Choice of firm (Bain vs. BCG)

Hi,I'm looking into choosing between these two great firms for an upcoming summer internship. This will be in the Middle East offices.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the best way to go about this. My criteria for these firms go along these lines:

  1. Private Equity vertical

This is what I am finding most attractive about Bain. I would love some insight on how this factors in to break into PE down the line. If I decide to go with BCG how different will it be to break into PE?I'm not set on PE from this point is I know very little about the field, but would still like to explore it down the line.

  1. Public vs. Private sector

From my understanding, BCG is very well known for its public sector work which it is dominating now in the Middle East. From what I have heard, they are receiving projects in a very large number and at a very high caliber. At the same time, Bain offers some opportunities on private sector as well since its strengths seem to lie there. Would it be difficult to be staffed at BCG on a private sector project, and vice versa? Is this something to look into from this stage, and if so, how can I decide where my interest lies?

  1. Opportunity and ease to relocate to US offices (New York, Chicago, etc.)

  2. Opportunity and support for prestigious MBAs (Harvard, INSEAD, etc.)

  3. Opportunity and difference in exit ops.

  4. Culture

Though Bain's people are definitely supportive and friendly, I did not find it difficult to connect with my interviewers at BCG. This is not a major point for me, but I would still love to hear your thoughts.


Help me choose between Bain and BCG. My criteria here are type of projects, private equity vertical, relocation, MBA ops, Exit ops.

I can answer some (but not all) of those questions for Bain.

  • PE: we definitely place pretty well there, in the last 5 months, I have seen 4 people jump to PE funds in my office
  • Public/Private: public sector work is not a big thing for us, but this may very well be region-dependent, so ME might differ
  • US relocation: we do offer office transfers (usually 6 months) after your first year if you want to go experience a different office. But you need to be a high performer (and someone from there at your level needs to want to come to your office; it's an exchange system)
  • MBA sponsorship: might differ by offices, but generally we offer full MBA sponsorship (usually you need to have been here a little while first), and upon your return you then owe the firm the same amount of time you spent away, so 1Y owed for a 1Y MBA and 2Y for a 2Y MBA. If you leave before that, you'll need to pay back part of the sponsorship out of pocket (and might burn a bridge too)
    • Caveat: you can't do both in the same year, you need some time off between them
  • Exit Opps: I've seen PE funds (MF and MM), Startups, Not-for-profits, and Strategy roles at corporates (I don't see this being markedly different from BCG)
  • Culture: at Bain there is a general tendency toward being friendly and supportive, true, but also this is no longer competitive at all once you're in. My performing well, does not affect you performing well and being promoted / staffed on good cases, which I think helps foster the "help others when you can" mentality. Every time I've needed something, however small or random, whether from someone I knew, or met once for 5 mins or never, they always took time to help me out (even if they were on the other side of the world), and I do the same, even if I'm busy (within the limits of what's possible obviously, I can't take 2h explaining something if I have a deadline that same day, but I could take 15-20 mins)
    • Objectively, I think for that last point, you should base yourself only on your interactions with people at each firm, so if you connected better with BCG peeps, that might be more your vibe

this might be a silly question but for your co-workers that jumped to PE, were they able to enter investing roles or were they hired as ops people? 

Most Helpful

BCG an absolutely bloodbath rn. Business is down, and they're trying to fire people for "performance" reasons despite there often being now issues.


-multiple people I know have had their scores artificially lowered by office leadership, and then suffered the consequences of those artificial scores.

-the project pipeline has been extremely dry, but they're blaming the employees for not being staffed. They put you on a PIP and say that "the fact that you've been unstaffed signals that teams don't want you" even though there are hardly any projects out there. Look, I get doing layoffs when business is right, but don’t blame it on us the employees.

-I've literally overheard a manager say to someone "That's what happens when you get surgery… you get bad reviews!"

Overall, BCG has a stronger reputation in the region, but there are nuances here that you've noted.

For one, BCG indexes much more on public sector in the Middle East (which is where most of the money in the region is). But these projects are often frustrating - interesting in theory, yes, but you work for absolute dolts and very unsophisticated clients overall. Bain indexes more on the private sector / investors in the region, which isn't common across most firms there. Really depends on what your'e looking for.

Culture is subjective. My impression is that it's a bit better in the region at Bain, but likely not a material difference.

PE is definitely stronger at Bain, but you will be fine recruiting from BCG. Most of the prep has to happen on your own time anyways for PE recruiting, so it's not a big difference if you're dedicated to it.

MBA opps and odds of office transfer will be same at both.

I’ve never heard about frustration with public sector clients from anyone else. Can you please elaborate on that?

As someone with no work experience and very minimal ideas regarding public vs. private sector, how can I better understand where my interest lies? What are the main differences, and why do people usually choose one over the other?

Writing a response quickly, but feel qualified to answer here as I am at Bain and have a lot of experience with the ME consulting market.

1. PE vertical: The best exit is not determined by Bain vs BCG per se, but the extent of relevant PE/ investing experience you get at either firm. While it is true that Bain is the market leader in private equity deals globally, there are a couple of regional nuances to note here. First, BCG has a stronghold in KSA's Public Investment Fund (see this Bloomberg article) and investing in the region is dominated by the major SWFs. Bain also has a strong and growing PE ring-fence in the Middle East (where consultants are staffed only to PE deals or post-acquisition strategy projects) but overall we don't have the same depth of relationships BCG has. Granted, this may change in a few years given Bain's focused resource investments. Second, exits in the ME to private equity are not great in general. You'll get a few SWF opportunities but unlikely to find something in another region. Working at a SWF can be a mixed bag and almost always fairly political to advance upwards.

2. Public vs. private sector: BCG does a lot of public sector work in the Middle East and is the preferred consultant of MBS. So yes, high profile and high caliber. Bain has been growing in ME public sector too but is definitely not as large as BCG (or McK, OW, Kearney, S&) in this sector. Given the higher % of private sector work at Bain, the average person at Bain ME will have done more private sector work after ~2 years.

3. Relocate to US office: You can do a temporary 6-month experience transfer to the US which is relatively easy to do (as long as you are meeting performance expectations), or you can do a permanent transfer which is harder to do. Bain is generally the least flexible with long-term global mobility which historicaly has been a function of it being smaller, although this is getting better over time. 

4. MBA: Both will put you on equal footing and get you looks from all top schools. What sets MBB applicants apart at the really top programs (HSW) is some unique differentiator above-and-beyond employment at MBB

5. Exit ops: Addressed in #1, but to re-iterate, you exit ops will be more driven by the region you're in and case experience on the job.

6. Culture: Bain ME famously had big cultural issues a few years back, but things have really taken a turn for the better. They got rid of many of the toxic senior leaders and have focused on bringing the experience more in-line with other Bain offices. BCG ME is known for being factional, with a lot of grouping by practice area and race/ culture. BCG also took in a lot of former Booz & Co partners when they sold to PwC, and that firm had a particularly rotten reputation in the region (despite being market leaders).

Thank you for your thorough reply, really brought a couple of important points to my attention there. 

Concerning PE, I see myself transferring to a different region where opportunities are stronger before making an exit. However, you mentioned that Bain is not as flexible with global office transfers which is pushing me towards BCG. 

As for MBA admission, could you please elaborate on what could be a "unique differentiator above-and-beyond employment at MBB"? What exactly do accepted applicants at HSW have in common, and what sets them apart from those who are not accepted?

And lastly, does the higher % of private sector work at Bain translate into more industry exit opportunities? Is one more likely to get "stuck" at BCG given its focus on public sector work? 

If you haven’t chosen yet, BCG is a total fucking shitshow globally at the moment. Massively over hired during covid and now frantically cutting people (but don’t you dare call it firing, it’s “managed out”). Very toxic place with low job security and bad culture at the moment. Situation at Bain is a bit better from what I understand (but obviously also pretty crap all things considered)

Happy to help! 

If your goal is to transfer offices, it is very doable at Bain. I myself have worked in ~3 different regions with Bain with relatively little friction (20/21 COVID made things a bit tricky of course). If you want to do a permanent transfer to another office in Bain, you need to establish some personal need for doing the transfer and the receiving office has to have the capacity at your level to take you. The sometimes tricky part is proving "personal need" if you don't have family/ SO or some other critical reason to be in a new region. That said, plenty of people have made permanent moves with less compelling personal needs. I don't know how this compares to BCG's policies to be honest. 

For MBA unique differentiators, I'm less qualified to talk about this as I don't have an MBA. But from what I've seen, the people going to HSW from MBB have some (or many) of the following: top performers in their consulting cohort, graduated top or near top of their undergrad, extremely high GMAT/ GRE, started companies, have patents, elite athletic accomplishments, under-represented backgrounds, rich/ famous parents, deep passion for a particular sector or area which they have pursued at an impressive level (inside and outside work), etc. You'd be better off speaking to an MBA admissions consultant about this than getting insights from me TBH.

I think at more junior levels you will still be able to get interviews at places like PE funds, but having no relevant experience will be a red flag in those interviews. Globally MBB exit ops are very similar, but if you were doing BCG public sector work for long periods of time, I think it could be limiting for what you can do afterwards. 

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