Financial Consulting: Definition, Opportunities and Top Firms

Are you seeking a career in financial consulting? This path presents lucrative earning potential and diverse avenues for professional growth in an attractive, people-focused work environment, with engaging projects and intriguing employers.

But what exactly do financial consultants do, and what does this career entail? I have the answers! In this article, I'll explore financial consulting, including its definition, potential career paths, skills and experiences, and a detailed analysis of the leading firms in the industry.

Table of Content

 

What Is Financial Consulting?

Financial Consulting involves serving as a comprehensive resource for financial matters, drawing on expertise in financial planning, investment advising, and insurance. 

Consultants in this area analyze clients' financial situations, devise detailed plans, and provide tailored solutions to enhance overall wealth and tax efficiency. This encompasses areas like financial planning, asset building, investments, and retirement planning. Consultants inform clients about financial topics and may operate on a commission basis to sell products, emphasizing the importance of conducting a thorough analysis of the client's financial situation.

 

What Are The Key Areas of Financial Consulting?

In financial consulting, there are a multitude of services that assist companies and individuals in achieving their financial goals. Each of these areas plays a crucial role in optimizing financial strategies and ensuring long-term financial stability.

The following are the key areas within financial consulting:

Key Areas of Financial Consulting
  • Investment Management: Helping businesses in optimizing excess cash and helping individuals create personalized investment portfolios
  • Business Valuation (also known as Mergers and Acquisitions (“M&A”)): Assisting startups in holistic business valuations and helping entrepreneurs planning to sell their businesses

  • Risk Management: Developing hedging strategies for corporations exposed to currency fluctuations and assisting high-net-worth individuals in diversifying their portfolios

  • Tax Management: Exploring tax-efficient succession planning for family-owned businesses and optimizing tax for individuals with complex financial situations

  • Business and Strategic Financial Planning: Helping startups in strategic financial planning and helping executives in early retirement and wealth preservation

 

Career Paths in Financial Consulting

Career paths in financial consulting are diverse and offer a wide range of opportunities for those interested in a career in this field. The key career paths in financial consulting include:

  • Investment Consulting: Advising clients on investment strategies, portfolio management, and asset allocation. Opportunities exist in both buy-side (e.g., asset management firms) and sell-side (e.g., investment banks) institutions.

  • Risk Management Consulting: Focusing on identifying, assessing, and managing risks associated with financial decisions. Risk management consultants work on developing risk mitigation strategies and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements.

  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Consulting: Providing advice on mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and corporate transactions. M&A consultants play a very important role in financial due diligence, valuation, and negotiation processes.

  • Tax Consulting: Providing advice in tax planning, compliance, and optimization. Tax consultants work with individuals and businesses to ensure tax efficiency while remaining compliant with relevant laws.

  • Management Consulting: Management consultants help organizations improve overall performance through strategic planning, operational efficiency, and organizational restructuring.

 

Essential Skills and Experience of Financial Consultants

In consulting, applicants are expected to bring a mix of specialized hard and soft skills. This expectation is particularly valid for the field of financial consulting, where prospective consultants must bring unique combinations of the required skills to meet the high demands and challenges in this field. The following skills are key for your career in financial consulting:

 

Essential Skills and Experience of Financial Consultants
  • Analytical Skills: Financial consultants analyze complex financial data and discover meaningful insights.

  • Communication Skills: Financial consultants communicate complex financial concepts in a clear and understandable manner.

  • Financial Modeling: Required for forecasting, valuation, and scenario analysis. Financial consultants use financial models to simulate different financial scenarios and assess potential impacts on clients' financial positions.

  • Industry Knowledge: Financial consultants need to stay informed about industry trends, regulations, and market dynamics to provide relevant and tailored advice to their clients

  • Problem-Solving Abilities: Financial consultants often have to deal with complex problems that require creative and strategic solutions. The ability to think critically and solve problems efficiently is a key attribute.

  • Client Management: Building and maintaining strong client relationships is important for success in consulting. Financial consultants need to understand clients' needs, expectations and goals, encouraging trust and long-term partnerships.

  • Education and Certifications: A strong educational background in finance, accounting, or a related field is typically required. Many financial consultants also pursue professional certifications such as the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) to enhance their credibility and expertise in the eyes of their clients.

 

Top Firms in Financial Consulting

As soon as you have decided to enter financial consulting, the next challenging decision is just around the corner: “Which company should I choose?”. Below I have compiled a list of top companies in the financial sector to give you an overview of their specializations:

(Please note this list is not exhaustive; positions and rankings tend to change from one year to the other.)

 

MBB (McKinsey, BCG, Bain)

McKinsey

McKinsey & Company: McKinsey & Company offer financial consulting as part of its broader services portfolio. They often involve management consulting, focusing on overall business performance improvement. The company is part of MBB.

 

BCG

Boston Consulting Group (BCG): Recognized for its strategic consulting expertise, BCG also provides financial consulting services with a focus on innovative financial solutions to clients.

 

Bain & Company

Bain & Company: Known for its focus on strategy consulting, Bain & Co also offer financial consulting services. They are renowned for their collaborative approach and commitment to delivering measurable results.

 

The Big Four (Deloitte, PwC, EY, KPMG)

Deloitte

Deloitte: Big 4 firm with strong reputation as accounting firm as well. Covers a wide range of areas, including risk management, mergers and acquisitions, and tax consulting. Deloitte's diverse financial consulting services often emphasize risk management (this may vary depending on the geography).

 

PwC

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC): Also a Big 4 firm with a strong reputation as an accounting firm. Provides financial consulting services, including assurance, tax, and advisory services. PwC's financial consulting often includes a mix of assurance, tax, and advisory services.

 

EY

EY (Ernst & Young): Also a Big 4 firm with a strong reputation as an accounting firm. EY covers areas such as risk management, transaction advisory, and business restructuring within its financial consulting services.

 

KPMG

KPMG: The smallest of the Big 4 firms, but KPMG often emphasizes risk management, forensic accounting, and financial advisory.

 

Other Top Firms in Financial Consulting

Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs: As a prominent investment bank, Goldman Sachs excels in investment management and mergers and acquisitions within financial consulting.

 

accenture

Accenture: With a global presence, Accenture's financial consulting services cover a broad range of areas, offering insights into strategic financial planning, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions.

 

Oliver Wyman

Oliver Wyman: A boutique firm specialized in management consulting, Oliver Wyman also stands out in financial consulting. The firm's expertise lies in offering holistic financial advisory services and innovative solutions.

 

Alvarez & Marsal

Alvarez & Marsal: Renowned for its performance improvement and turnaround management, Alvarez & Marsal is a significant actor in financial consulting, particularly in areas such as risk management and financial advisory.

 

Is a Career in Financial Consulting Worth It?

Having worked in management consulting, I've come across many folks who see financial consulting as a “cool” and well-paying career move. The pay can vary, depending on where you are and on the specific office, but it's a popular choice for those aiming at top consulting firms.

It is a well-known fact that financial consulting becomes even more important in times of economic uncertainty. Companies and private individuals turn to financial advisors for advice in difficult times, to rethink their financial strategies and to protect their interests. Looking ahead, I expect the demand for financial consultants to either stay stable or even increase in the next few months.

In my consulting experience, I mainly focused on risk management projects and the more traditional side of management consulting. It's been interesting to see how important financial consulting is, particularly in managing risks and making informed decisions. With businesses recognizing the need for solid financial advice, I believe the demand for financial consultants is likely to grow steadily. If you're considering a career in this field, it seems like a solid move.

Upon joining EY's Financial Services practice in Tokyo, Japan in September 2012, I embarked on a career path in traditional management consulting to risk management and mergers & acquisitions. My work as a financial consultant was characterized by many challenges that required quick adaptation and flexible skills tailored to different customer needs. 

Financial consulting offers those who are passionate about finance an exciting career with diverse global opportunities. During my tenure as a financial consultant, I have had the opportunity to work in Japan, Hong Kong, New York, Central & Latin America. The changing financial industry makes it an attractive option for those seeking a rewarding and intellectually stimulating career. Aspiring financial consultants have the chance to explore different paths within top firms, each excelling in various aspects of financial consulting. 

 

 

How Do I Find The Right Financial Consulting Firm?

You may find yourself wondering which financial consulting firm aligns best with your aspirations. While some may be attracted toward prestigious MBB firms like McKinsey & Co, Bain & Company, or the Boston Consulting Group, I encourage you to pause and consider your decision beyond the rankings (although one cannot deny it is a significant aspect of the decision).

In fact, choosing the right consulting firm for your career path can be a tough decision, particularly when considering their offerings in financial consulting. While top-tier firms all provide financial consulting services, your choice ultimately comes down to your specific interests and preferences.

To make an informed decision, it's essential to go into the details of each firm's specialization and client base. This can involve researching the types of projects they do and the industries they serve. Platforms like LinkedIn can be great for connecting with current employees and gaining insights into the firm's culture and focus areas.

 

Here are some questions you can ask during your research and interviews:

  • Can you provide insights into the specific areas of financial consulting that your firm specializes in?

  • What types of clients does your financial consulting practice typically serve? Are there specific industries or sectors that you focus on?

  • Can you share examples of recent financial consulting projects that your firm has undertaken?

  • How does your firm approach risk management within the context of financial consulting?

  • What sets your firm apart from others in terms of financial consulting services?

  • How do you stay updated on industry trends and regulations relevant to financial consulting? 

  • Can you describe the typical career progression for consultants within your financial consulting practice?

  • What opportunities exist for professional development and mentorship within the financial consulting team?

  • How does your firm foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing among consultants working in financial consulting?

  • Can you provide insights into the geographic distribution of your financial consulting practice and any regional differences in focus areas?

  • How does your firm leverage technology and data analytics in the delivery of financial consulting services?

  • Can you speak to the firm's approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion within the financial consulting practice?

  • How does your firm ensure alignment between client goals and the solutions provided through financial consulting?

  • Can you describe the firm's culture and values as they relate to the financial consulting practice?

  • Are there any upcoming initiatives or growth areas within the financial consulting practice that candidates should be aware of?

 

These are just a few examples, but they will surely help you gain insights into the financial consulting practice of the firm you are interviewing at, and eventually help you make an informed decision.

During the interview process, take the opportunity to ask questions to understand the firm's approach to financial consulting and its alignment with your career goals. Pay attention not only to the firm's reputation but also to the quality of the individuals you'll be working with. Your future colleagues and mentors will have a big impact on your professional growth and job satisfaction.

Finally, while the thought of putting a prestigious brand name on your CV is undeniable, it's better to prioritize factors such as the firm's specialization, client base, office location, and the level of experience of your future colleagues. Being careful in considering these aspects and asking the right questions, you can make a well-informed decision that sets you on the path to a fulfilling career in financial consulting.

 

Beyond Financial Consulting

But beyond what we have just discussed, financial consulting is not only about providing expert opinions but just like any other branch of consulting, it is also about creating long-term relationships with clients. Consultants in this field act as trusted advisors, guiding businesses and individuals through complex financial decisions. They offer tailored solutions that align with the goals and desires of the clients, helping them overcome challenges and seize opportunities.

One aspect that sets financial consulting apart is its interdisciplinary nature. Consultants often collaborate with professionals from various backgrounds, including finance, accounting, law, and technology, to deliver what we call “360 degrees” solutions to clients. This approach allows for a holistic understanding of clients' needs and enables consultants to offer innovative strategies that address multiple dimensions of financial challenges.

Moreover, financial consulting is not confined to traditional office settings. Consultants often engage in on-site visits, where they immerse themselves in clients' operations to gain firsthand insights into their financial systems and processes. Financial consultants frequently collaborate closely with their clients, to the extent that one might feel fully part of the client's team.

In addition to client-facing roles, financial consulting firms also offer opportunities for internal growth and development. Consultants have access to a wealth of resources, including training programs, mentorship initiatives, and networking opportunities, to enhance their skills and advance their careers within the firm. This commitment to professional development ensures that consultants remain updated on industry trends and best practices, enabling them to deliver high quality value to clients.

Furthermore, the demand for financial consulting services is not limited to specific industries or sectors. From technology startups to multinational corporations, businesses of all sizes and across various sectors rely on financial consultants to achieve their strategic objectives. This diverse client base offers consultants the opportunity to work on a wide range of projects, enriching their experience and expertise in the process.

In conclusion, financial consulting is a dynamic and multifaceted field that offers ample opportunities for growth and impact. Whether you're a seasoned professional looking to transition into financial consulting or a recent graduate, a career in financial consulting promises excitement, challenge, and fulfillment.

I wish you the best in your journey of financial consulting, and if you ever have any questions or want to book a coaching session, feel free to do so through the Platform.

About the Author

Aude Profile PictureAude Augias

Ex-BCG | Ex-EY | Ex-PwC ​

Aude, with previous roles at BCG, EY, and PwC across Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, Central & Latin America, is an ex-management consultant and Certified Holistic Coach. She offers a dynamic approach to personal and professional growth, combining business strategies with well-being practices to guide candidates towards success, specializing in leadership enhancement and performance improvement.

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