms and picked the strongest firms in specific practice areas, such as strategy consulting. 

McKinsey came out on top because of its score for prestige—the firm has a stellar brand, working with top Fortune 100 firms around the world. It has also produced many of their CEOs, including Google’s Sundar Pichai, a Wharton MBA alumnus. 

McKinsey ranked top for ‘exit opportunities’. One survey respondent said: “I feel like I can go to any company in the US looking for a job and be able to credibly say I can do the work they’ll ask me to do, and they’ll believe it.” 

McKinsey also came first for diversity, global opportunities, selectivity, and supervisor relationships, though it performed worse on the quality of life and work metrics than previous years. 

BCG leapfrogged Bain into second for its higher scores on the quality of life and work metrics. This includes for compensation, with salary raises noted by survey respondents. 

They also praised BCG’s transparency around compensation and promotion. But BCG is unlikely to top McKinsey unless it can improve its rank for prestige, which carries the most weight in the methodology. BCG’s prestige increased by just 0.12% year-over-year. 

Vault used a weighted formula to compile the ranking: 30% prestige; 15% satisfaction; 15% firm culture; 10% compensation; 10% work-life balance; 10% level of challenge; 5% business outlook; 5% promotion policies.

Bain fell because of a worse performance in many quality of life and career measures. Its strength is in how positive employees feel about its leadership, as well as its good training opportunities and flexible travel requirements. Bain in 2017 appointed a new global managing partner, Manny Maceda. 

Outside the Big Three

More significant changes were seen further down the rankings. One standout performer was Booz Allen Hamilton, which rose from 21st to sixth place this year due to higher internal scores for quality of life. Booz has made a concerted effort to promote a healthier work/life balance, with various wellness programs and incentives in place. 

Yet it is the boutique, or niche firms, that were the standout performers on quality of life and work. Boutique firms topped lists in eight different categories, including culture (Keystone Group), formal training (Health Advances) and hours (Eagle Hill). 

There were other big risers and even new entrants to the ranking. Gartner rose eight places to rank 23rd. GE Healthcare entered the ranking this year at number 10, with AT Kearney also breaking into that bracket. Several new firms made their debut, including life sciences boutique Blue Matter (30th), Insigniam (36th) and Applied Value (37th). 

Many of the regulars lost ground in this year’s ranking, however. Putnam Associates fell from sixth to 12th place because of lower scores for quality of life and work. The Bridgespan Group and the Brattle Group also fell by several spots. 

Vault this year introduced a new practice area ranking for the best consulting firms for technology, media, and telecoms (TMT), a fast-growing niche. McKinsey topped that category, followed by BCG, Accenture, Deloitte, and Bain, respectively. 

This reflects the increasing demand for digital technology consultants. 

“TMT companies are leading the global community through a digital revolution,” said Stephan Maldonado, Vault’s consulting editor. “It’s no exaggeration to say that the consulting firms that advise these companies are changing the future.”