BCG vs McKinsey Germany: Culture, Prestige & Social Impact Projects

BCG entry level MBB McKinsey Medicine time to sign the offer
New answer on Jun 24, 2020
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Anonymous A asked on Jun 23, 2020

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all doing fine in those times.

Perhaps before I start my actual question, some background information regarding myself to give you a better overview of my background:

First of all, consulting was never really my goal, I initially wanted to be a doctor with a focus on heart surgeries. That is why for the last years I studied medicine in Heidelberg, Germany, and for most of my studies never completed consulting internships because I worked in hospitals to get practical experience. However, 1.5 years ago I had a car crash and my left hand was badly damaged. Even after some surgeries and special programs my hand didn’t fully recover and the left hand is often shaking, which is no issue when working on a computer, but this means that I will never be able to perform surgeries myself.

After some tough months during which I didn’t really know what to do next, I talked to a friend of my father, who is a partner at a small and relatively new consulting firm in Germany with a focus on medical technology. He offered me to do an internship there, which I did earlier this year. I really enjoyed the project and working with colleagues from different backgrounds.

Therefore, I looked at some articles and talked to some friends with business background and they told me the top firms in Germany are McKinsey and BCG, however since they never worked there themselves, they couldn’t really give me any detailed information. And during my studies, I didn’t bother to apply for some networking events. Therefore, I don’t really know the people that work there. Nevertheless, I applied for both firms for the Frankfurt Office and received offers for a start in 2021. During the interview process both companies were really friendly and professional.

Normally, I would try to visit the different offices (in Frankfurt, Germany) to get to know the colleagues and make a decision where to work, but in times of COVID-19 this is not really feasible.

Therefore, I hope you could help me with some general questions:

  • How is the culture in those 2 firms and what are the differences? I read that the culture is better at BCG, but why (or why not) and is this also true for Germany?
  • Who is the market leader in Germany (not only for healthcare) / is viewed as more prestigious (although this is not too important for me, but I read in a “vault ranking” that McKinsey is leading here)?
  • In which company is it easier to support social impact projects?

Thank you very much for your time and support.

Stay healthy!

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Giulia
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jun 23, 2020
McKinsey | 4+ years in Consulting + Health Tech |Certified High Performance + Systemic Coach | Women Empowerment

Hi - congratulations for your two job offers! This is awesome!!


Concerning your questions

  • How is the culture in those 2 firms and what are the differences? I read that the culture is better at BCG, but why (or why not) and is this also true for Germany?
    • it's hard to say - because in Germany too, most offices have their own culture
    • but in fact there are a few differences between the typical McK and BCG person;)
    • I would never say that BCG's culture is better - it depends on what kind of person you are and what culture suits you better
    • I worked for McK and fit very well with the people who worked there. But I also have some friends who work at BCG - if you want more specific information, just give me a call!
  • Who is the market leader in Germany (not only for healthcare) / is viewed as more prestigious (although this is not too important for me, but I read in a “vault ranking” that McKinsey is leading here)?
    • This is a head-to-head race - I think McK is leading
    • But honestly both companies are very prestagious - so don't worry about this one!
  • In which company is it easier to support social impact projects?
    • At McK you can choose the projects you want to work for (e.g. Social Impact Projects)
    • At BCG you will be assigned to projects - you cannot choose

I hope this helps. If you are interested in a more personal view on the different cultures, send me a direct message.

Best

Giulia

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Sidi
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replied on Jun 24, 2020
McKinsey Senior EM & BCG Consultant | Interviewer at McK & BCG for 7 years | Coached 350+ candidates secure MBB offers

Hi!

I have answered a slightly more general version of your quesition in an earlier post, which I am copying below. That being said, I have indeed worked in both BCG Germany (Düsseldorf) and McKinsey Germany (Berlin) for several years. So happy to discuss the specifics directly on the phone (it would go way beyond a Q&A post I am afraid).

=============================

Copied earlier post:

=============================

I started my consulting career at BCG in Germany, got promoted to Senior Consultant, and later switched to McKinsey to do work in several emerging markets. I have a combined 7.5 years experience in both firms and hence can give a good comparison from the inside:

1. Reputation & (perceived) Thought-Leadership

McKinsey is still the gold standard in terms of recognition across all industries, from tech to large established corporates. Whilst on some specific areas other firms might have developed a stronger expertise (e.g. Parthenon is the leading firm for education), everybody recognizes that hiring McKinsey is the safest bet to ensure consistent, high quality work. The level of knowledge created by McKinsey grants it top pages in leading newspapers, a coverage that is still not matched by BCG or Bain. BCG has been trying quite successfully to go in the same direction, establishing reputation as a knowledge-based company, but is not yet there. Bain, on the other hand, has been focusing less on knowledge leadership and instead cultivating a reputation focused on its capability of making things happen by adopting a cooperative approach.

2. Alumni network

Consulting is usually regarded as a springboard to a brilliant career. This is why the alumni network that you'll find when leaving should be considered among the key decision criteria. McKinsey has the largest workforce (8k consultants vs 4.5 BCG and 3k Bain), hence the largest alumni network. Moreover there is a strong cohesion and sense of belonging fostered whilst working at McKinsey that usually remains after leaving. You'll be surprised at how many people who were "counselled to leave" by McKinsey (basically advised to find another job elsewhere) turned themselves into key McKinsey clients after leaving. Alumni networks are weaker in BCG and Bain due to the lack of critical mass and a weaker sense of belonging. However, BCG has become increasingly active in engaging its alumni network, and my subjective impression (as an alum of both McK and BCG) is that they have managed closed some part of the gap to McKinsey.

3. People

All MBB firms are obsessed about hiring the best and the brightest. The smartness of colleagues in all three MBB firms is absolutely amazing. Here I'd say that the main difference in the hiring criteria between McKinsey and BCG is in consistency and ease of being "shaped" according to the standards. While BCG is mostly focused on hiring bright people, McKinsey values a lot the alignment in terms of mindset and the ease of "formatting" the candidate according to the McKinsey standard. This includes speaking using a top down approach, keeping a friendly but assertive approach, and most of all being open to feedback. McKinsey puts a lot of emphasis on the three above characteristics and regards them as a key decision factor in the selection process.

4. Client mix

This varies to a large extent by office and by country; as a general trend, Bain has higher mix of PE clients (Bain Capital, although now separated from Bain, was co-founded by several Bain partners), McKinsey is the leading consultancy for healthcare and governments, especially in developing countries.

5. Projects

It has often been said that BCG focuses more on pure strategic projects, McKinsey on organizational projects. This is no longer the case. All three MBB firms have been trying to move downstream in order to provide end-to-end solutions to their clients going from devising strategies to testing and implementing them. Moreover, they are all massively investing to ride the massive wave of digitalization that is still building up.

6. a) Approach to clients

McKinsey tends to have a more top-down approach and usually takes pride in challenging and often contradicting clients. They do cooperate with clients but tend to be quite assertive in pushing forward their solution. BCG is slightly more “cooperative”, putting a special emphasis on “delighting” clients. BCG consultants often spend a bit more time in order to build consensus in the organization by engaging the middle management, instead of obsessing over analysis (McKinsey way).

6. b) Approach to problems

All MBB firms leverage a lot past work to provide answers including tested, off-the-shelf elements. However, BCG has cultivated a reputation for being looking at each problem with a fresh perspective and building innovative solutions. It is also something that consultants like to hear when interviewing candidates and asking them "Why BCG?"

7. Way of working/resources

A point that is often neglected in answers to this kind of question is understanding how everyday work will change across firms. Whilst there are many similarities (4 days a week on client site, teamwork, challenging lifestyle), there are also two key differences:

  • Staffing: McKinsey is more global in terms of staffing, meaning that you are more likely to end up staffed on the other side of the country but also that you'll have more chances to e.g. do a project in a developing country if you are interested in development or government work. Also, the project teams at McKinsey are mor internationally mixed – hence you might find team members from completely different parts of the world staffed on a project in South Africa for example. At BCG, it would be more homogeneous, e.g., the partner who covers the client will staff most of his team from either his home office or the client’s geography.
  • Support resources: McKinsey wants its consultants, including Business Analysts, to focus solely on value-added activities. To ensure this, it developed large organizations aimed at supporting consultants, such as:
    • Visual graphic centers to ensure consultants can save time by sketching powerpoint slides and have the quickly produced by visual graphic teams
    • Research centers for performing desktop research for consultants
    • Survey desks in India and Costa Rica to set up web-based surveys for clients
    • Analytics centers to help consultants in complex xls macros etc.
    • Whilst Bain and BCG have both developed similar support resources, they still do not have the scale of McKinsey.

Cheers, Sidi

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Clara
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Content Creator
updated an answer on Jun 23, 2020
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello, congrats on the offer!

My toughts:

  • How is the culture in those 2 firms and what are the differences? I read that the culture is better at BCG, but why (or why not) and is this also true for Germany?
    • Honestly, this totally depends to whom you are talking too, and little people have been in both offices with the same tenuare and comparable time, so it´s very subjective. However, BCG does tie the bonus to the team´s lifestyle, so this one is a good hint.
  • Who is the market leader in Germany (not only for healthcare) / is viewed as more prestigious (although this is not too important for me, but I read in a “vault ranking” that McKinsey is leading here)?
    • Both are really good.
    • However, if you see the global footprint, alumni network, etc... Here McK is the clear leader
  • In which company is it easier to support social impact projects?
    • I would say is difficult in both.
    • Mckinsey has Generation, a pro-bono initiave driven in the firm to foster youth employments and other initiatives that are super interesting and that you can push from within

Hope it helps!

Cheers,

Clara

(edited)

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