Checking in 6 years later [IB to MBB transition]

Feinstein's picture
Rank: Gorilla | banana points 611

Hi guys, Feinstein here. Short story is, a bit over six years ago, I posted on this forum regarding a career decision on whether to stay in IB or go to MBB ("Please Talk Me Out Of This - 2nd Year BB Associate"). I ended up going to MBB. It's been six years, and somehow I remembered this post, so I thought I'd provide an update as to how things are going.

TL;DR

I couldn't have made a better decision. I am happy as a clam. This was quite simply the best career decision I've ever made. And my current job is the best one I've ever had. I could see myself here for a significant, if not the entirety, of my career. I am now on the level right below partner and (fingers crossed) should be elected this cycle. I do most of my work in my former coverage industry (TMT).

Transition

The transition brought to life just how unusual the situations was. I updated my LinkedIn status the Friday before I started, and over the weekend was bombarded by nearly a dozen of my b-school classmates toiling away in banking and asking if I could help them make the transition as well. I did try, but I was the only one that I'm aware of.

I also lost my "seniority" and had to start over as a first-year associate. This bothered me for about a week, and then I stopped thinking about it.

I thought I would do most of my work in FIG, but it turns out that wasn't the case. Management consulting firms that serve FIG do a lot of work that wasn't even remotely connected to what I used to do, e.g. risk/CCAR, retail banking, wealth management, backoffice lean ops, etc. I did however find the TMT people almost immediately and they were quite happy to have me in.

Work and clients

Overall I'd say the quality and "interesting-ness" of the work is leaps and bounds above banking. You get to see more of the company and understand how things tick. You also get a lot more access to senior management in a much less contrived/contorted way.

For example, right now I am leading a transformation at a large tech company (Fortune 100), and the entire c-suite and I are on a first name basis. I walk into the CFO's office about a 5-6 times a day to catch up quick items. Instead of highly stage-managed "pitches". It just feels a lot more of a natural way to build relationships. And I am in my early 30s.

Funny story: when my current CFO and I first met, on learning I was a banker, he reached over to his desk and pulled out a pile of "strategic alternatives" decks, and we both had a laugh over the stupid/silly shit bankers sent him regularly.

Moreover, I advise my client on a much more intimate basis. We talk about the capital structure, sure, but we also talk about individual quirks among the senior management team, who among the junior ranks we ought to give a career-proving opportunity to, who should be encouraged to find other opportunities, how their kids are doing in school, etc.

Comp

Last year, I made a bit north of 400K all-in. And if I get elected partner this year, that should nearly double. On an "expected value" basis, I think I ended up better than banking because of the risk of layoffs in banking is just astronomically higher. When I left banking, there were serial layoffs going on, with several rounds each year. Only downside is that since my firm is a partnership, deferred comp (and taxes) isn't really a thing.

Lifestyle

Some weeks the hours are about as bad, but most weeks the hours are way better. I think what also factors in here is that the work is much more meaningful. We value "impact", and the young kids are encouraged to speak up if the work doesn't "move the needle". So the random bullshit PowerPoint churn does happen, but it's a lot less asinine.

I can count on one hands the weekends where I actually "worked" (vs. checking emails every once an a while) in my time here.

People

The people are much, much, MUCH better. There's a good reason for that. Because there is constant turnover of people, the bad eggs get ruthlessly ousted every year or two. Even partners are regularly asked to leave if they can't demonstrate good people leadership.

Moreover, because the exit options (see below) are better, you don't have what I call "African dictator syndrome" going on. In banks, because there really are no exit options for senior bankers, people hang on for dear life with death grips to stays. Partners who exit from my firm usually get very decent C-level or C-level minus-1 roles with decent comp and lifestyle, and often get incentives to leave if they are underperforming. As a result, they are less obsessed with staying because they have options elsewhere and behave less like jerks. Kind of like how African dictators are obsessed with staying in power because there's nothing for them afterward, but if they had a decent retirement program, yeah, they'd let go.

Finally, the culture is a lot more hierarchical. I can count on one hand how many client meetings I've attended in my 3ish years in banking. In consulting, on my first project, I was given feedback for not speaking up enough... in a c-level-minus-1 meeting... on my 2nd day at the firm.

Skill and professional development

The training in skills and professional development is a lot more than in banking. You learn how to message things subtly but also with force, and also able to vary them depending on client context and attitudes. You learn how to read the room, read body language, decode speech patterns. You can talk about things and sound knowledgeable on things other than bond maturities, etc.

You learn how to manage large, complex projects with people of different skills sets and profiles, not just an army of banking analysts. You learn how to adapt to different expectations but also how to bring out the best in people, how to motivate and inspire them, not just bark orders and turn PowerPoint decks.

I get real, actionable feedback and advice on a regular basis. Not just passive-aggressive vague sounding horsecrap once a year when my staffer convenes the VPs to sit at a round table and bad mouth the associates.

I now lead a team of 50+ people at my current case, and feel very much like I am exercising a deep general management skill set, and not just a technical specialist skill set.

Exit options

So I'm not really thinking about exits, but I get pinged by headhunters roughly once a week for VP roles at large companies, for lateral roles at competing firms, and sometimes for PE portco ops roles. About once a quarter, I also get pinged for MD roles (usually in strategy) at large banks, a profile for which I'm apparently extremely popular. Even got pinged for a role in the Trump administration (I said no, duh). And yes, for the past six years, these roles have increased in attractiveness, comp, seniority, etc.

Perks

Travel can be a bitch, but my FF mileage + hotel points as now north of 1 million. My wife and I had, basically, a free honeymoon. Yes, it's battle pay, but... hey... do it while you're young, right?

Innovation

Unlike in banking, where people not jumping through hoop are punished for not jumping through hoops, being entrepreneurial and figuring out new ways to serve clients is applauded and celebrated.

Introspection

Look, do I regret going into banking? Not at all. I learned valuable skills in financial modeling and having a corporate finance-driven view of the world. Given the choice, I would definitely have done my analyst years in banking again. But I am also very fortunate and lucky to have been able to make the jump post-MBA (and outside of regular MBA recruiting). If I didn't, who knows where I'd be now. 5% chance I'd still be in banking (based on having been to my 5-year MBA reunion 2 years ago) and may be I'd be in some dead-end staff job as Director of FP&A at Pfizer or something...

Not encouraging the would-be bankers here to go into consulting, or vice versa. Just sharing my experience (which to be fair started out "in trouble" as I graduated college at the peak right before 08, and MBA Into the "false recovery" of 11).

Aaand of course happy to take any questions.

Comments (119)

Apr 15, 2018

This is great, thanks for sharing! I'm in a different spot as you but looking to make a similar jump (IB SA to Consulting FT). You mentioned that a lot of your buddies from banking tried to make a similar jump but weren't successful. Do you mind shedding some light on what worked for you and perhaps what didn't for them? Also, any advice on the shift from SA to FT (if you've seen it during your time in consulting) would be appreciated!

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Apr 15, 2018

Blind dumb luck apparently. When I was in MBA, I actually interviewed for the MBB job on a lark and did well, but turned down the offer to go to banking. So when I reached back out to MBB, the partner who interviewed me remembered me and was happy to talk to me again. And sadly never was a summer at MBB, so can't answer that question.

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Apr 15, 2018

Glad to see you're doing well.
Why did you think you'd be covereing FIG in consulting if you were in TMT before?
I also got a kick out of you trying to spin high turnover as a good thing in consulting but a bad thing in banking.

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Apr 15, 2018

I dunno, I figured it was a natural progression. In 2012, Wall Street was still going through lots of painful change and restructuring, so I thought my MBB firm would value my insights on waste and inefficiency, etc. so we could restore pre-crisis earnings levels. Turns out: 1) most of the painful retrenchment was already done or at least the playbooks were already written, and 2) more structural changes as a result of Dodd Frank went to far more specialist FIG consulting firms like Promontory.

Funny story: I ran into my old group head on the street one day, and it was night and day, because he apparently knew my firm was doing some work at my former bank. He was all chummy and nice trying to get information on exactly what we were doing. Offered to take me to drinks and steaks. I was all smiles and offered up nothing. He wouldn't give me the time of day when I was an associate.

Regarding high turnover, it's good if it gets rid of bad people (consulting up or out). It's bad if it gets rid of people regardless of whether they are good or bad (banking layoffs). Also structurally, in the former, the people leaving have better options and thus try to leave a good impression. And in the latter, the people leaving are pushed out and behave in terrible ways in order to stay.

I had an instance where I had a senior partner behave particularly reprehensibly in a client meeting. I called the senior partner's evaluator and told him what I saw. Said evaluator convened a special committee to investigate the behavior and found a pattern of unethical behavior and questionable judgment. Six months later, that senior partner was out.

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Apr 15, 2018
Feinstein:

I dunno, I figured it was a natural progression. In 2012, Wall Street was still going through lots of painful change and restructuring, so I thought my MBB firm would value my insights on waste and inefficiency, etc. so we could restore pre-crisis earnings levels. Turns out: 1) most of the painful retrenchment was already done or at least the playbooks were already written, and 2) more structural changes as a result of Dodd Frank went to far more specialist FIG consulting firms like Promontory.

Funny story: I ran into my old group head on the street one day, and it was night and day, because he apparently knew my firm was doing some work at my former bank. He was all chummy and nice trying to get information on exactly what we were doing. Offered to take me to drinks and steaks. I was all smiles and offered up nothing. He wouldn't give me the time of day when I was an associate.

Regarding high turnover, it's good if it gets rid of bad people (consulting up or out). It's bad if it gets rid of people regardless of whether they are good or bad (banking layoffs). Also structurally, in the former, the people leaving have better options and thus try to leave a good impression. And in the latter, the people leaving are pushed out and behave in terrible ways in order to stay.

I had an instance where I had a senior partner behave particularly reprehensibly in a client meeting. I called the senior partner's evaluator and told him what I saw. Said evaluator convened a special committee to investigate the behavior and found a pattern of unethical behavior and questionable judgment. Six months later, that senior partner was out.

Solid points and interesting perspective. Thank you

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May 8, 2018

"I had an instance where I had a senior partner behave particularly reprehensibly in a client meeting. I called the senior partner's evaluator and told him what I saw. Said evaluator convened a special committee to investigate the behavior and found a pattern of unethical behavior and questionable judgment. Six months later, that senior partner was out."...................

wow, ratting on your senior partner to HR sounds more "particularly reprehensible" to me...

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Apr 15, 2018

Subscribed

Apr 15, 2018

This is a great write-up; thanks for coming back to share your experience. It's rare to get a thoughtful perspective from someone who has done both banking and consulting.

  1. Are there people who are just not "strategic" enough for MBB? The way people talk to and treat each other and the relaxed hierarchy in MBB is super attractive to me, but I'm far stronger quantitatively than I am with strategic critical thinking.
  2. You had me ready to jump ship from IB until you said, "Given the choice, I would definitely have done my analyst years in banking again." The reality is that an analyst stint in banking gives you a strong corporate finance skill set to fall back on. Do you think, at the analyst level, that the trade off is worth it?
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Apr 15, 2018

These are good questions.

  1. I don't think so. The MBB of today has changed by leaps and bounds versus just 5 years ago. They are branching into big data, cybersecurity, restructuring, etc. In fact, "corporate strategy" has long since been the minority in what MBB firms so.
  2. Yes. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my analyst years in banking gave me the credibility to be MORE effective as an MBB consultant because I was able to engage the CFOs of my clients on grounds that they saw as credible, instead of conceptual, pie-in-the-sky, strategic mumbo jumbo. I would also say that while the kids who are analyst-level in MBB (post-college) are smart as a whip, they often don't do well if they stay too long because they miss the context, wisdom, life experience, gray-hair factor, whatever else that makes it easier for them to form peer-like relationships with senior clients.
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Apr 15, 2018
blueshine144:

The way people talk to and treat each other and the relaxed hierarchy in MBB is super attractive to me

I want to make sure I'm portraying the culture fairly here. It's not always "relaxed" (and in fact can sometimes be quite intense). Also would be silly to claim that we don't have hierarchy. However I would say that people are more genuine and engage with each other as professionals, as colleagues, and generally assume good intent. There is very little contrived Kabuki-theatre-style BS that I saw in banking.

Also as a result, jerks and prima donnas do exist here as elsewhere, but they get identified quickly and are brought to task for their behavior. In the long run, if nobody wants to work with them, then they don't have a future at our firm. The money you bring in definitely doesn't outweigh your contribution (or lack thereof) to the professional environment.

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Apr 15, 2018

Poorly worded on my part. I meant relaxed relative to banking.

"We value "impact", and the young kids are encouraged to speak up if the work doesn't "move the needle".

This is mostly what I'm talking about. This kind of thing doesn't happen happen in banking, so far as I've seen (whether because of the nature of the work or for other cultural reasons). So while there is certainly still a hierarchy in consulting, I imagine it would be less in-your-face that you're at the bottom of that hierarchy under these kinds of conditions (even if speaking up isn't all that common, having the option goes a long way)

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Apr 15, 2018

Since you mentioned your former group head, what are your peers doing and what have their career paths look like?

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Apr 15, 2018

Just scanning my LinkedIn contacts, I think only 1-2 of my entire Associate class at my bank is still there. I see a few guys who went into corporate development. One guy who went to his family company (but they're loaded, so don't cry for him). A few guys went to no-name boutiques. One guy lateraled to Jefferies. One very impressive guy is now an MD at Goldman Sachs (but in a very fishy sounding group). Apparently one guy became a headhunter. A Director of FP&A at a corporate. A Director of IR at a corporate. Bunch of people who are consultants (but at non-MBB shops, including a fair number who just hung out a shingle). Interestingly: a lot of people claim impressive-sounding banking-esque titles ("Managing Director") at companies/industries that probably don't use those titles, eg. "MD of XYZ Real Estate Mgmt" which upon further investigation turned out to be his personal real estate portfolio). I know a few, a few years ago tried the whole startup thing, but they seem to have snapped out of it. A stay at home mom (really). Sorry for the stream of consciousness, but that's about it.

EDIT: First prize goes to a guy who went back to India and apparently started a very, very curiously-named independent banking advisory shop. I won't share the name, but it's along the lines of "Carlisle Partners" or "Goldstein Sachs".

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Apr 15, 2018

Haha very entrepreneurial for the guy who set up shop in India. So last question....

Feinstein:

All BBs are bloated. What's happening now is that at the mid levels (VPs), those guys are so terrified of being canned (they're expensive, but don't bring in any revenue) that they are desperately doing everything possible to show that they are adding value, even if its making gratuitous edits for no other reason than to show that they are doing something, and in the process, creating work for everyone involved. Their ranks are going to be culled like you won't believe soon, and I don't want to be in that place when it happens.

You mentioned this in your previous threads. Looking at today's market, does this still hold for current investment bankers and what does the future look like for the industry (in regards to comp, lifestyle, entrance of EB's and loosening regulations)? Same goes for your vision of MBB current and in the future (more operation staffings verus strategy, comp, more salesmenship in senior levels?)

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Apr 18, 2018

Any idea why some went to no-name boutiques, one guy lateraled to Jefferies, and one guy became a headhunter?

I know you may not have much light to shed on this, but what are your thoughts on lateraling to CD vs. CF?

Apr 15, 2018

Very interesting stuff. Just to clarify, are you saying you went IB->MBA->IB->MBB or IB->MBA->MBB. The former is definitely rare and pretty impressive. The latter seems pretty typical an option available to anyone who goes and gets an MBA (at a good school).

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Apr 15, 2018

I was IB->MBA->IB->MBB as I left IB as a 2Y associate.

Yep, it was rare. But it was (I think) only because I had the dumb luck to recruit at MBB in MBA, get an offer, turn it down, but create a positive enough impression in the partner's head so that when I called him back he remembered me.

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Apr 15, 2018

Very interesting stuff. Just to clarify, are you saying you went IB->MBA->IB->MBB or IB->MBA->MBB. The former is definitely rare and pretty impressive. The latter seems pretty typical an option available to anyone who goes and gets an MBA (at a good school).

Apr 15, 2018

In retrospect, would you still have done it if your consulting offer had been for a T2 firm (ie. OW, S&, ATK)?

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Apr 15, 2018

Perhaps, but it would have been solely for the exit opportunities rather than consulting for a career. As much as I hated IB, I disliked even more that all I was going to get out of it if for my blood, sweat, and tears if I got fired was a 200K + equity a year a job in suburban New Jersey drafting press releases in response to activist investors.

Btw, the Strategy& folks are really screwed. PWC is underpricing their own group. The senior guys are going to wait until their guaranteed bonuses expire, and then they're all going to flee.

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Apr 15, 2018

Uhh.. @WallStreetOasis.com could I get some help here?

Meant to give katuok a banana, and accidentally clicked on monkey poo. How do I reverse it?

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Apr 18, 2018

I think you can click the poo again to get rid of it... I believe that's how SBs work anyway

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Apr 15, 2018

Hi Feinstein thanks for sharing your perspective and glad things are going well. A few questions

1) In the event you ultimately decide to join corporate (perhaps poached by client), what sort of c-level role you think you will be best suited for? A general manager, a functional leader, or a chief strategy officer/corp dev head?

2) If the natural role for a partner-level consultant at corporate is the chief strategy officer, will be you competing for spots against Ds/MDs from investment banks, who might claim they are as "strategic" as a MBB partner, with sector expertise, arguably more c-suite/board exposure, AND significant deal-making experiences?

3) have your clients already tried to poach you, if you don't mind sharing?

Appreciate the insights, cheers

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Apr 15, 2018

All good questions.

  1. If I were to join a corporate, I think I might join as a functional leader. I seem to get along quite well with CFOs (because of banking background). I can't picture myself as a GM or a CSO for all sorts of reasons.
  2. To be completely honest and blunt with you, there have been exactly zero cases where an E/MD in my experience has been seriously considered as a CSO. They are too transaction-focused, which is the opposite of what a CSO is supposed to be. If I were looking to be an SVP Corp Dev on the other hand, I could see an E/MD being a more compelling candidate. Also, while an E/MD's c-suite exposure is limited to the pitch or the transaction of the day, I've actually been in a position where I've been invited to join board meetings as an unofficial observer, and provide insights and feedback to the chairman on what I saw going on.
  3. Yes. At about half of my clients, at some point I'll get a conversation where a senior guy says gee, it would be great to have someone like me around on a more permanent basis. But I've never seriously pursued them. The positions mooted usually are either 1) Chief of Staff to the CEO, 2) Corporate Controller or some other direct deputy to the CFO with presumption of succession, or 3) something in strategy, although once a product portfolio role was floated.

The roles that I usually pitched via headhunters are 1) strategy roles (usually at a FIG), 2) "adult supervision" to fill out the c-suite of a startup that has gone to late-stage VC, and 3) PE ops roles.

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Apr 16, 2018

I know you mentioned travel can be a bitch, but was wondering if you could elaborate. Do you have the standard Mon-Thur away at the client?

Also was wondering about the perception that some people think of consulting as being "a mile wide and an inch deep" - any thoughts there?

Apr 15, 2018

Yep. I get on a plane Monday morning and am usually home Thursday evening... sometimes in time for dinner with the wife. Right now, I'm sitting in LGA because all flights are grounded, but usually I'd be on my way to my client by now.

The "being a mile wide and an inch deep" is similar to the "borrow your watch and tell you what time it is" -- the exception that proves the rule. Yes, occasionally we still get hired to do "validate a pre-existing position" work, but most of the time it's structured and scoped so that we are bringing in an insight or an operating discipline that our client wouldn't otherwise have.

A few years ago, for example, I served a client (PE owned) that got direction from their board to set up a KAM (key account manager) program in their sales division. Their sales VP had no idea how to set up a KAM, so after 1) Googling fruitlessly, and 2) making some pretty uninformative phone calls to sales VPs at the rest of the portfolio, hired up and we were able to set up an infrastructure, a review process, an account planning process, and pilot it in certain regions for him. In 3 months.

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Apr 16, 2018

Got it, really appreciate the perspective - thanks for doing this.

Apr 21, 2018

I was with you until this post. The lifestyle and engagement you just described sound pretty terrible.

Apr 16, 2018

Any advice on managing the relationship with your wife with consultant lifestyle? Is there a point in which consultants started to have better lifestyle and family life?

I chose ibd instead because I thought VPs will have more time with family and consultants will not have much time on weekdays even at principal level. But it seems the experiences at mbb is more interesting and more balanced

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Apr 15, 2018

We are still figuring that out :)

Wife is a corporate lawyer and is insulted that any women would choose to stay at home. We will have kids at some point, so I might then move to serving clients closer to home. For now, we are both still young and the free business class flights and St. Regis stays several times a year makes up for the distance. That and Apple FaceTime.

I imagine as a partner I'll be able to show up less often.

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Apr 17, 2018

Re: relationship management. The most important factor is choosing the right partner. My father-in-law was a corporate executive running global businesses, so he set the norm of "husband travels a lot, wife learns to deal with it." I can imagine a very different dynamic if my father-in-law had been a minister of the owner of a small local business.

May 4, 2018

.

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Apr 15, 2018

I'd say the skills that benefitted me the most are:

  1. How to deliver different messages with different styles and attitudes. Even when I'm angry, I'm strategically angry, and its designed to elicit a specific response from my client. More theatre than anything else.
  2. How to read the politics of different clients situations. Understanding people's motives, desires, and what might cause them to behave in certain ways, why, and how to play to them.
  3. How to ruthlessly prioritize and ensure your deliverables and work plans are all tied to impact and not for the sake of moving commas around. Builds a better relationship with your team, and your clients trust you not to churn for work.
  4. How to develop other people. Where do you teach them. Where do you leave them to sink or swim. Where do you throw them a life jacket. Where do you throw them overboard. As you move up the ranks, it's impossible to do all the work yourself, and you need to be able to work effectively through others and leverage large teams.
  5. And finally... how to communicate complex, multi-step ideas in a succint and actionable way. A mentor of mine once put it "Associates communicate activity, eg. we went on to CapIQ and pulled the comps and this is what it shows, while Partners communicate what it means, eg. you're trading below your peers and this is what you can do about it."
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Apr 21, 2018

Sorry for the stupid question, but are these skills not required/developed in IB? Outside of the analyst level of course. (I don't work in banking).

Apr 16, 2018

I'm really glad it all worked out. Congrats. And thank you for sharing your success story. SB'd.

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Apr 16, 2018

thanks for coming back to share your story!

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Apr 17, 2018

+1 SB, would give more if I could - resonates strongly with me.

I'm actually in a very similar boat to your former self - just made the switch and super excited about it.

How did you broach the conversation with your MBB of being interested in the industries you covered as a Banker, rather than FIG due to your background? I agree 100% that just having worked at a bank in IB doesn't make you a good fit for consulting on retail banking, risk, back office, etc (but the MBB's FIG team might think otherwise!).

Did you try out other industries apart from TMT and Banks (since you were a 1st year Associate) or was it a bit of a binary choice for you? Did you commit to TMT quickly?

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Apr 15, 2018

Glad you made the jump as well!

I didn't actually broach the conversation. Turns out my MBB had no expectation that I would serve FIG. So my first few months were a bit of a random walk. Did some FIG risk work, some pharma strategy work, some PE DDs, a lean ops exercise. And then I found my TMT tribe, did some fun work there and have been part of it since my second year.

Apr 17, 2018

Depends on the firm, but if you want to diversify, start by building informal relationships with officemates who work in different "lanes" vs. staying heads-down on your specific assignments. Most firms give partners/managers a lot of discretion when assembling a team for a new assignment, so you want to create goodwill and ideally eagerness to get you staffed on the assignment you'd like to pursue.

Best Response
Apr 15, 2018

One last thing I'd mention that may not be immediately obvious to the young'uns here, but.. if I didn't leave banking, I would never have met my wife.

She's a superstar and works at one of the white shoe law firms. Her family is awesome. Super smart. Born and raised on the UES. I met her because in MBB, my weekends were (largely) my own, so I was able to meet her at a friend's party, and we were able to maintain a fairly predictable dating life -- largely on weekends, none of which would have been possible in banking where facetime matters and time-consuming cosmetic edits eat up your time. We've been married now coming up on 2 years, and we couldn't be happier. She has a heart of gold, and a spine of steel, and we're excited about being parents together in the future.

PS. Holy Monkey Poo. I just noticed I'm a baboon now!

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Apr 19, 2018

Best post of this thread!!!

Apr 17, 2018

Thanks so much for sharing! Really insightul and interesting.

I'm currently in a 3 year FLDP at a F50 company and plan to apply and attend an M7 MBA at the culmination of my program. I've thought quite a bit about potentially going to MBB post-MBA.

Are there a lot of guys at your firm that were in the industry first before joining? What kind of advantages/disadvantages are there for having industry experience versus client-facing experience like IB?

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Apr 15, 2018

MBB is really open minded when it comes to hiring from MBA. Basically, whatever you did before doesn't really matter. In fact, bc they are very much "develop our own", the actually favor folks who dont have a lot of ingrained bad habits. I used to be a banker. I have colleagues who are former lawyers, doctors, grade school teachers, astrophysicists, etc.

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Apr 17, 2018

Very helpful and interesting post, thanks. I have two years MM IB experience and two years of corp dev experience, and consulting is always something that has interested me. I graduated from a non-target with no real network. What would the best way to move into consulting be if I decided to go down that path? Would I need to get an MBA first?

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Apr 15, 2018

Lateral hires from industry have gotten less rare since I joined 6 years ago, but they are still rare as hell. Without a school brand and a strong personal network, your best bet is to get an MBA.

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Apr 19, 2018

^So I was actually very fortunate to be a lateral experienced hire and selected, and have my first round at MBB next week actually. Would you say that the expectations/what the interviewer looks for is different for experienced hires vs people out of school?

Apr 17, 2018

Thanks for sharing. I'm interested in potentially switching to strategy from Corp dev at some point. Corp Dev is somewhere in between banking and strategy and to be honest, I find the strategy component way more interesting. Is this a common move? Do you work with any ex Corp dev types?

Thanks in advance.

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Apr 15, 2018

I haven't run into a single corp dev guy at MBB. Sorry! That's where ex-bankers go, and not just ex-bankers, but senior-ish ex-bankers.

Apr 17, 2018

Well shit.

Apr 17, 2018

Those are some crazy exit opps especially for being there only 6 years! I don't know too much about consulting so maybe I'm just ignorant. I assume you're likely a top performer at a top firm, but still, reading that blew my mind. How normal is that for consulting?

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Apr 15, 2018

I wouldn't read too far into it. Headhunters tend to take the shotgun approach when trolling for people on LinkedIn. Just because I got caught in their dragnet doesn't mean I'd be seriously considered for the role.

For example, I just had a headhunter cold-call me for a FIG strategy partnership in the consulting arm of one of the Big Four. I gently informed the headhunter that I had no experience in FIG and very little exposure to strategy. Her response? "Do you have any friends who might be interested?"

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Apr 17, 2018

Awesome- this response and your post were very illuminating, thank you.

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Apr 17, 2018

Great story.

Curious how you made the transition (and apologies in advance if it's in your old thread).

I've heard the hop from finance to consulting can be heard (because of the ingrained old bad habits you mentioned). What would be the best option for someone wanting to make the jump today in finance or a similarly focused career?

Rgds,
J

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Apr 15, 2018

Find something to reset all expectations, both for yourself and for people looking at your profile. By far, the most straightforward is to get an MBA.

Apr 18, 2018

Did you anticipate staying in consulting up until partner when you decided to leave banking, or were you planning on ultimately taking a corporate exit? In that vein, when did you realize that you wanted to/were able to stay in consulting for the long haul? I've read about several post-MBA consultants who expected to stay the course at MBB and ended up exiting after 2-3 years for a "dead-end" corporate position.

Apr 15, 2018

I was thinking of staying in consulting for 2-3 years when I left banking. Actually, I just prioritizing leaving banking. I think what made me decide to stick around for the long haul was finding people that I really liked, that made a commitment to sponsor my career, and that I worked with over and over again.

I think it's a mistake to go into MBB expecting to stay for the long haul. Most people I know evaluate where they are every 6-12 months, and then decide if they want to stay for the next 6-12 months.

While I don't have much knowledge on why the post-MBA consultants you read about quit, I can speculate on the following reasons:

  1. They never found their "tribe" of people to work with and bounced around until their advancement became increasingly difficult because at some point you need senior partners to stick out their necks for you
  2. They found the lifestyle and travel demands unsustainable.
  3. Clients that they did serve regularly went belly-up or switched consultants or stopped hiring consultants altogether (happens surprisingly often with CEO turnover trying to "make a statement") and they couldn't find new clients to serve
  4. Their sponsors and people they worked with regularly left the firm
  5. They were asked to leave for performance reasons (this is surprisingly rare at MBB -- most people proactively leave if they sense things heading in this direction)
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Apr 18, 2018

ok... not gonna write a long post because am a happy MBB alumn, however my consulting experience was great on paper (we over romanticize our experiences). But the actual work, the process, was painful. ALL THE PEOPLE I TALKED TO IN CONSULTING FELT THE SAME. People didn't leave because they were "content" but they weren't excited about their work (that was my experience).

I used to be a WSO user too (8 years ago)... had a summer banking offer rescinded after subprime (was a huge post. got a lot of help from WSO, thanks everyone) so had to go to industry post college. Did some stuff. Then MBA top 5 school. Then consulting 3 years . Now I am in MM PE (investment team - non-traditional hire).

After leaving consulting I have realized how overworked, underpaid and miserable my life was. I can go in detail, but unless you are an insecure overachiever you will be miserable (this is what people say internally they look for when hiring, literally. heard it form senior partners).

I know the OP is comparing post mba banking to consulting but that transition isn't easy. I referred a friend from banking to consulting. When I wanted to collect my referral bonus (6 months in) the guy had already left. So, before jumping ships, I would do more research.

Apr 18, 2018

Is it easier to get into MM PE post-MBA from consulting or IB?

Apr 15, 2018

I think it's hard to get into PE post-MBA without PE pre-MBA. In my case that path was sadly closed off to me because of 2008.

Apr 15, 2018

Well it sounds like you had a really awful time and I'm sorry to hear that :-(.

A few of my projects my first year were pretty bad too -- long nights of endless slide churn, inane and contradictory comments from the partners, clients that fell asleep during our read outs. Fortunately, my line of work evolved in a radically different direction and I'm honestly quite excited to go to work every day now. Call me brainwashed if you like, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I think what's most energizing is just being around smart people with good intentions and having the freedom to innovate. :-)

Apr 21, 2018

Thanks for this insight! As a second year IB analyst at BB, would you be a desirable candidate to MBB when it comes to recruiting? Or is an MBA almost requisite?

Apr 15, 2018

I know of exactly one guy who lateraled over to MBB pre-MBA after having first been a banker. And he lost his seniority and had to start over as a first-year analyst. So it is possible, but would you accept those conditions? Your best bet is probably an MBA.

Apr 18, 2018

So the story is basically post-MBA MBB is superior to post-MBA BB IBD?

Forgive me but I thought that was already an extremely settled point. The most popular graduate destinations at all the top MBA programs reflect this and have reflected this for some time. Post-MBA banking is close to being one of the least coveted paths at the very best b-schools like HBS and GSB.

In the context of the IBD vs Consulting discussion, almost the entire selling point of banking are the exit opportunities unique to it (PE/HF/CorpDev/AM). At the post-MBA level, those exit opportunities are no longer in play, making consulting the obvious choice. Unlike banking, consultants have consistently broad+decent exit opps from junior to senior levels.

Apr 15, 2018

If that's the case, then it may indeed be a settled point now. But it wasn't 8 years ago. On the heels of the crisis, you still had tons of people hustling to get back into Wall Street, expecting that the glory days were coming back. But the drop since then has been quite stark.. and telling.

Apr 18, 2018

Is the drop really that bad? Based on everything I can see it seems like compensation cfor banking has basically stayed where it was in the post crisis time period.

I will say that you seem to have an especially positive view of consulting compared to most of the people I know in it. And I do know at least one person who went from consulting to BB IBD and is much happier there...

Apr 15, 2018

Things may have rebounded a bit but in the 2010-2012 timeframe, things were ugly. Really, really, really ugly. VPs got $20K (for example). MDs who were used to making $1-2M pre-crisis got cut back to $500K. It was bad.

Apr 19, 2018

Thanks for the post Feinstein, think it provides a lot of good information.

Currently an IB analyst right now, jumping to a MM PE after my 2 year stint. Let's say after 2-3 years in PE, I decide to go get my MBA, and then recruit for consulting at an MBB.

  1. What level would I be coming in at?
  2. How far behind would I be compared to someone who joined the MBB straight out of undergrad and just progressed with the firm? (Basically an A to A direct promote in the banking world)
  3. Your path was IB -> MBA -> IB -> MBB. When you were recruiting to jump to MBB, were you ever worried about how behind in terms of position/career you would be coming in at compared to your peers? (Basically getting zero credit for doing Pre-MBA IB and Post-MBA IB).
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Apr 15, 2018
  1. You would come in as a first year associate.
  2. You actually wouldn't be behind at all. In fact, I'd argue you'd be ahead. The managers who joined out of undergrad and stayed can be difficult to work with, as they take the "junior guy mentality" even as they are somewhat senior -- ie. Slide churn, not questioning impact or need, lack of perspective for good team experience, etc.
  3. You're right. I lost my seniority and had to start over as a first year associate. It bothered me for about a week. BUT I got over it fast because the work was remarkably different, the people were much, much better, in the grand scheme of things it doesnt really matter (hell, some people take a year off to back pack), AND there was a wide divergence of ages at that level. There were 23 year associates. There were 30 year old associates. I was comfortably in the middle.
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Apr 19, 2018

Thanks for the reply. To my knowledge, aren't the people who are hired straight out of undergrad also called associates? Is there a difference? (As you can tell...I'm not as in-tune with the consulting side)

To caveat this, obviously, this isn't a huge, deal-breaking factor. I think there are a lot of positives (such as coming in with prior IB/PE experience really just adds to your skill-set and reference experiences). More of just being curious, but it does bring sort of an uncomfortable (yet somehow refreshing) feeling of thinking that you may have to "take a step or two back" to transition to something completely different.

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Apr 19, 2018

Quick Question for you:

How big of a deal is location for consultants? Is there a tangible difference in work/prestige/possible exit opps if you work in a location like Dallas or Atlanta versus NY/SF/LA?

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Apr 15, 2018

Hard to say. I've been NYC based all my life. I'd say its definitely more common to see NY-based consultants move out to the provinces as part of an exit oppty, than the other way around. But perhaps that's just due to the nature of the exit opp. Most of corporate America (non-FIG, non-professional services) is no longer based in large cities (think Bentonville, Arkansas), so if you take an exec role at a pharma, guess what, you're moving to NJ.

PS. I wouldn't bash Dallas. You know what having a ~15% pay bump after not having to pay city + state income taxes feels like? :-)

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Apr 19, 2018

Great thread with very useful info. I'm a former consultant (2nd tier firm) heading to an EB post-MBA.

You talk at length about the dull nature of the work at your BB - what tier of BB were you at? What was the mix of pure advisory work vs capital markets? Do you think your attitude might have been different if you'd been at an EB or a slightly more advisory-focused BB group?

Apr 15, 2018

I was a simple associate in a coverage group. Having been in consulting, it would be stretching the definition of "advisory" to call it that in banking. We ran a lot of comps, made a lot of inane decks, etc., etc. Lots of mining debt prices from Bloomberg and other data sources. Horrendously boring, repetitive, and mind-numbing work. What is EB?

Apr 19, 2018

Catch all phrase to represent an independent advisory house like Lazard, Rothschild, Evercore etc

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Apr 18, 2018

You know you've been removed from the banking space for a long time when you don't know what an EB is :)

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Apr 20, 2018

Feinstein - thanks for sharing the information/update. Would you mind talking a little more about the switching process (IB to consulting), interviews, and case prep? I know it could be time consuming so I was wondering if you have any pointers on how to go about preparing and getting through interviews etc (especially given the working hours in IB). I'm currently in IB but looking to make the move in the near future.

Thanks again!

Apr 20, 2018

I'm also currently a third year Analyst. Any thoughts on what position I should be targeting when moving to an MBB at this stage?

Apr 15, 2018

Gosh, it was 6 years ago, so my memory isn't that fresh. Obviously consulting interviews are a combination of fit and case. Since I was so recently in MBA, I had both a pretty good stable of stories involving leadership, and a copy of the case prep library from MBA. I also set up some time with a buddy who was an MBB alum (bought him a few beers) and had him do 5-10 cases with me. That was it, I think.

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Apr 21, 2018

Interesting perspective. Our MBA professors urged us not to go into consulting. "Same hours for less than half the pay". I guess there are 2 sides to every coin.

My take on banking (at MBA level) is that people self-select out due to lifestyle or an innate urge to get married/settle down. In consulting, it's more common to get nudged out since it's a more popular field currently among MBAs.

I would advise any friend to pursue IB over all consulting jobs except maybe MBB. Even then, it's a tough call.

There is a shortage of talent at the associate and VP level with tons of postings nowadays and opportunities. If banking works out, one can retire in their 40s. Not so in consulting where you have to be in it for the longer haul.

Thanks for sharing. I hope it works out and seems like a good fit for you.

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Apr 15, 2018

I didn't realize there's now a shortage of talent at the associate/VP level in banking. It sounds like the exact reverse of 6 years ago, when there was a glut of people at those levels slowly and methodically being pushed out.

My thinking of comp is that I think over a career, it normalizes out on an "expected value" basis. Yes, banking comp is higher, but it is also more volatile due to the comparatively low rates of survivorship and the difficulty of maintaining that earning level unless you do a clean lateral. If you take the fact that only 1-2 associates out of my entire associate class at the BB bank are still there and what they exited to (see prev post in this thread)... I can't draw any other conclusion.

I'm fortunate that if we wanted to, my wife and I could also go FIRE (financially independent / retire early) in my 40s and maintain our lifestyle, as we made some gutsy and strategic investments during the crisis that paid off well. However.. I don't think I would want to. What I like about my job is that it is mentally stimulating and I genuinely enjoy the idea of going to work and tackling new problems in innovative and exciting ways. I know its hard to imagine actually loving your job while I was in banking... but I do. It isn't just repetitive busywork and jumping through hoops (see my comment from 6 years ago here) inflicted by sadistic senior bankers who can't think ahead, manage their way out of a paper bag, have one iota of consideration for the ripple effects of the impulses, or think just because they were abused as cadets, it's important to pass it on in the name of "building character". And as long as it stays that way, I wouldn't want to stop working, even if I could. In other words, what I do in my day job actually excites and energizes me.. instead of being something I just put up with until I don't have to do it anymore.

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Apr 21, 2018

Sounds like you made the right call - the economy is better now, but who knows how long it will last?

I know many MBAs who have made a great career in banking and couldn't be happier. They walk around with a smile on their face everyday and were happy to climb that mountain. Exit opps abound when you do great work. Some leave and manage their own money but many stay at the Director/MD level. Pay your dues, work hard, and hopefully luck shines on us all!

IMO, every high-paying profession is an absolute grind until about 7-10 +years in. To you point about lifestyle, I would not recommend anyone get married as a junior in banking. You will likely feel guilty constantly about free time. Navy seals also have a 90%+ divorce rate for a reason.... Probably the same with medical residents.

We all split hairs over which is the "best" profession when many people in America work 2 jobs (banker hours) just to make ends meet and gross $40K/year salary. Another example is accountants who grind hard during tax season (banker hours) but for 1/5 of banker pay. Most of us are extremely lucky.

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Apr 17, 2018

I see things much more the way @Feinstein and @TheOceanizer have seen them (optionality has tremendous value - just ask yourself whether you'd rather be long a future or own a call option, and post-MBA MBB provides way more optionality than IBD does). That said, I'm glad that @hardworkingmonkey is so hyped about post-MBA banking - someone needs to be, so that business schools and banks don't completely divorce each other.

Long story short, retiring from a BB in your 40s is not a thing, and a surge in Associate/VP vacancies is a red herring: what matters is whether there is net creation of MD positions, and there isn't, because client banking wallets aren't growing. Banks have been working their senior bankers hard just to defend revenue and ensure that investment banking is existentially justified (several years of Price:Book below 1.0x speaks to the market having serious doubts about the industry).

Thanks for the thread Feinstein. It's given a lot of people food for thought.

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Apr 21, 2018

I respect your opinion and experiences but I know several bankers who were lucky enough to retire young.

Secondly, if forced out usually they end up at a boutique. Quality workers with experience will always have options in any industry.

Every senior banker I personally know who left did so due to lifestyle and kids. Not because they couldn't find a gig. They self selected out of the industry and didn't really want it anymore. No shame in that either.

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Apr 15, 2018
hardworkingmonkey:

Every senior banker I personally know who left did so due to lifestyle and kids. Not because they couldn't find a gig. They self selected out of the industry and didn't really want it anymore. No shame in that either.

Well, maybe the bloodletting is over. But jeez in the 2010-2012 timeframe, nearly every single MD I knew (over 20 in total) who left was (involuntarily) pushed out. Almost all of them are still working, most in financial services related jobs, but only one of them is still in banking, at a non-name boutique.

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Apr 18, 2018

No offense but using the two years post the biggest banking crisis since 1929 probably isn't a good analogy for what go forward business conditions look like...

I was in banking then too though (2010-2012) and it was not nearly that bad at my BB (and analysts were still making 140-180k so it couldn't have all been terrible)...experiences may vary though

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Apr 18, 2018
hardworkingmonkey:

I know several bankers who were lucky enough to retire young.

Curious if you knew at what age they would retire and with how much money in their bank accounts? Was all of the money they retired with procured through banking?

Apr 24, 2018

Interesting perspective - thanks for sharing. This is not the ultimate truth however. In consulting the work is not much different from banking. You are still the bitch of the client and are spending even more time on useless presentations no matter how you position it here or how it makes you feel. I personally know a lot of frustrated consultants.

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Apr 15, 2018

Well, I'm sorry my experience doesn't match your "ultimate truth" :-)

The days of 100+ slide strategy mumbo jumbo decks that get slaved over, read out to an audience with eyes glazed over and ultimately shelved are long over. (And frankly, MBB would be going out of business if that's what they still tried to pitch.) I think I've made <20 slides in the past 6 months.

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Apr 24, 2018

Thanks @Feinstein for your post! Really valuable.

I work at a MBB in a pre-MBA position and want to add my thoughts. I think it's great you're enjoying the industry but many of my peers just feel the comp is pretty disappointing.

On exit ops I've seen people desperately wanting to stay on but being pushed out - did not look fun. A scan of their LinkedIn shows they haven't found their next steps yet after ~4-5months.

We felt the best ops are in finance (maybe an irony that people always think the grass is greener on the other side). People consider PE the best option.

Finally I'm just surprised at your Associate class's exit ops. Would have imagined they're at MD or PE Partner positions.

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Apr 15, 2018

My BB Associate class's exit were in the context of 2010 or so. See my comment above about the "beta" driving 93.6% of performance, and the vintage effect of graduation year.
So.. yeah.. it's quite sad.

Apr 19, 2018

@Feinstein

You have definitely convinced me that post MBA MBB is a better career choice than banking, at least on a EV basis.

Now, I know that you have not worked for a non MBB Consulting firm, but wondering if you think you can get a similar career outcome at a non MBB/Tier 2 consulting firm.

Thanks,

Apr 15, 2018

Well, I'm flattered that you found the conversation useful, although I wasn't trying to convince anyone :-).

I won't deny that there's a lot of brand value associated with MBB, but what I would solve for is the quality and nature of the work you'll do. I think of three extremes associated with consulting work: 1) high-level 10,000-foot strategy mumbo jumbo expressed in incomprehensible PowerPoint decks that gather dust in shelves, 2) "workforce augmentation" where you do the job of your client's employees who lack the skills / motivation to do it themselves, and 3) highly impact-oriented roles where you provide strategic and operational direction and coaching, and build the capabilities that your clients don't have.

Number 1 is what MBB is "stereotypically" known for (and there's plenty of this crap going on outside of MBB -- plus clients don't really value this much anymore).
Number 2 is what the Big 4 and Accenture are "stereotypically" known for (and there's plenty of this crap going on in MBB).
Number 3 is the sweet spot.

Solve for a mode of client service delivery that is aligned with #3 and you will build a portfolio of skills that will serve you well anywhere.

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Apr 26, 2018

Do you think a jump to Management Consulting at MBB, or is an MBA absolutely necessary?

Apr 15, 2018

It's certainly possible, but just rare and usually because the analyst has specific skills (ie. not PowerPoint artistry or Excel modeling) or industry background that is useful. By far the most straightforward path is via MBA.

Apr 27, 2018

@Feinstein great post, thanks! I did equity research (bulge bracket) post MBA for a few years, then moved to business development in industry. I always wondered about MBB and I wish I gave it more of a shot during business school. What do you think about breaking into MBB post-MBA (surprisingly its been 5 years!)? Is it possible? What level would you enter at? How would you go about it - heavy networking I suppose?

Apr 15, 2018

It's not impossible, just very very difficult, and typically not on a generalist consultant track. If you happen to be a subject matter expert (eg. healthcare), the MBB does recruit for highly specialized roles there, and while I have no idea, my guess is heavy networking is how to make it happen.

Apr 29, 2018

Thanks for the post @Feinstein

I'm at a state school (UVA/Umich/UC Berkeley) and am doing engineering right now, but I'm leaning towards consulting after graduating. I feel like the engineering jobs seem pretty dull, and the banking lifestyle seems kind of unbearable, while consulting seems so interesting, plus I love to travel.

How common are engineering majors where you work, or is it more the econ/business oriented people? Do you feel that, as an engineering undegrad, I'd have to get an MBA somewhere down the line to have a shot at MBB/Big4/Accenture?

Apr 15, 2018

We get folks of all backgrounds, although I'd say the econ/business crowd is the most common. What matters more is your leadership experience and your ability to drive change and have impact, rather than your academic background. On my current team, I have an MIT undergrad engineering major as well as well as an Ivy League undergrad English major. However, the reason they got interviewed was probably because one launched a successful startup before she finished college, and the other was a student body president.

Apr 29, 2018

This is an amazing thread, overall. Kudos to all the posters who shared valuable insights.

@Feinstein a few questions.

  1. A major complaint I've heard from MBB friends is that much of the work is less strategic and more operational "grunt work." To what extent did you find this to be true?
  2. In terms of exit opps for principals/junior partners at MBB, are they typically able to find roles that match their comp? My best friend is a principal at a MBB, and a major reason he hasn't quit yet is because every other role would be a pay cut, and he is on path to making partner in a few short years. By that point, you are not leaving MBB unless it is a very high level role at say a F500 (one level below C-suite jobs) or a PE firm.
Apr 15, 2018

Good questions.

  1. Over time, my view of "grunt work" has changed. Yes, MBB is traditionally known for earth-shattering grand strategy that has the potential to reshape entire industries. But that is both a receding part of MBB's portfolio AND a shrinking part of what clients desire. It used to be that MBB contained the secrets to industry benchmarks and privileged access to top knowledge, but the democratization of information (think CapIQ) and the fact that the F500 are all standing up their own in-house strategy teams who are MBB alums means that it doesn't command the mystique it once did. Also, not much is more frustrating than killing yourself for several months, churning PowerPoint slides ad nauseum, and the presenting your 500-page work product to a client that a) is unlikely to act on it, or worse yet, b) doesn't even understand it, and puts it on a shelf to gather dust. Or worse yet, use it to validate their existing thinking as part of internal political kabuki theatre. The reason I've rethought this is that the skills I want to build here are not pie-in-the-sky academic-style thinking, but ability to be a real, credible operational leader. If I were to interview for a C-level role sometime in the future, it's way more meaningful to be able to say I've led large teams that have executed marketing & sales transformations that have led to $X billion of EBITDA impact, or I've led merger integration efforts between 2 S&P100 companies that had achieved $X million in synergies in the Finance function -- as opposed to I can think strategically and here's some PowerPoint. That being said, grunt work (as in "workforce augmentation" where you replace client workers who don't have the skill or motivation to do something which needs doing) does suck, and I avoid those projects.
  2. It depends. Exits for principals aren't cut and dry as not everyone is solving for comp. Some people honestly want the 9-5 job within driving distance to home in the burbs where they can BBQ every weeknight in the backyard with the kids, and I respect that. Others want to maintain the pace and earnings trajectory as long as they can. For me, the exit options that have been pitched to me span the spectrum, both in comp, and in lifestyle, from PE operating roles to startups to functional leaders at F500. It's much more of a choice than your friend has perhaps discussed with you.
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May 16, 2018

can you go into more detail on the PE roles you have been offered? are the at the portcos directly or are they internal groups within the principal fund? im currently at a tier 2 firm (Deloitte/ACN) with the goal of attending an M7 B school after 3 years before going to to MBB (ideal scenario) but im still unsure of how long id like to stay in consulting and the exit ops at each level. Im interested in learning about internal portfolio operations groups within PE firms where the comp can be quite significant at some funds

May 17, 2018

Thanks for your posting. I can relate to the senior clientele; I've been honing my interpersonal skills as a nurse for many years. I'm interested in a career transition into IB or MBB. I'm not afraid if the work (or grunt work). Any advice on making such a transition? I don't see it as a large leap with study.

May 29, 2018

Would your analysis be different depending on which bank you were comparing MBB to?

By that I mean: Goldman/Centerview/Evercore/Qatalyst/Allen & Co. etc. (i.e. whatever the "best" are these days) as opposed to a BAML, Citi, Blair, Lincoln International, or some less known firm?

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May 29, 2018

Great to hear this perspective. Thanks for coming back to share it.