What are the Tier 1 Consulting Firms?

I know most consider MBB to be the top tier consulting firms but I was wondering what you guys think of OW, Booz & Co, Monitor, etc in terms of their rank/tier. Also, I know Booz Allen and Booz & Co split up a few years ago and just recently their non-compete clause expired, so do you guys think Booz & Co or Booz Allen will ever be considered tier 1 consulting firms as it was before the split?

Prestigious Consulting Firm Rankings

When it comes to ranking consulting firms, there are many different opinions but it is important to note that rankings can change year to year depending on the yardstick you are using.

Xepa:
If you were actually in consulting you would know that the only thing that matters is accounts won and b-school placement. From that standpoint, it's very subjective based on situation, with the clear distinguishment being MBB for overall competitiveness.

Our users provided their own lists with explanations below:

24837 - Consulting Analyst:

Tier 1 Firms

What makes a firm Tier1 is that its top notch across different regions and industries.
That certainly holds true for McK and BCG, and mostly also for Bain.

  • Bain
  • BCG
  • McKinsey

Tier 2 Firms
The Tier2 firms each have unique strengths and weaknesses.

It's impossible to rank these objectively, as e.g. perhaps Monitor's regional weakness in Europe might be irrelevant to an American applicant, but a huge deal to an applicant from France.
Hence people largely agree that MBB are Tier1, however after that it gets somewhat blurred.

Large Tier 2:

  • ATK
  • Berger
  • Booz
  • Deloitte
  • Wyman

Examples for Tier 2:
OW is very strong in financial strategy, however does little strategic planning.
Berger is Tier1 in Europe and China, but small in the US.

Tier 2 - Small with Regional Focus:

  • LEK/li>
  • Monitor/li>
  • OC&C

Tier 3 - "Scale > Quality":

  • Accenture
  • Capgemini
  • EY
  • KPMG
  • PWC

The Recruiting Factor:

  • Another factor is recruiting - the rockstar candidates who get offers from various firms will always choose MBB over others.
  • Booz is a huge firm, but they simply can't hang with MBB when it comes to cross-offers, big problem.
  • Berger has a hard time shaking off it's Euro-centric image (you're on their career website http://join.rolandberger.com/and click on an Event... boom, everything in German all of a sudden.)

B4A23 - Consulting Analyst:
My own consulting list, for what it's worth is below. My rankings come from personal experience, close contacts, industry perception, and current wins:

Tier 1:

  • Bain
  • BCG
  • McKinsey

Reasoning: Prestige is stupid, misplaced, and completely....well, relevant.

Tier 2:

  • Berger
  • Booz
  • Deloitte

Reasoning: Deloitte has done an outstanding job building a strategy group. They're the first to break from the Big 4 mold/stereotype. The only other Big 4 that's done anything to mirror that success is in the next tier...

Tier 3:

  • LEK
  • Monitor
  • OC&C
  • PwC
  • Wyman

Reasoning: PwC is on an acquisition spree. PTRM and Diamond are two major buys. Their book of business is pretty legit. Wyman has a lot of prestige points, but is still relatively a boutique at the end of the day.

Tier 4:

  • Accenture
  • Capgemini
  • EY

Reasoning: If we were going strictly by business segment, Accenture's implementation work is top notch. However, its strategy group is small, and its Management Consulting unit many times stays within the implementation sphere. EY just keeps chugging along.

Honorable Mention:

  • KPMG

Reasoning: KPMG is losing talent constantly, and pay/wins/prestige is last in the Big 4. I haven't heard a good story, and my friends have been applying elsewhere at a good pace.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

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That's not true. MBB is really the top - but other firms like Booz and Monitor have historically competed with them really well. Where do they stand today? I can't give you an informed answer. But I would really like some credible answers either backed by source or experience in the consulting industry.

And please don't give me the Vault guide as a credible source.

 

Stop trolling ivoteforthatguy. If you were actually in consulting you would know that the only thing that matters is accounts won and b-school placement. From that standpoint, it's very subjective based on situation, with the clear distinguishment being MBB for overall competitiveness.

And no one in real life goes down a "prestige list" in evaluation. From that standpoint, pure rankings like 1mpossible are full of shit.

P.S. ATK is highly underrated on these forums.

 
Xepa:
Stop trolling ivoteforthatguy. If you were actually in consulting you would know that the only thing that matters is accounts won and b-school placement. From that standpoint, it's very subjective based on situation, with the clear distinguishment being MBB for overall competitiveness.

And no one in real life goes down a "prestige list" in evaluation. From that standpoint, pure rankings like 1mpossible are full of shit.

P.S. ATK is highly underrated on these forums.

  1. no
  2. i was
  3. stupid questions deserve stupid answers
 
Best Response

I'm inclined to agree with Xepa's point that the type of work matters a lot. The list from 1mpossible mixes these things (and, at the lower levels, doesn't match my personal experience).

ATK is fairly well regarded but on a bit of a downward trajectory - they have been steadily increasing in the % of projects in operational cases, to the point where they aren't always included on RFPs for top line growth or DDs even where they have offices and relationships.

I think PwC and Accenture are both a bit high and Parthenon is a notable one that is entirely missing.

Especially on the Big 4, though, it is important to distinguish between practices. It'd be silly to compare Systems Integration for Accenture to Marakon, for example. To my best understanding, Deloitte's S&OP practice is the only one of the Big 4 practices considered to be reasonably competitive in completely non-IT engagements. For the others, even their strategy/management work tends to be a functional portion of systems work or, at a minimum, cross-sold without an RFP. For example, I don't think my office has been in a competitive proposal with KPMG, EY, or PwC since I've been here (over 2 years now).

Frankly, after MBB, tiers don't matter nearly as much as your personal experience. If you have a chance to go to a firm where you interned or the partners already know you and trust you enough to let you steer your own career a bit, that is worth way more than moving for an incremental "prestige" slot. What you learn and how that fits into your career (or, for b-school and other interviews, into your "story") will certainly outweight any difference within the category of strategy boutiques (or the strategy practices of Big 4/Accenture).

 

The comments highlight the need to differentiate different work.

Economic consulting firms (Analysis Group, Charles River, Cornerstone, etc.) are again an entirely different beast. Many go to MBA, which would make them seem similar, but a lot go to law school and the industry/PE exits are very limited and different from strategy work. The concept of ranking entirely different firms by prestige becomes a pointless exercise when they don't compete for work and their analysts don't compete for exits...

 

What makes a firm Tier1 is that its top notch across different regions and industries. That certainly holds true for McK and BCG, and mostly also for Bain.

The Tier2 firms each have unique strengths and weaknesses. It's impossible to rank these objectively, as e.g. perhaps Monitor's regional weakness in Europe might be irrelevant to an American applicant, but a huge deal to an applicant from France. Hence people largely agree that MBB are Tier1, however after that it gets somewhat blurred.

examples for Tier2: OW is very strong in financial strategy, however does little strategic planning. Berger is Tier1 in Europe and China, but small in the US.

That being said, I suppose most people would agree that the "clusters" go as follows:

Tier1: Bain BCG McKinsey

large Tier2: ATK Berger Booz Deloitte Wyman

Tier2, small with regional focus: LEK Monitor OC&C

"scale > quality" Tier3 Accenture Capgemini EY KPMG PWC

another factor is recruiting - the rockstar candidates who get offers from various firms will always choose MBB over others. Booz is a huge firm, but they simply can't hang with MBB when it comes to cross-offers, big problem. Berger has a hard time shaking off it's Euro-centric image (you're on their career website http://join.rolandberger.com/ and click on an Event... boom, everything in German all of a sudden.)

 

Generally agree with 24837's list - like it or not this is how the rankings are for prestige etc.

One minor disagreement from me would be about Capgemini - if Accenture, PWC are Tier 3, Cap is Tier 4.

 
whaat:
because it's so small and many people haven't heard of them

Fair enough, but as far as boutiques go, they've got to be pretty close to the top, no?

"The disdain of profit is due to ignorance." - F.A. Hayek
 
ilovews:
don worry, parthenon is very prestigious in the US

Yeah, I mean, a firm that readily broadcasts that it exclusively recruits from Harvard, Stanford, Williams, Duke, and Dartmouth for its U.S. offices can't be too bad lol

http://www.parthenon.com/Undergraduate/RecruitingResources

The absence of Wharton is interesting. Maybe it's because Parthenon looks for "smart, NICE, and driven" recruits, and they figured out a while ago that they can't find anyone nice at Wharton :p

"The disdain of profit is due to ignorance." - F.A. Hayek
 

My own consulting list, for what it's worth is below. My rankings come from personal experience, close contacts, industry perception, and current wins:

Tier 1: Bain BCG McKinsey Reasoning: Prestige is stupid, misplaced, and completely....well, relevant.

Tier 2: Berger Booz Deloitte Reasoning: Deloitte has done an outstanding job building a strategy group. They're the first to break from the Big 4 mold/stereotype. The only other Big 4 that's done anything to mirror that success is in the next tier...

Tier 3: LEK Monitor OC&C PwC Wyman Reasoning: PwC is on an acquisition spree. PTRM and Diamond are two major buys. Their book of business is pretty legit. Wyman has a lot of prestige points, but is still relatively a boutique at the end of the day.

Tier 4: Accenture Capgemini EY Reasoning: If we were going strictly by business segment, Accenture's implementation work is top notch. However, its strategy group is small, and its Management Consulting unit many times stays within the implementation sphere. EY just keeps chugging along.

Honorable Mention: KPMG Reasoning: KPMG is losing talent constantly, and pay/wins/prestige is last in the Big 4. I haven't heard a good story, and my friends have been applying elsewhere at a good pace.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

I'm incriminating myself.
 
consultantbhai:
B4A23 and the rest of you - what would you say regarding Deloitte's prestige and exit opportunities?
Deloitte is quality man. If you get in S&O, you've got a great shot a few years down the line for a top MBA.

The brand is respected across the consulting industry and F500s. I can't really speak to PE/HF, so I'd rather not just regurgitate what I heard someone else say.

I'm incriminating myself.
 
consultantbhai:
But isn't it like 50% implementation? Do you know anyone that works at Deloitte that can confirm / deny this?

If you build your network and prove yourself to be a rockstar, you'll be guaranteed to be on strategy projects all the way through.... don't build your network properly and you'll be stuck doing PMOs until you quit.

 
consultantbhai:
But isn't it like 50% implementation? Do you know anyone that works at Deloitte that can confirm / deny this?

Also, don't underestimate the amount of implementation work at what we are calling "top tier" firms. One of the reasons strategy consulting as a whole is growing so quickly is because the definition is fluid. I know that McK has a lot of operational work and BCG is moving in that direction. Bain and BCG have done some of the biggest PMIs in recent years. McK has always run the gamut more than BCG and Bain (it existed before strategy consulting as currently defined was created, advocating scientific management based on rigorous accounting practices or something), but both are moving in that direction as they grow.

At the end of the day, not many clients are paying for pure strategy nowadays. Even projects that have a pure strategy phase tend to require significant proof-of-concept or long-term implementation support. Last year, both Bain and BCG went into several proposals advertising their ability to lead "transformational" projects, defined as a short strategy phase followed by ~1 year implementation.

A good friend of mine worked at Deloitte and he spent a full year in the pricing practice because several of the partners became staunch supporters of his. Pricing is a great example of a type of work where MBB would refer to it as "pricing strategy" and get away with it, but the same work would be considered much more tactical if Deloitte were doing it. At the end of the day, both firms will have teams running elasticities, benchmarking competitors, and doing various price/sales pace analyses...

 
signposts:
consultantbhai:
But isn't it like 50% implementation? Do you know anyone that works at Deloitte that can confirm / deny this?

Also, don't underestimate the amount of implementation work at what we are calling "top tier" firms. One of the reasons strategy consulting as a whole is growing so quickly is because the definition is fluid. I know that McK has a lot of operational work and BCG is moving in that direction. Bain and BCG have done some of the biggest PMIs in recent years. McK has always run the gamut more than BCG and Bain (it existed before strategy consulting as currently defined was created, advocating scientific management based on rigorous accounting practices or something), but both are moving in that direction as they grow.

At the end of the day, not many clients are paying for pure strategy nowadays. Even projects that have a pure strategy phase tend to require significant proof-of-concept or long-term implementation support. Last year, both Bain and BCG went into several proposals advertising their ability to lead "transformational" projects, defined as a short strategy phase followed by ~1 year implementation.

A good friend of mine worked at Deloitte and he spent a full year in the pricing practice because several of the partners became staunch supporters of his. Pricing is a great example of a type of work where MBB would refer to it as "pricing strategy" and get away with it, but the same work would be considered much more tactical if Deloitte were doing it. At the end of the day, both firms will have teams running elasticities, benchmarking competitors, and doing various price/sales pace analyses...

MiRaj:
We would be a lot better off if everyone on this forum read this ^. Having had experience at Deloitte and now an MBB, this is 100% true.

I agree with the above. Can't speak to BCG, but I know Mck has been beginning to move into some more implementation-type projects recently and Bain has lost a couple bids based on the implementation component. Deloitte S&O (stay away from tech and stay away from S&O federal) has a wide variety of things they do, which does includes a lot of implementation. But along with that variety of experiences comes some flexibility to move among them.

Cold hard truth:

Strategy is lean and sexy, but implementation is where the firm makes the big money.

"Buy gas. It's a sure-fire commodity with no risk except for the sure risk of fire." - Stephen Colbert
 
consultantbhai:
Why is implementation a profit generator? Is it simply because of quantity of hours on projects or the revenue per hour on the project?

Definitely just by sheer quantity of hours. Pure strategy projects I think have higher margins.

But think of it from the partners perspective. You can sell a 4-6 week strategy engagement with a small team of 7 people, or you can sell a 10 month implementation project with a team of 20-30 people. As a partner, you typically only need to sell one of those big implementation projects to "make your numbers" for the year. Whereas with pure strategy work, partners need to be on the road 24/7 selling to make sure they continue to have engagements lined up after the current one wraps up in a few weeks.

"Buy gas. It's a sure-fire commodity with no risk except for the sure risk of fire." - Stephen Colbert
 
Bidibodi Bidibu:
consultantbhai:
Why is implementation a profit generator? Is it simply because of quantity of hours on projects or the revenue per hour on the project?

Definitely just by sheer quantity of hours. Pure strategy projects I think have higher margins.

But think of it from the partners perspective. You can sell a 4-6 week strategy engagement with a small team of 7 people, or you can sell a 10 month implementation project with a team of 20-30 people. As a partner, you typically only need to sell one of those big implementation projects to "make your numbers" for the year. Whereas with pure strategy work, partners need to be on the road 24/7 selling to make sure they continue to have engagements lined up after the current one wraps up in a few weeks.

This.

Proboscis
 

and don't forget whenever we do leave for industry... chances are we'll will be in a position where we are implementing and seeing a plan through from concept to completion... might as well start loving it while we're young

Get it!
 
imagine_123:
I know most consider MBB to be the top tier consulting firms but I was wondering what you guys think of OW, Booz & Co, Monitor, etc in terms of their rank/tier. Also, I know Booz Allen and Booz & Co split up a few years ago and just recently their non-compete clause expired, so do you guys think Booz & Co or Booz Allen will ever be considered tier 1 consulting firms as it was before the split?

Anyone want to answer his question?

 

I knew that it was too much to ask to have an entire thread with reasonable discussion about the reality of the consulting market.

The "OMG MBB IS ELITE, EVERYONE ELSE SUXXORZ" crowd was coming; it was only a matter of time.

Why must we continue to propagate this fallacy that consulting work is completely binary: pure strategy and everything else. It just doesn't work like that. Is McKinsey ever going to be setting up 18-month PMOs where their consultants are functionally employees of the client? No. You better believe that they are trying to sell long-term work that includes strategy rollouts and operational implementations, though. I see it happen all the time. Similarly, Bain and BCG do tons of PMI work. Sounds sexy, until you're arguing about whether the limes on Delta's flights should be cut six times (the delta way) or eight times (the northwest way).

MBB get the highest proportion of interesting, strategically relevant work; it sure isn't 100% of their revenue, though. Other firms, including Deloitte and Accenture also do this work. I've been on proposals for work that we lost to other firms that regularly get trashed on this forum. It happens. I know that probably shatters your superiority complex.

 

Can you elaborate what you didn't agree with? I didn't mean to state an opinion about whether MBB going implementation is good/bad (I agree with you, for what it's worth); I was just listing observations.

The main of which is that there's more money to be made (in general, not necessarily MBB) on large implementation projects due to large teams and long timelines.

It may suck for the underlings, but for the partners who only need to land a few big whales every year, it's a sweet gig.

As for the original question (sorry for the hijack OP!), MBB is seen as the top tier. After that it varies a little bit depending on who you ask. Also, several companies have divisions that outrank their organization as a whole (Oliver Wyman's FS, parts of Deloitte S&O, etc). If you can get Mck, take it. Anything less than that and you should really take the time to decide which company would be a best fit for you. Find out which does the type of work you want experience in. For instance, if you LOVE tech implementation, Accenture is your place. Finance? OW FS. General experience OR supply chain and operations? S&O. Wanna get worked like a mule but learn a lot in a smaller setting? LEK. Etc, etc, etc

As for overall MC recognition, I think B4A23's list is a good general guideline. Stay away from EY, KPMG, CapGemini, Accenture (unless you love ERPs), and Deloitte Tech (

"Buy gas. It's a sure-fire commodity with no risk except for the sure risk of fire." - Stephen Colbert
 

[quote=Bidibodi Bidibu]Stay away from EY, KPMG, CapGemini, Accenture (unless you love ERPs), and Deloitte Tech ( http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-02-24/local/29442295_1_chairman-ja… Basic implementation work. Accenture started it off (see last paragraph). Now McKinsey won the bid to continue on the work. Did they win for reputation only? No. Accenture already saved lot more in Phase 1 and showed they can do it. McKinsey won by undercutting ... .... hold it ... ... Accenture ... .. .hold it again ... ... on price. OMG This is the end of the world.

I must be lying. But wait, there is more: "McKinsey’s rate is actually a percentage point lower than what Accenture charged" http://secondavenuesagas.com/2011/02/23/evening-musings-board-oks-milli…

And if you bother to read the pdf referred (page 41), Accenture saved twice more than initially projected. Not some bad performance case either. And seems like initially the offers were 10% by Accenture and 9.9% by McK, and McK went back to negotiation tables to lower it to 9% to beat Accenture by price, who didn't lower the margin. There you have it.

And no MBA hire is going to leave his $135K job at MBB (or Deloitte or Accenture) because he is doing implementation work instead of defining the future of P&G or some shit.

 

At the end of the day, if you are at one of the tier 2s (think one of OW, LEK, Booz, ATK) for 2-3 years, and intend to go to B-school after that:

  1. Would B-school (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford) actually care whether you did strategy or implementation or operations or IT work during your time at tier 2?

  2. If post B-school, you want to lateral to MBB, would MBB care what kind of consulting work you did in tier 2 pre B school?

 
ilovews:
At the end of the day, if you are at one of the tier 2s (think one of OW, LEK, Booz, ATK) for 2-3 years, and intend to go to B-school after that:
  1. Would B-school (Harvard, Wharton, Stanford) actually care whether you did strategy or implementation or operations or IT work during your time at tier 2?

  2. If post B-school, you want to lateral to MBB, would MBB care what kind of consulting work you did in tier 2 pre B school?

If you are working at one of those firms you mentioned, I'm not sure your first question will be a relevant issue for you.

At least talking to my friends at these firms (read: take with a grain of salt), even though the firms you mentioned are t2, your chances of working on implementation or operations don't seem to be any greater than it is at MBB. The exception is ATK, which seems much more operationally focused. But in general, people at OW, Booz, and LEK mostly do high level projects. In fact, people at LEK for instance probably don't have the relative manpower, know-how or desire to do an 18 month implementation. They just don't do it.

I don't have any post b-school experience so I'm not going to attempt to answer question 2 (and I barely answered question 1!)

Proboscis
 

As stated it depends on the region, I know PwC (my firm) has been in quite a few larger bids against McK in the last couple years. Just happens that up here they are wanting transformational change in the companies. You come in, do you strategy work then move into implementing it.

The only painful part of not being McK is that at PwC it is pretty much purely directors/partners with a few managers who do the strategy work, and then oversee implementation (lots of associates, who might have been wallflowers at the strategy table) where MBB it seems (maybe someone can clarify for me) that the associates have far more interaction from the start of the engagement. Just my view on it.

Then again, as another mentioned: The quality of your work and network are probably the largest factors in getting on the exciting work of any kind. Just talk to the supply chain guy who knocked $3BB / year off an $8BB / year year spend by an oil company (Accenture btw). You can guarantee they have executive credibility at that company and a citation most of us can dream of. Maybe it isn't strategy, but I love some of the lean work and the ability to help a company like that.

TT

 
timothy0:
OW is very strong and prestigious in the financial consulting space no? Also, very well paying I've been led to believe

You are correct. OW pay for whatever reason tends to be a tad higher than MBB at the start level (think years 0-3), and certainly in FS Consulting it has a McKinsey-esque reputation. However, the world is a lot lot bigger than FS and it is therefore not in the MBB league overall.