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Main differences between 2nd tier and M2B firm in working, learning experience? Is it significantly different?

Anonymous A asked on Oct 31, 2018
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Benjamin replied on Oct 31, 2018
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having worked at 2nd tier firm (ATKearney) and largely discussed with friends at MBB, you'll find below my personal opinion:

- you'll still learn a lot at 2nd tier firms, and will evolve in very demanding and challenging environment

- nature of jobs are similar, even tought sometime MBB get more prestigious engagement, in the end all this firms are mostly competing for the clients and jobs

- difference in people working there are not as big as we could think. A key point to consider is that most partners are transfering from firm to firm depending on their personal interest. And sometime they transfer with their full team (principal, manager, associates).

- MBB will for sure offer more structure in daily work (larger internal expert network, more methodology develop) vs. more entrepreneurial / self driven engagement methodology in 2nd tier firm

- MBB will for sur offer better personal development perspectives beyon the job itself : higher global exposure, better training programs, exit opportunities



Vlad replied on Oct 31, 2018
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I have experience in working in both 2nd and 1st tier consultancies. According to my experience:

  1. Quality is much Higher at MBB. To give you a sence, what you are doing as an analyst at big4, at mck will be done by research department or even outsorced students. Though it's worth to say that if your director at big4 will be ex MBB, quality will be much higher
  2. Knowledge base - McK knowledge base is extremely deep and helpfull. You have tons of materials on various topics
  3. Support - at MBB you will have lots of people taking care of extra staff - doing research, visual design of slides, sophisticated models, oursourcing for making surveys in the field. At big4 you'll do that staff yourself
  4. Costs - you will have better hotels, better dinners, better airline tickets, etc. This is important if you spend 90% of your life out of home
  5. Exposurte to senior management may be higher, though it depends on the country. Since the projects are more expensive at MBB, you may have more senior people involved
  6. Relocation to different countries - options highly depend on the org structure of MBB/Big 4 companiy. I've seen good and bad example in both. But since you have higher salaries and per diem, at MBB you'll definitely have a better lifestyle at MBB if you do relocation
replied on Oct 31, 2018
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A slightly different perspective here, having worked at Strategy& in London briefly and having many friends who work there full time: Everything at MBB is very organised, well planned. You have loads of resources to help with analytics, research, slide design, etc. Managers are generally all super good at running the project. Of course some projects still "go wrong" due to demanding clients or the occassional manager dropping the ball, but you can expect overall that you'll have a pretty smooth experience (of course, with long hrs etc.)

The experience at Strategy& was very different - much less resources, cases less organised, overall lower quality managers. Projects are more often misscoped or sold with too few resources (as a way to compete with MBB) and partners often over-promise.

What does this mean? The experience can be very tough, often you have to do stuff yourself that you probably will think "a first year associate should not be doing this job". It's very sink or swim. However, those that did well, have been set up very well by a) being given sometimes very tough responsibilities and b) being set up for the harsh realities of the world outside of consulting, where you don't have a research team to email with any request for statistics or reports.

Therefore, arguably, the experience can almost be better at a second tier in terms of professional development. This perspective is also shared by some colleagues that left Strategy& for MBB, and found that while everything generally was managed better in MBB, they often felt less "stretched".

replied on Oct 31, 2018
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I think even "2nd Tier" is not a very standardized group. In general, I think I agree with all of Ben's points. One more thing that would be true for at least some of the Tier 2: to reduce prices, they will be more likely to create a cookie-cutter approach + standard framework that future projects will just reproduce. As a consultant there, you may therefore find yourself doing the same thing over and over.

At MBB and the more prestigious of Tier 2, every engagement will basically be a brand new problem. Sure you'll be able to leverage prior knowledge, but you can't come with a ready-made answer and fit you client's needs within that framework.

Beyond this - yes, the people aren't that dissimilar, the post-consulting opportunities are also very much the same, and even the pay is comparable. Just the prestige and ego boost I guess :)

replied on Nov 05, 2018
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I think most has been said by the others, I just want to stress Guennael's point: Not all tier-2 firms are the same.

There are at least three distinct groups:

  1. Big 4: Global scope and reach and client base similar to MBB, but more cookie-cutter work.
  2. Roland Berger, ATK, Strategy&...: Generalist strategy consulting firms with a somewhat smaller scope (regionally or in client portfolio)
  3. Niche players: "Boutique" firms, that are focused on more or less narrow segments of the market. But they excel in those fields and are on par or even outperform MBB in those fields (i.e. Berylls in Automotive, Simon Kucher in Pricing, Horváth in Finance & Controlling...)

especially the third group can be extremely interesting and rewarding if you're ok with the more limited scope of topics.



Appreciate the detailed, logical answer. Thanks! — Akhil Nemani on Nov 14, 2018

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