Unpopular(?) opinion: there is a hierarchy within MBB

During recruiting, a perhaps vocal minority always talks about the firms like they're equal. After recruiting (and receiving offers) at all three, I ended up doing a lot of diligence. In my opinion, in terms of prestige, work and exit opportunities, and growth/development: McKinsey >> BCG > Bain.

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Comments (19)

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jan 23, 2020 - 11:07am

Come on -- I'm open to hearing other arguments, no need to throw MS.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jan 26, 2020 - 12:29am

Funnily enough, none of the MS on this post is saying it's wrong. People are just saying it's not helpful, which I guess means this was universally acknowledged. My bad for not realizing this, feels stupid to have posted now

Jan 24, 2020 - 8:36am

I don't know how essential it is to provide general hierarchy. Most people choose one of the three based on their exit ops and industry preferences. Bain has the strongest service offering for PE, McKinsey has the strongest for Financial Services,a and BCG... I think has a good Pharma service offering - correct me if I'm wrong. Point is, at the end of the day, even if McKinsey is perceived to be more prestigious as a whole, each firm has its own strength that blurs the line a little. But to answer your question, in generalized terms, most would agree: McKinsey > Bain > BCG

Jan 24, 2020 - 12:45pm

The fact that your "most people agree on this ranking" list is different than OP's just points out how pointless it is trying to rank these guys. Do agree, however, that they clearly are better in certain areas.

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Jan 24, 2020 - 1:17pm

I noticed that - but this is just a matter of what I've read and understand from my perspective. Of course, when ranking it's simply a matter of how they are ranked. They all fall similarly on prestige, work-life balance (things such as sabbaticals, and other wellness programs), pay scale, and even career growth. That's why their differentiating factor falls into Revenue, their associated Size and Culture, as well as their Sector Presence.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Mar 20, 2020 - 2:54pm

I don't think it matters that much. In both rankings, McKinsey was the clear winner. In my ranking as well I suggested that the difference between Bain/BCG was limited.

Mar 20, 2020 - 6:08pm

You're directionally right and most people tend to agree with your ranking on an overall scale..

Multiple exceptions exist, though, like Bain in PE, BCG in Japan, Bain in Italy, etc. All in all, your ranking exists in a three dimensional matrix of region/ country, industry, capability. Depending on where you want to work and on what you want to focus, your ranking might change, which is arguably the more important takeaway.

  • 1
Most Helpful
Jan 24, 2020 - 2:16pm

The monkey shit is because they're all insanely good firms, very few people get offers at multiple of them and need to pick which one they want to take, what you can do after working at any of them (for the most part) is going to be the exact same, and no one in the real world is discussing whether BCG is better than Bain.

There's no real reason to rank them except for the strange chase for prestige on this forum.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jan 25, 2020 - 2:41pm

I don't think exit opportunities are the same. Ex: McKinsey has the largest PE practice, and >50% of Bain's work is in PE. As a result, at BCG it is way harder to get into PE. Similarly, for someone hoping to exit into tech, McKinsey's network in the Bay Area and breadth/size of tech clients is far better suited than either competitor.

They are all great firms, but when people do get cross-offers, it's important to know that there are trade-offs when going with Bain or BCG.

Jan 25, 2020 - 4:17pm

With PE as a potential exception, in reality for most of these exits into industry it won't actually matter what firm you're from. Perhaps you'll get more opportunities but the quality of those opportunities on the whole likely won't vary much. At the end of the day, you only pick one of those opportunities.

If you want to compare solely on metrics of prestige and exit opps then sure, that ranking is probably generally accepted, but at the same time it's a moot point. In the real world, the implications and "delta" for most are minimal.

Jan 26, 2020 - 1:42am

In the US, whatever differences you're perceiving regarding prestige and exit opps are negligible and are only the subject of discussion for insecure folks. Outside the US is another story.

Now, difference in specific industries, staffing model, benefits, progression, partner structure and incentives, culture in various cities - more fruitful.

For example, it's known among consultants that BCG has the best junior level perks, up to PL or perhaps Principal.

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Mar 20, 2020 - 2:53pm

Strongly disagree, as I think it does matter quite a bit in the US as well. For example, you get to focus on projects of your own interest at McKinsey, whereas Bain's (and to some extent, BCG's) local and generalist focus doesn't allow this.

If you're passionate about retail then how can you have great exit opps in retail, for example, if your local office doesn't really have retail and Bain makes you be a generalist in everything from technology to energy?

Apr 1, 2020 - 6:44pm

Somehow you've agreed with me without realizing it. :)

Part of your thesis hinges on the idea that McKinsey has a superior staffing model. It has undergone large changes in the past couple years, transitioning to a more office/region-driven model - albeit with plenty of opportunities to explore outside of it. McKinsey and BCG are much closer in this regard nowadays.

Mar 21, 2020 - 11:25am

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