Why McKinsey, BCG and Bain are considered the top-tier consulting firms

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There are thousands of management consulting firms around. However, the air at the top is very thin, with three players competing for the crown. McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, and Bain & Company are universally acclaimed as the top firms in the consulting universe. Why is that so?

Top clients of McKinsey, BCG, and Bain

The triumvirate in top strategy consulting exclusively works with the biggest clients of a particular industry as well as governments and the most influential NGOs. Their client base usually comprises >80% of firms listed at major stock indices around the world. They rarely work with small and medium enterprises.

C-level mandates only for McKinsey

The consulting mandate of the top 3 comes directly from the C-suite of the corporations mentioned above. They are tasked by and report to CEOs, CFOs, COOs, and other senior organizational leaders only.

Most impactful projects for MBB

Since these firms work for the CEOs of large corporations, they are usually entrusted to sort out the really big issues the company is facing. Following the CEO agenda approach, their work has the biggest real-life impact on their clients among all consulting firms.

Highly selective recruiting in McKinsey

Top tier firms are highly selective and only employ candidates from top universities with superb grades, who have demonstrated leadership abilities in previous roles. Additionally, their case interviews are the toughest across all consulting firms. To illustrate, Forbes Magazine ranked McKinsey as the employer with the most difficult interviews. Have a look a the recruiting practices of McKinsey here.

Relentless focus on quality in MBB

The top firms are driven by a relentless focus on quality and strict adherence to their professional values and standards. As a result, they deliver the same quality of work across all geographies, industries, and functions, and as external advisors enjoy the highest trust from their clients.

The highest price tag of McKinsey

Serving the biggest companies on their most pressing issues with the highest caliber people, the top 3 are able to charge significantly higher consulting fees than their peers.

Best alumni network of McKinsey

Consultants of the top three are sought after by employers once they decide to leave consulting. With the pedigree of a top tier firm on their resume as well as the skills they have acquired while working, they make excellent organizational leaders.  Unsurprisingly, today, we find many alumni of McK, BCG, and Bain in the most senior organizational positions of the biggest and most influential companies.

Highest salaries and better bonus packages

As the war for the best talent is becoming ever more fiercely, it is not surprising that consultants of the top three earn more than consultants of other firms. As discussed, their fees billed to the client are also significantly higher. The difference to less prestigious consulting firms becomes even more apparent at higher levels of the hierarchy, such as the partner level.

Highest knowledge investment

The top tier invests a significant amount each year in high-quality research to drive industry and functional expertise. The knowledge-building activities developed internally for clients as well as published in business publications such as the McKinsey Quarterly help strengthen their thought leadership position in the business world. Large consultancies drive the global management agenda to a large degree. It is difficult for other firms to get access to world-leading experts and funds to embark on a similar strategy.

Investment in their employees

McK, BCG, and Bain invest a significant amount each year to train their consultants. Training starts before employees even join the firm and accompanies them through their journey across the ranks. The quality and content of training that young consultants are able to enjoy is something that large industry companies only use for their senior leadership roles.

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