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Mck BCG Difference

Anonymous A

Two things come up when discusing the difference between McK and BCG. However, I do not hear a consistent view and would like to know the view of the experts.

1. One firm is supposed to have a better internal culture that is more collaborative. However, many also mention that this difference is over-rated as both firms are very similar and hire similar people to do similar kind of work. Which of these two versions sound right?

2. Some argue one firm is more reputed than other and therefore offers better experience nd better exit opportunities; whereas others would say that there is no difference between both firms and both offer great exit optons. Which one do you agree with?

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Egor
Expert
replied on 10/11/2018
McKinsey/Private equity/Harvard University/Warwick Business School/>150 real cases

Hi, A

There are several key differences between the firms. 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.

Kind regards,
Egor

Alessandro
Expert
replied on 10/11/2018
Bain & Company | University of Cambridge | CV/Resume writing | 770 GMAT

My perspective:

1) Cultural difference stereotypes are well-known for both - but in general I would agree with Vlad - differences are much bigger between offices/geographies than between the two firms in the same office.

2) In terms of experience, it completely depends again on geography and what you want. BCG might have a strength in a particular capability/industry you are interested in (in the specific office you are working at) which might give you a better experience. The perfect example from Bain is Private Equity - if you are interested in this, arguably you can get the best experience at Bain because we do a lot of Private Equity work. In general, though, both firms will get similar types and range of projects, and both will work with top global firms on C-suite problems.

In terms of exit opportunities - I would divide it into two - opportunities through networking, and opportunities through headhunters.

In terms of networking, McKinsey does of course have the slightly better brand, and the larger alumni network - so you'll be able to find more ex-McKinsey at firms you may be interested in, which can help finding exit opportunities.

In terms of Headhunters - generally headhunters will view MBB in the pool of "top tier consultants" so you are likely to get the same recruiter messages whether you work at BCG or McKinsey. Once you get to an interview, much more important is your performance at interview than whether you worked at BCG or McKinsey - only a very biased interviewer would choose one candidate over the other based on the fact they worked at McKinsey instead of BCG.

Hope this helps

Guennael replied on 10/10/2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

First off, please understand we have all (at least the BCGers, but I'll hypothesize here that'd also apply to our McK and Bain friends) been told not to compare ourselves directly, theres just no upside. The companies are very similar and really only differ at the margin.

To your 1st point, there might be a bit of truth but individual differences are greater than comapnies'.

2nd point... on balance, probably - but here again, local and regional differences are much more important. What we can probably agree on (and I think Sidi made this point recently), is that McK has taken the 'after' more seriously for longer - although BCG has lately made significant investments to rectify a little bit. It is good business too, since an alumni will hopefully become client too.

Vlad replied on 10/10/2018
McKinsey / Accenture / Got all BIG3 offers / More than 300 real MBB cases / Harvard Business School

Hi,

Re the first question - the truth is - it depends... The differences between the offices and countries may be more significant than the differences between the two companies

Re the second question - McK brand is better and McK has more alums. But in particular countries / sectors BCG may have more power

Best

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