Actual work and down time of consulting vs IBD

Currently an asso 2 in IBD in Asia, have been rethinking my career goal since the layoff, seeing most of ex-colleagues didn't manage to find a job for months. Thought about doing an MBA and move to consulting once the market picks up. Just curious how much of the work and lifestyle is differ

Hours - I saw bankers often quoting 80-100 while consultants are talking about 50-60 per week. What is the intensity of those hours though? Personally I work 80 hours in IBD but I would say I have lots of downtime during the day especially when I have fewer than 2 actual live deals that I am the key person on it. Waiting for comments, waiting for our formatting or research team in India to come back with formatted ppt / data, standby during the day, etc.

I can't go home / take a nap / watch netflix / study during the down time. These hours are dumb and exhausting as I still need to sit in front of my PC pretend I am working (at most I am reading WSJ). Painful when you have to work 36 hours a week + 44 hours of this but intensity wise at least I am not staring at my ppt and keep aligning boxes or doing non-stop data analysis for 50-60 hours a week. Is it the same that consultants get quite some down time even during an engagement?

Work - I have never come across any real strategy work. During PE deals I have seen a few CDD reports being produced in 2-4 weeks though. And I would say they are horribly insane. 200 pages of CDD findings require endless data mining. In IB we have research teams to help finding data, but a lot of time we have to either DIY again or the data are so raw that we have to spent a few more hours on top of that to clean it up. Is it a lot more different at MBB? Data mining sucks so I rather not to become a full-time glorified data mining analyst again. Previously, I worked on a project which required me to find number of bank account customers and credit card customers for 5 banks in 8 countries. Annual report and company website didn't show the numbers and it sucked spending 2 whole day on it and you ended up guesstimating by using doubtful news source.

Also, most of the time I don't think the analysis are that "wow", but even if you give me the data, I would have a hard time churning 200 pages of texts and charts. Summarizing the findings in 1000 words are difficult enough and let alone put together 200 pages with 300 charts. 

How is the non-CDD work in general? Do you guys get access to lots of proprietary data and leverage your clients' business teams to find the numbers? 

Comments (15)

DrApeman, what's your opinion? Comment below:


Can help a bit for Bain at least (London though).


  • Total work hours per week do average ~55h here, including in PEG. We have had heavier weeks of 60-65h, but that's not super common
  • Intensity is definitely full on during these 55h, I don't have time to check my phone / email / socials or anything. It's non-stop work, with breaks for lunch/dinner (and the occasional 3min run for a coffee)
  • WLB is not bad though, since we don't work week-ends, we're pretty sure to finish ~10pm most days, 7pm on an early night, and 4-6pm on Friday


  • CDD teams are usually 4-6 people working really pretty hard, but to be fair we leverage a LOT of internal resources for additional data mining
  • Nevertheless, we do a lot of it, all of us, but the work will usually be themed around Market sizing/forecast, Competitor dynamics, Customer analysis, etc.
    • Hence need to be super 80/20 with evaluating how much something is going to help you and where your time can be best spent 
  • In terms of "strategy" work, a CDD isn't super crazy, it's about proving (or disproving, depending on the mood) that the target is a good one.
  • VCP or post-acq work is more strategy oriented, we also do a fair bit of it now
    • For that, we still have a big research component, but you do have to be critical and thoughtful about what you're looking for / finding
  • Most proper strategy work would be in our GP practice
DrApeman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am in the PE group, which means no travelling (unless co-locating, which would not be every week anyway). In our broader firm, travel still happens but since Covid it has been toned down a lot.

It will depend massively on how far you have to travel: other side of the city or a 2-3h plane ride away.

Bain tends to service local clients as much as possible from our offices, but occasionally you will be staffed with a client that's farther out. Typically, if not in the same city, you'd probably add 3-4h on the day you leave, but on your return trip, depending on the day you may not add anything (say if you travel back on a Friday at 2-3pm, no one will ask you to work when you get home at 5-6pm).

pinkdoughnut11, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for the response.

Slightly different question - is the PE group the exact same as 'traditional' PE in terms of work/comp, except people are mainly hired from a consulting background?

Most Helpful
DrApeman, what's your opinion? Comment below:

No worries.

And short answer is not at all.

  • PE
    • Comp: ~£100-120k base + 100% bonus for Associates
    • Work: deal sourcing, financial modelling for potential deals, preliminary due diligence, talking to firm management, and managing your own portfolio companies
      • I would actually argue that PE teaches you more about real strategy because you have to know your businesses inside and out, nowadays, in order to extract every single $/£/€ of value and EBITDA possible using every single lever you have at your disposal in a short amount of time
  • "PE" Consulting
    • Comp: ~£100k base + 20-30% bonus for a Consultant (BB) / Associate (M), less at other firms
    • Work: commercial due diligence primarily, consisting of market analysis (size, segmentation, trends, forecasts), competitive dynamics (who plays where, why, how do they win, what do they offer), customer analysis (purchasing behaviour, recommendation / customer experience, pain points, trends), and occasionally a VCP [value creation plan] (what levers can be used to generate value in the deal from a commercially sound standpoint)
      • occasionally you also have vendor due diligence (VDDs, same as above really but with access to management info and longer time frame), operational due diligence (ODDs, focused on how to operationalise the CDD team's recommendations and the actual operational impact on the business and the bottom line), and post-acquisition strategy work (varies a lot based on what the client needs)

PE funds hire consultants to basically outsource a lot of the commercial analysis above and vet their initial investment thesis. They already have a good understanding of the business, market, drivers, and financials.

As consultants, it is our job to independently verify every single point in great detail in a short time frame (except financials because the fund can do that better than us), and we have to be decisive and efficient. If we are going to tell you the business is actually not in the market segment you thought and the outlook is not as positive as you thought, we are going to make sure we're right.

ccfarmer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I work at a PE focused firm and have done my fair share of strategy work. Hours on CDD work run about ~65-70 per week with maybe ~5 hours of downtime waiting for comments from partners/managers. CDD teams tend to run lean with maybe 1 manager and 3 staff and timelines are short 2-4 weeks which keeps the workload up and intensity high. For true corporate strategy work, teams are bigger with 1 manager and 4-6 staff usually. Timelines are also longer ~2-4 months which relaxes deadlines and pace. Hours probably run ~50-60 per week with ~5 hours of downtime and longer meal and coffee breaks usually. However, strategy projects are much more variable than CDD work because objectives are often unclear and scope shifts frequently based on client politics. Hours can either be great or an absolute shit show pushing 75 on bad weeks with frequent rework and last minute add-ins before steering committee meetings. However, even on bad weeks I have never had to work on the weekend.

In terms of data mining, we have internal teams and offshore teams that help us find and gather data but a lot of the cleaning is still done by the working team. Almost all slides are made by us and all models and analysis are done by us as well. Firm and offshore resources exist more as a way to avoid endless google searching and calls to data vendors to find things so we can focus on the analytical and presentation work.

  • 2
Winnfield, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Having been on both sides of the IB/Consulting fence, consulting hours are shorter but more intense (ie. way less down time).  Consultants are like the folks who excel at running 5-10k: they maintain a fairly high pace (ie. 4-min/km) for a LONG time.  Every week/day the course is set and the only focus is on crossing that finish line.  

That being said, region matters.  Consulting in Asia will have less hours/days worked than Asia IBD and be more intense, but may still be more overall hours than IBD in London.  That's a London vs Asia difference.

The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd.
  • 2
yz0k3iol9xt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How transferrable is CDD work for Tech PMM / PM / BizOps / Strat?

Seems like CDD work is more shallow (eg. customer interviews to identify pain points etc + not working with management to pilot / change things) and less compelling than general strategy work (eg. customer interviews to identify pain points etc + work with management to pilot / change things)

  • Intern in PE - Growth

Can comment on Bain in APAC - 60-70 hours is typical; for PEG cases 70-80+.  80-100+ hour cases one in a while but not common.

One key difference vs. IB is that during PEG, we don't have much downtime to sit around during the day (taking calls from 9am to 9pm, almost back to back, then produce). To be honest, working in high intensity for extended hours is much tougher than just waiting around. I've aged a few year from a few months in PEG.

Good luck!

yz0k3iol9xt, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Can anyone comment on APAC vs EU/NA working hours differences in private equity?

Based on the thread comments the APAC private equity average seems to be +5-10 hours higher?

pepsii, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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