Q&A: 3 years in at large MBB office

Hi there,

Kind of enjoy doing AMA's (see one from 3 years ago before I started here if you are interested more in recruiting advice specifically: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/qa-recent-…) and have some free time at the moment so figured I'd open it up.

For context - been at a large MBB office out of a target school for the last 3 years, including a promotion from A/AC/BA to post-MBA role. Have done about a dozen projects across a range of topics, and happy to answer just about anything (including any new questions you have on recruiting that I didn't answer last time).

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Comments (27)

Most Helpful
Oct 25, 2021 - 11:17pm

This is a common question, I know from my start class several people had interned the prior summer at a Big4 or T2 firm and then made the switch. It is not uncommon at all or any more difficult to pull off than someone coming from another internship like corporate or banking. However, I do think in general the MBB firms are moving more towards the IB model of recruiting - that is a larger proportion of the full time class is being filled by their own interns from the prior summer. However, I think despite this, since the firms are growing, the absolute number of remaining open spots for full time is probably about the same.

All that said, to answer your question in short - it is not that hard to do (and maybe easier than coming from a corporate background since you have experience with cases). 

In terms of what I'd recommend:

1) If you interviewed with MBB for the summer - make sure you follow up on any feedback you got after the interview regarding casing, etc. Make sure you incorporate it on the second go round.

2) Sharpen up your case skills - the bar is, I think, a bit higher than Big4. Refer to my prior post that I linked for some thoughts I have there that still apply.

3) Coming out of your summer, first make sure you have a return offer in hand. Then think hard about what you learned on the job and how that better positions you than other candidates for full time - for example, what responsibilities did you have, what did that teach you about where you need to be better or where you are already strong? This will be big in the behavioral section of the interview.

4) Definitely start networking and practicing cases with peers who got offers at MBB or any contacts you have with people at the firm (Don't bombard them, but a coffee chat or two and a couple practice cases could go a long way).

  • Intern in Consulting
Oct 25, 2021 - 9:13pm

Were you considering any other MBB/what made you decide to go to your MBB?

Also, on a related note, do you perceive any major differences between MBB at the analyst level in terms of experience, responsibilities, exit opps, etc?

Oct 25, 2021 - 11:26pm

I did consider other MBBs (applied to all of them) and in my estimation the work at the analyst level is very, very similar. So, pick based on people first and where you fit best. Second criteria would be city specific. Particularly for smaller offices, not every firm is equally competent in every industry. However in large cities this is basically moot, every firm is strong across industries and will cover a wide swath of industries. Since I was in a large office, I picked based on fit (the 'sell weekend' was helpful for this - think of it like picking a pledge class at a frat).

There are more subtle differences, such as travel (which I think is becoming less relevant post-COVID as most firms will, on average, be traveling less than before). Staffing is another - Bain for example has the home model where you'll largely work with teams from your home office (but that does NOT mean you will not travel). BCG is regional - meaning for example, a team may have all people from the Northeast (NYC, Boston, etc.) but really this doesn't matter if you are in a flagship office - for example, New York consultants will be on teams of mostly NYC folks, in general but not always true. McKinsey I am less familiar with but you always hear about the global model - not sure it is really common to actually be on global teams, though. 

One other note is speed of promotions. Bain for example has the SAC role, whereas BCG goes straight to post-MBA after 2 years, and McKinsey for top performers can go straight to Engagement Manager (not sure this is really desirable, tbh). On net, I think this means McK and BCG 'analysts' will be reporting more often to PL/EM instead of being underneath an SAC or Consultant. 

On exit opps - no big differences. Historically, Bain did better in PE but I think this gap is closing a bit though they might still have an edge.

I'm sure there are also differences in expense policies (BCG historically being a bit more generous especially regarding first class travel).

In short - I really do not think the firms are that different. There is far more variability within a firm across different teams than there is across firms. 

  • Prospect in Consulting
Oct 25, 2021 - 9:50pm

1) Do you find your work interesting? And is the answer to that question highly project dependent, or relatively the same across projects?

2) What concrete skills do you feel like consulting as helped you build?

For context, I been at a T2 firm for a little while. I don't find the work very compelling and am not really sure what skills im building besides making pretty slides and anticipating what my manager is going to ask for next, neither of which I feel like are skills worth centering the beginning of my career around. I am trying to get a sense of if there is 'more to' this job or if consulting just isn't for me

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Oct 25, 2021 - 11:43pm

Good questions. 

1) I do find the work generally interesting, but not always - when the work is connected to analysis and is messaging an insight I find it quite compelling and rewarding. This is not always the case however, sometimes there is story-telling, context setup, frameworking, etc. that doesn't really answer any questions and that can be not so interesting, but is just part of the job. Perhaps I will appreciate it more when I'm further up the ladder and more concerned about messaging rather than getting the analysis right. The question is certainly project dependent. For example in diligences, there is just no space or time to do the frameworky stuff, so the work is analytically packed and almost all of it is directed at answering a question. This work I find super interesting. True strategy work (for example I worked on a project that involved mapping out the drivers of capital returns across geographies for an entire BU) I think generally fits this as well. In other cases, where it seems like both the client and consultant know the answer and are just going through the motions for the sake of it, is less compelling. Generally speaking the broader the question (e.g. How should we play in digital?) is less interesting than more targeted questions (e.g., Is this asset well positioned?). Anything that requires brainstorming or ideation I am less interested in. I like to be able to start with numbers and facts. Some people may enjoy more open ended questions that require brainstorming and casting a wide net.

2) In terms of concrete skills, I think modeling is one. For example, thinking about how to model something ambiguous, identify key drivers, and produce an analysis is not something that can be done off a template and is valuable. There's also just the comfort I have now being conversant across a variety of business topics and functions. From my work specifically, thinking about M&A, shareholder value creation, and other corporate finance related topics I have gotten much deeper on that I think would position me well for a CorpDev or CorpStrat role. So, I think the 'concrete skills' you develop are dependent on the work you participate in. I also don't think you should underestimate the ability to communicate clearly and succinctly in a compelling way. It is absolutely critical when you are presenting analysis to an executive and is a skill very few entry level jobs offer. But I certainly don't have concrete skills in terms of product management, accounting, or actually operating a business. That said, I have specialized in an industry (by choice) and so have reasonable expertise (for my age) in that particular vertical.

If it doesn't feel to you like you are learning, then either consulting isn't for you or you haven't been on projects that actually test new skills and require you to learn about something new. What type of projects have you done? Have you done quantitative analysis? Interviewed people or done surveys? Presented to senior-level clients?

Oct 25, 2021 - 10:26pm

Thanks so much for doing this! 

Is there anything that you did/wish you did prior to beginning that would have helped position you for success?

Now that you have been there for a few years, which exits are looking most appealing and why? Are some more common than others for people leaving?

Oct 25, 2021 - 11:58pm

Honestly, prior to starting no. I think the only thing people regret is not traveling, spending time with family, working out, etc. prior to starting. These are things that become hard once you start. Also there is so much variability in what you might do on day 1 that preparing for anything specific is futile. If anything, maybe take a look at published decks to get an idea of what a 'good slide' looks like or brush up on your excel functions. But all the firms will try to teach you this in training and will not expect mastery of anything right away, so you just learn it on the job as they hand you more and more complicated pieces of work. Maybe just mentally prepare yourself for failure, too. You will suck at first and feel like a burden and that's honestly fine and expected for probably the first 6 months, so just be ready for that.

In terms of exit opps, PE is consistently popping up for me and others, and seems like it's becoming more common. Other folks from my class have gone into VC, product or strategy roles at startups or tech (for example content management & analytics at media firms), Chief of Staff roles for smaller companies and startups, PE Ops, strategy roles at HF, etc. Most of these are still individual contributor roles and in some cases manager roles (but honestly not sure if they are actually managing a team).

Across all of these, what is compelling is obviously very individual specific. PE is one for the pay, but for me the most compelling roles are BD/Strategy/CorpDev related at startups - generally part of a leaner team doing more special projects work, and in particular those that require quantitative financial analysis (that just is what I like). Pay generally not at MBB level in terms of cash here but there's some equity upside typically. If you go to a more established firm you should get a pay bump, especially if in a large city.

I think it's hard to say what seems most common these days - PE/VC investing roles probably took about 20% of those who have left, 50-60% are a variety of strategy or similar roles at what I'd call 'cool companies' (think FAANG, notable startups, etc.), and the remainder are total career switches (like non-profit) or just run-of-the-mill corporate roles at big firms. I am not counting MBA here.

Oct 26, 2021 - 11:52am

Thanks so much for the thoughtful response. 

For those exiting to PE/VC/investing roles, when you say opportunities are coming up does that mean recruiters from firms are actively reaching out to you via email/Linkedln? I'd imagine it's a combo of that and people doing their own outreach but just wanted to ask b/c I feel like I don't have a great grasp of what the exiting process looks like for PE/VC.

Is that process similar for the strategy roles at FAANG/startups that you mentioned? Thanks so much again!

  • Intern in Consulting
Oct 26, 2021 - 1:13am

Thanks for doing this! Heading to a T2/boutique after I graduate and was wondering how difficult it is to lateral to MBB at the junior level. Interested in eventually doing growth equity and the firm I'm heading to doesn't really do much DD work nor does it have a history of sending people there.

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:12pm

Nowadays it really isn't terribly difficult for top performers at T2 to lateral over - the firms are growing so fast at the moment they are opening up the doors a bit to get people in. Not sure how long this will continue for, but when I first started a few years ago this was a bit less common but definitely not unheard of. Without knowing how many people tried to lateral (I only see those who were successful) I can't really put a figure on it for you. 

Agree MBB in general will offer better opportunities to exit into investing roles, and I've seen laterals come over and make that transition later to investing roles, so it can be done. Oftentimes you will have to 'start over' in terms of tenure (come in as a 'brand new' analyst) but sometimes you will get some credit. For example, coming from Strategy& after a year you might get the opportunity to be promoted in 12-21 months instead of the standard 2 years.

Oct 26, 2021 - 8:19am

hi,just wanted to know how easy it would be for someone to transfer out of an indian office of MBB to NY/toronto/other us and canada offices,and how much time would it take right after ug?like could you do 1 year as a business analyst at mckinsey mumbai and shift to the toronto or montreal office?or would this be incredibly difficult?

Nov 19, 2021 - 12:49am

Hey, I think it can be tricky. It is not that easy to simply transfer offices without one or both of a) A good personal reason as to why you need to move to the US (wanting more money is not it...) or b) Being a top performer. That said, it would typically be a year at least after starting, and not right away, unless there are very legitimate circumstances that require a transfer. The US offices are in high demand and will fill talent from local schools first. It's not incredibly difficult but not exactly something you can count on.

  • Intern in Consulting
Oct 26, 2021 - 1:20pm

Thank you for doing this! A few questions from a former MBB intern and incoming MBB undergrad full-time hire:

1) Turnover rate- How much of your class is still at the firm vs left the firm? Is this due to choice or them being fired?

2) How frequent is it for someone to get fired/asked to leave due to performance? I ask because I and the other intern on my case's performance reviews were not great, so we both got a little concerned about the prospect of getting fired after ~1/2 years due to performance. Obviously we were just there for 7 weeks so it was hard to master the skills that quickly. But what is expected of a new full time hire?

Nov 19, 2021 - 12:53am

1) Turnover rate - after 1 year probably 5-10%, after 2 years about 20-30%, approaching 3 years and it's closer to 60-70% if you count business school. For the most part due to choice, the bar to promotion at that level isn't terribly difficult to cross IMO.

2) Getting let go due to performance will take at least a year (excluding ethics violations - a different issue). And even then at the entry level it was not common in my start class, most of the people who really wanted to get promoted could do it if they put in the work. For a new full time hire, safe to say you'll be a burden or very low leverage for the first 6 months, sometimes up to 9 months. After that you should be positively contributing. I'd also say it's quite common to feel like you are not as good as you should be, it's imposter syndrome and it sucks, but most people do a terrible job of evaluating themselves (in either direction). I've gotten plenty of very good feedback and many days feel like I'm faking it, but it's worked out so far, so if you trust your own work ethic you will probably be fine.

Oct 26, 2021 - 10:53pm

In a situation where I have MBB ft offer as well as top finance BB offer GS/MS/JPM. Being honest I can do and enjoy both. Any advice? The money in finance is notably better and im unsure the WLB in consulting is that much better given the travel potential. 

Is starting career at MBB really o career opportunity one shouldn't pass up or is that notion over hyped? Would appreciate your honest take on these aspects.

  • 1
Nov 14, 2021 - 3:20pm

In my opinion it depends what you want to do. I advise folks that if you are 100% certain you want to go into PE, choose MBB.

  1. Your WLB will be SIGNIFICANTLY better. This isn't even close. The gap between 60 and 80 is a huge deal (and no weekend work).
  1. You will have better access to all opportunities outside of PE/VC/HF.
  1. You'll develop a much broader skillset. Sure, bankers will be better at excel, but you'll be presenting to Directors at F100s routinely, and will develop skills that are much more valued in todays world like big data tools (SQL).
Nov 19, 2021 - 1:01am

I think the above is a good take. On WLB - the weekend work is the true differentiator - trust me when I say knowing you pretty much have Friday night to Monday AM off is huge for sustainability. Monday to Thursday can suck though, but for the most part I kept it under 60 hours, long run average probably in the 55-60 range, some spikes to around 75 on my worst weeks, and worked involuntarily on weekends about 4 times in 3 years - even then it was only 4-5 hours, not like I was cranking all day. Can't guarantee the same results for everyone but I think this is a pretty typical experience.

And while I think MBB is a great place to start a career and probably among the best that are available, I don't actually believe it's truly in a different league than what other places offer these days, particularly tech. If you have a good idea of what industry you want to work in (finance or otherwise) then going directly there and building actual expertise may serve you better in the long run if you are a quality enough candidate that you could have had an MBB offer (that is to say, MBB may not add tons of incremental value in that case). You will not become an expert at anything at MBB except for being good at jumping into new situations and working quickly and efficiently. The value of that skillset is different for everyone. But the optionality is huge - I could jump ship today to almost any other industry I wanted to, including tech.

In short - yes I think the notion that MBB is an opportunity one shouldn't pass up is a bit overrated, but it still pays very well and leaves lots of doors open, so it depends how you view your 5 year plan.

Nov 18, 2021 - 3:18am

Thanks for the AMA, hopefully you still catch this since it has been a couple of weeks.

What would your advice be regarding lateraling from Deloitte Monitor to MBB (EU)? 1,5 years ago I got to the last round at one of the MBB, since then I have worked as an actuary and recently started as a BA II at Deloitte Monitor. I am currently also part of an internal network program of the MBB I applied to.

I would think of things such as networking, developing the right expertise, doing extracurricular activities at Monitor which I could leverage, etc. But tbh all these things are quite overwhelming and I seem to lack some direction.

Perhaps you have some specific advice for me how to best go about it?

Nov 19, 2021 - 1:09am

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