MBB London Lifestyle?

Hi all,

Current planning on applying to INSEAD/LBS for an MBA beginning in 2024 - I am a US Citizen. Interested in consulting in London afterwards.

Does anyone have any experience or know of how lifestyle is working MBB in London? I'm well aware of the lower than US salaries, but curious how a post-MBA life looks there. I'll likely have zero to little MBA debt which should help a lot. Plan is to live in Europe for a few years, travel, have fun, and then maybe transfer to a NA office if I want to come back home.

Appreciate anyone's help!

 
Most Helpful

Can only speak for us but in terms of lifestyle I'd say

  • WLB is definitely manageable here (with the occasional bad case with super long hours, but that's rare; currently have one for the first time in 10 months). Office avg usually is around 55h per week (fluctuates up to 60h), which is also my normal avg (except at the moment, where Im closer to 65h, unfortunately)
  • Office life is definitely a big plus here, with an active group of ACs to Cs present during Friday office events, even on off days I try to make it there to see some friends :) and it's a good way to meet people outside of your team
  • In terms of well-being we also have extra days off throughout the year called BEST days aimed at promoting and proactively managing your health (physical and mental)
  • London itself is a super active city with always something going on and everything from rave parties to musicals to concerts or comedy gigs. Your choice. You're also a 2h20 train ride away from Paris city centre, and a 1-2h train ride from a ton of places in the UK (Cambridge, Oxford, Bristol, Brighton, etc.)
  • Finally you have 5 international airports (I refuse to count Southend as London, despite its name) that fly anywhere anytime

If you have more questions about Bain London, I'm happy to answer too. As you can tell, I'm a big fan of London and my office. Is it perfect? No, not even close, but it's a lot better than a lot of other jobs I've had :D (long days notwithstanding).

 

Sounds really positive, thank you for the response. Would love to hear a bit more about the cons of the role & team at Bain. I've heard from friends that although positivity and culture are at the forefront of the firm's approach to work, in practice things are still intense and typically a lot of good people leave after 2/3 years. Please do correct me if I'm wrong, but hear from down the grapevine that there are negatives that are not well publicised.

 
  • Consulting-wide (true nearly everywhere)
    • Hours / WLB
    • lack of ownership / difficulty seeing impact
    • travel (though less so than our peers admittedly)
    • up or out policy
    • relatively lower pay than other high-intensity industries like IB / PE / Law
  • Bain-specific
    • slower progression than at McKinsey / BCG, with only little room for going faster than is recommended
    • undervaluation of previous experience for experienced hires, whereby someone with 3 years experience at a top law firm or top econ consulting shop will come in as an AC, same as a fresh grad
    • occasional lack of actual change on difficult cases with poor WLB, where you're told "We need to get better!" by leadership and then nothing changes the following week, which makes you feel unheard at times, but at the same time, we don't control our clients (despite what some would like to believe)
    • lack of diversity among leadership, which is better at the AC-C level (also better in the US), but I think these DEI efforts started a little late at Bain, so this is taking longer to work its way through to the top (would need to reassess in 5-6 years, and look at the Partners then)
  • Complaints (that I heard)
    • they didn't enjoy London (which is fair, to each their own, literally cannot change that)
    • the job itself was nice enough, but that wasn't what they really wanted to do / get out of this life, so they left, or
    • they struggled with the lack of impact / value add at times on certain projects (which I have mentioned above already)
    • also everyone is miserable on a long case with a difficult client, but that's just working
 

Echo what the other Bainie said about the London office.

Since OP is from the US, it might be helpful to provide a perspective on London from across the pond. The London office is perceived as more "sweaty" (longer hours on average, feels a little more competitive) and, because of its size and general British culture, a little colder than US counterpart offices. I doubt that is an entirely fair comparison, but I've heard it enough times across firms that it's worth mentioning. One huge benefit of London is that the offices for all 3 MBB are huge and well-represented across all industry and capability practices. 

Hardest pill to swallow, however, is going to be the huge pay differential between US and UK.

 

Posted those recently, they're up to date (the comment is for US, while UK is earlier in the same thread): Link

The usual caveat about the figures:

  • UK Tax will cover your insurance needs, same as in the US (thanks to the comment below for clarifying!)
  • UK pension is contributed by your employer directly (~9% of your Gross Annual Income every year), so no need to max out any 401K like in the US, you don't spend anything
  • Transport costs in London are quite manageable (~£20-35 / week for me on avg), while some US cities like LA just require you to own a car (with all the associated costs: insurance, maintenance, petrol, etc.)
 

McKinsey also covers 100% of insurance premium and 100% of healthcare costs after a negligible 100$ deductible (in the US)

 

If you have specific questions I can answer for McKinsey London. I think London specific stuff has been covered.

There are multiple personal interest groups (ranging from theatre to hiking to football) open to everyone.

Friday drinks is good, there's always some sector/ function that hosts in the office and then everyone tends to go to the pub after.

Hours vary from 40 hours a week (public sector/ social sector) to 100 hours a week (clients having an emergency/ certain strategy studies). It is possible, recommended and easy to filter studies for your preferences; sectoral, wlb, functional, geographic.

 

40 to 100 hours is a quite large range when it comes to hours. What does the average work week look like and how common is it to go significantly above or below that? Do hours differ in the private equity practice? 

 

Average client study is probably 60 hours per week. Rarely more than 70. And a lot of people are on the beach at the moment, so a lot of time sub 50. US/Aus/Euro transfers all regard London office as pretty chill and relaxed compared to home offices, albeit with worse pay and promotion...
 

BA/Associate hours are definitely better than EM/AP. It gets worse for sure until you get to Partner. 

 

what is WLB like at Mck? I read your other posts to get a more informed viewpoint before asking and I'm intrigued with how quick BAs are promoted and the workload BAs are given (managing their own workstream rather than working off a consultant). Places like Bain and OC&C tend to have an evening off in the week and early finish on Fridays, so I was wondering whether McK offers that or is it just not possible? McK attracts me because of the relatively faster promotions & that I like to stay busy (I hate downtime at work) but I also therefore need some downtime outside of work. 

As a result of the system at McK, do you find that managers are sometimes incompetent and were promoted too quickly? I just cant wrap my head around a UG possibly managing a team after only 1.5-3 years in the job, surely theres just too much breadth to learn? surely following a system like Bain where it takes ~5 years to become a manager is much better for your long term career? 

the fact that you can spend 0-1 year as a senior associate, it seems that for the most part the BA job is basically an analyst and consultant role into one, how the hell are you dealing with that? sorry i may have got my interpretation wrong but you mentioned in a post that as a BA you're incharge of a workstream, so like having to synthesise thoughts onto slides. how the hell do you have the creativity for that? surely a partner / manager will write up a mock up and you do the grunt work? how can you be expected to own a financial model? is it a lot of shadowing in your first 6 months and then you're left to your own? again I am actually attracted to this challenge because I like to stay busy at work, I hate having nothing to do, but this seems to be an intense learning curve. Do any other consulting firms have this approach in London? 

You mentioned that McK tends to have the highest of expectations from their BAs, so what does perfection look like? what boxes do you need to tick to deserve that faster (18 month) promotion? is there some kind of talent thats involved or is it mostly hard work? how can you provide value or how can you be seen as valuable by partners or to excel in non-hierarchal environments like the problem solving team-room? Is there anything I can do as an UG to prepare me? I used to think that having awareness of the bigger picture / commercial bits was important, but it sounds like as a BA, you can't just win off being a good execution monkey, you need some original thinking / a brain too? 

 

Great questions, will try and tackle them in order:

McKinsey's overall philosophy for BAs:
- BAs are fundamentally the same as ASCs (post MBA). Expectations for a 1+0 BA are the same as Associates with 4YOE in consulting
- Forget everything you know about entry level analyst programs at consulting firms/ banks, McK considers itself different. Back in the 80s/ 90s, Associates would work very closely with Partners, who would actively mentor them and pull them up as they were pulled up over time. We are closer to this model than the current trend of treating junior colleagues like monkeys. You are hired as a BA because you are the creme de la creme of global talent. 90% of F500/ FTSE100 firms pay the highest rates on the street because they want your raw brainpower to gain an edge.
- All this to say, you are not hired to spend hours every day deep in excel, or formatting ppt slides. You spend your time delivering actual impact, i.e., getting things done. If that means you need to build a 100 page deck, grind it out. If it means you need to cold call some executive to get his department's sales projections, pick up your phone. At it's most fundamental, the client has a problem, your job is to figure out how to solve it and then to go ahead and get it solved.
- The philosophy is predicated around the fact that although you do not have subject matter expertise, you are smart enough to pick up what is needed a couple of weeks on a new study. True expertise comes from the industry experts at the Firm. McK has one of the largest back offices of the MBBs- yes a lot of this is technical support/ slide beautification. Most of it is industry experts whose job it is to guide you and help you interpret the data. A good BA does not solve all of the problems him or herself, they get them solved.

Roles and responsibilities:
- The best BAs use their EMs to double check priorities and their P/ SP to test their problem solving logic and align on the right answer.
- This means you, as a BA, need to find the answer.

Ramp up:
- There is allowance for a ramp up period when you join. New BAs have no expectations (some EMs actively anticipate negative leverage because of coaching requirements).
- 0+6 BAs should be able to help on a workstream (with hand holding). 1+0 BAs should be basically standalone- owning their workstream fully and presenting their work to P/SP/ CXO level clients.
- These expectations have slipped recently because of macroeconomy and lax requirements during the COVID boom but we are thankfully going back to pre COVID standards. When people say the bar was lowered this is what they generally mean.

Misc:
- Generally transitioning BAs/ Associates act as Junior EMs before they are designated EM. They work under an EM to coach a new joiner to get a feel for managing upwards and downwards.
- First time EMs can be challenging to work with, generally you'd EM an internal study first before a client study.
- I have had difficult EMs, but only because of different working styles - they have all been incredibly good at their jobs. As with all things, the best EMs tend to be the ones who've managed a few studies already.
- Slightly controversial but direct hire EMs can be tough. The pace, expectations, comms style, etc here are McK localised.

Lifestyle:
- I can speak reliably for London on this. Most of the office starts clearing out around 10pm Mon-Thurs. The PEPI floor is busy until 1am. You will find people around the office until 4am and then again from 7am.
- Hours vary by sector/ clients and team. I've worked in teams where we left by 8/9, but others where the norm was to work until 2am.
- Most people tend to finish around 6/7pm on Fridays but this is not really guaranteed if there is a client need. I know people who finish early on Fridays and then pick up Sunday evening.

 

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