Promotion at MBB - up or out

promotion
New answer on Jan 09, 2021
7 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on Jan 03, 2021

It seems common to become partner at MBB in around 10 years (post MBA) or 12 years (started at most junior level). I am wondering why is this period so short compared to other firms, where I've seen people become partner twice the time compared to MBB.

Another question is, does anyone know the elimination rate of each ranking, in the up or out system at MBB? Do all three firms strictly adopt this system and ask specific portion of people to leave the firm every year?

Thanks for your valuable comments.

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Adi
CoachingPlus Expert
Content Creator
updated an answer on Jan 03, 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

Am glad you raised this question.

Time to promotion and eventually making partner is on every management consultant's mind when they start off.

Allow me to share my experience and knowledge in detail.

Speed to make partner/managing director at Other Big Consulting Firms vs MBB

This will depend on following factors:

  • Unwavering focus & commitment
  • Your own clear expertise, brand & client network- deep industry/functional skills
  • Sponsorship & support from leadership team & loyalty to the company
  • Team followership i.e. junior people dying to work with and for you
  • Solid pipeline of work (many millions as you can imagine) and this will depend on the geography, demand, economy etc
  • Luck

If you get the above right, from analyst to partner lets say at BIG4/Accenture roughly takes 10-15 years and 8-12 years at MBB. If you are exceptional, you can shave off 2-3 years overall but that will require significant commitment and investment of time, effort and life :).

If you join the company as an experienced hire at a certain level, all the above factors still apply and timeline could be longer given you will need time to establish yourself.

Partners who slack off will get caught & managed out or their pay cut. This has happened across MBB and BIG4 in the past 6-9 months.

Performance Standards

And yes, standards and performance criteria are a bit higher and stricter in MBB vs others. This also means that if you are NOT making the promotion point in the right time window, you will be managed out subtly or will leave on your own accord. The rates of elimitation will vary (by office location, industry focus and many other factors) and I dont think you will get accurate data on this. But this does happen. The pressure to sustain is too high and your peers outperform you. Other big consulting companies have also started to see this approach scale up subtly- no one obvsiouly openly advertises an up or out policy.

Smaller/Boutique consulting firms are moving away from such a culture to be more inclusive and patient with people. Some of them are even eliminating sales targets for anyone below partner/managing director level.

Maturity, Balance and Timing

This is a marathon and not a sprint. I have seen too many friends and acquintances burn out or face some form one mental trouble. This may sound like a generalisation but its true. Most of the people who faced this issues are hyper intelligent, super hard working but very insecure at the same time. They made partner/Managing Director in their early 30s. Without the right balance in your mind and body, its diffiult to sustain this success and expectations.

I personally learnt to pace things, ignore timelines and goals created by peers and stick to my talent while constantly improving. I rather prefer a 42 year old partner who is balanced and inspiring than a 30 old partner who is super talented but a shaky human being- so getting hung up on age, speed to the top etc can be very misleading!

If you are thinking along these along lines, my advice will be this:

  1. Be ambitious and genuinly understand what it takes to go all the way in MBB or other big firms- Is that what your really want ?
  2. Invest your time and effort in things that you really want to do. Those things that will make you joyful and allow you to give your best
  3. Pace yourself. Prepare yourself for the marathon & get there while becoming a mature, balanced and pleasant human being and not an arrogant, insecure one
  4. Take risks and dont end up doing things for the wrong reasons- money, peer pressure, impatience etc
  5. Inspire people around you, make their life better in whatever way you can

Good luck!

(edited)

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Ian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 03, 2021
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

There isn't a strict, hard-and-fast rule for this thing. It's highly dependent on office, time period (i.e. bad times or good times), etc. etc.

I do remember a partner promotion party where a few of us were talking. One of us turned and said "Do you think they made it because they're better, or survivors?" All of unanimously responded "survivors".

So, getting promoted at MBB is as much about persistence, hardwork, determination, and drive as anything. There's an implicit table-stakes assumption that you're doing your job, but you absolutely have to "outlast" the others.

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

Now, how do you do well in the role? I have a few tips:

First: Read the 25 tips in my consulting handbook here: https://www.spencertom.com/2018/01/14/consulting-survival-guide/

----------------------------------------------------------

Second: In terms of things you can learn/do to prepare beforehand:

1) Daily Reading

  • The Economist, The Financial Times, BCG/Mskinsey Insights

2) Industry deep-dives

  • Learn, in-depth, how the industries/companies your office advises, work. (PM me for an industry overview template)

3) Analytics tools

  • Alteryx, Tableau, etc.

4) Excel

  • Pivottables
  • Working with data
  • Key fuctions (vlookup, Index match, count and sum if/ifs, sumproduct, concat, etc.)
  • Hotkeys (i.e. use keyboard more than your mouse)
  • Financial modeling

5) Powerpoint

  • Wireframing
  • Lead-in titles
  • Best practices/standards
  • Different layouts
  • Quickly editing/updating slides
  • Thinking in PowerPoint

6) Presentation skills / sharp communication

  • There are some online/virtual classes for this

​----------------------------------------------------------

Third: In terms of doing well in your role when you're there:

1) Understand the context/prompt (what role are you in, what company, who's watching, etc.)

2) Understand the objective (what, specifically, is expected from you...both day to day, and in your overall career progression)

3) Quickly process information, and focus on what's important - Take a lot of information and the unknown, find the most logical path, and focus on that.

4) Be comfortable with the unknown, and learn to brainstorm - think/speak like an expert without being one

In summary, there will always be a flood of information, expectations, competition etc. and not enough time. Find out which ones matter when. (i.e. be visibile and focus efforts on the things that people care about)

Some Excellent Q&As

What to expect in the first 90 days (and how to thrive) - https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/first-90-days-as-associate-business-analyst-consultant-7185

What to prepare/learn beforehand - https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-best-preppare-for-a-consulting-position-if-you-have-a-couple-of-months-of-free-time-7164

How to improve your ability to remember details - https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-improve-ability-to-remember-details-is-it-important-in-consulting-6998

How to be confident - https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/how-to-build-up-confidence-and-look-smart-and-sharp-in-a-consultant-role-6955

Notetaking effectively - https://www.preplounge.com/en/consulting-forum/note-taking-7215

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Denis
Expert
updated an answer on Jan 17, 2021
Ex-Bain 5 yrs | Goldman Sachs Investment Banker NYC | MBA Chicago Booth | Passed > 13 MBB > 20 IB interviews

A couple of thoughts on the "elimination rate" as you described it. At Bain, and I am sure this goes for all MBB firms, in your more junior years (i.e. pre PL, CTL, EM) your personal performance is the deciding factor (do you have the desire, hard and soft skills to do this long-term?), later on when you job turns away from being in the thick of analyses and slide creation but more towards winning pitches, successfully executing cases, and ultimately making the client happy (while generating your own client network) - your up or out decision will more be affected by client availability, office performance, you finding promoters and mentors among partners and MDs.

Statistical bias -
You could fairly argue that only people that want to stay and become partner / MD stay around after they get their CTL PL EM promotion. Personally, I have always had the subjective impression that cut rates are higher in the early years of consulting (junior consulting years incl. PL CTL EM promotion), then stay relatively low / average for a couple more years and then spike again couple years before the partner promotions. It is fact that the VAST MAJORITY of people do not stick around until partner - not because they get fired but because they simply dont want to. I had the feeling that the % cut rate increases in later years, see below why.

Dont forget - in the end it is a people's business. Early years are sort of easier I believe for most people because a large part of your performance is dependent on performing analyses, communicating those too. Later it will be about execution. In the end it is all about acquiring new cases. Analyses can be learned, communication skills to a certain extent too. However, the more you progress the harder it is to learn skills that you require to be "good". If you are not likeable or are able to show empathy for the client, this is mostly something you cannot learn that easily or at all. Hence, you might leave.

Good news - MBB development paths are very structured, very. You get all the help to continously develop. This may also be a reason why sometimes people leave or get cut whereas other Tier 2 or Tier 3 firms may keep those kind of people in those instances. Not a week or 2 go by without you getting feedback from whomever you work with. Be prepared for a high-paced journey pushing you constantly out of your comfort zones and making a better version of yourself!

(edited)

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Ken
Expert
replied on Jan 03, 2021
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

At McKinsey, the average duration is even shorter at 6/7 and 8+ years. Until you are considered for partner election by a global committee, the elimination is more to do with the performance (i.e., client demand) of your local office.

McKinsey has been growing tremendously over the last several years as part of its global strategy to grow in size (i.e., relevance) where the up or out policy has been not used to explicitly manage headcount.

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Gaurav
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 06, 2021
Ex-Mckinsey|Certified Career Coach |Placed 500+ candidates at MBB & other consultancies

Hello there!

I agree with Ken that at McKinsey this period is even shorter. There aren't strict time frames or rules, in fact. The key to be promoted is to work hard and do your utmost.

The elimination rate depends on many factors like the office, its geography, the period etc.(last year it obviously was higher).

Hope it helps and good luck!
GB

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Clara
Expert
Content Creator
replied on Jan 04, 2021
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Unfortunately, I can´t explain the reasons behind... but it´s true that Consulting carreers are faster -and also much more intense- than the industry.

Best regards,

Clara

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Iman
Expert
replied on Jan 09, 2021
BCG | Strategy& |Roland Berger | Interviewed >100 candidates in formal hiring process

Hi,

An explanation why the timeline to partnership in other firms is longer in non-MBB is because the up-or-out is not as strictly applied. I have seen people in non MBB firms stay in Manager position for more than the normal tenure allowed. Usually because he / she is a good manager but cannot show any quality of becoming a Director. As talents are scarce and very competitive, it is more logical to give these individuals more time to progress.

In BCG up-or-out is strictly applied but I have seen in some cases you got a 3 months extension with maximum 2 extensions before you are councel out.

Best,
Iman

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Adi gave the best answer

Adi

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Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience
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