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Where do you want to work in the management consulting industry?

If you work in finance, you might think you want to leave and work in management consulting. However, the consulting profession has undergone some marked shifts in the competitive landscape in the past decade, and if you’re going to be a consultant you need to make your choice carefully.

There are six main categories of consulting firm, each with their advantages and problems.

What are the Big 3 consulting firms?

The Big 3 - MBB (McKinsey, BCG, and Bain), are widely regarded as the world’s largest and most prestigious strategy consulting firms. They traditionally acted as strategic advisors of choice to the boards of Fortune 1000 companies across the globe. Their key areas of expertise are strategy and corporate development, management, organisational change, and business growth. Many of their consultants, while extremely intelligent (most are armed with a long list of degrees from the Ivy League and Oxbridge), have little to no commercial experience, including direct industry experience working in the types of firms they advise.

What are the Big 4 consulting firms?

The Big 4 accounting firms (i.e. PwC, KPMG, EY, and Deloitte) traditionally generated the bulk of their revenues across three key business lines: assurance, advisory, and tax. Much of their advisory (consulting) work has been focused heavily on risk and regulatory matters.

What are the mid-market strategy firms?

The mid-market strategy firms are key competitors to the Big 3. They include the likes of Oliver Wyman, Roland Berger, AT Kearney, and LEK. They have typically been more successful bidding for strategy engagements that require more specialised functional or domain expertise. For example, Oliver Wyman is known for its deep expertise in the financial services sector, as well as its capabilities in finance and risk. Mid-market firms’ revenues are typically more concentrated within their core geographies.

What are the global IT & outsourcing firms?

These firms are typically focused on technology and business process consulting, and include the likes of Accenture, IBM, and Navigant. They provide technological and process solutions (including technology implementation and outsourcing) to their corporate clients. A lot of their employees are in outsourcing hubs such as India and the Philippines (e.g. roughly 200,000 of Accenture’s global workforce of 459,000 work here).

What are the specialist implementation consultancies?

Firms like Capco, Synpulse, Sia Partners, GreySpark, and Delta Capita began as specialist providers within the financial services industry, and focused on a mix of projects related to compliance, technology, and business process optimization. They compete with the Big Four for long-term implementation engagements through aggressive price competition and the delivery of highly-specialised content niches – for example, GreySpark is known for its deep expertise in electronic trading.

What are the boutique strategy firms?

Boutique strategy consultancies compete directly with the likes of MBB on specific strategic projects. In Asia they include firms such as T Plus (Korea), Port Jackson Partners (Australia), or Quinlan & Associates (Hong Kong). Boutique firms are typically typically led by ex-tier-1 consulting partners, as well as seasoned industry executives. They’re usually very selective in their client engagements and actively seek out opportunities with organisations where the global consultancies lack content expertise or flexibility.

Benjamin Quinlan is the CEO & Managing Partner at Quinlan & Associates, a strategy consulting firm that specializes in financial services. A longer version of this article can be read here. 

Photo by Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

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AUTHORBenjamin Quinlan Insider Comment
  • Em
    4 September 2019

    How important is it to have implementation experience for someone in strategy?

    Is it ideal to have both, that and strategic advisory?

    And how difficult to move from implementation to the latter?

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