Very good question to be asked when considering your next career move.
There are several aspects to this question.
1. Talking about MBBs in the Middle East
- All three MBBs are not the same in the ME, and do have the same positionning in terms of client type / work life balance and salaries
- I am no expert regarding this topic and can only speak from a high-level overview, however, Bain is much more oriented towards private clients, BCG towards mega-projects and McKinsey much more oriented on government and public-sector srategy & management. In terms of salaries I would say N.1 is BCG, followed by Bain and then McKinsey. McKinsey is expected to have the lowest (although still high) salary between the MBBs in the Middle East, however, the best work/life balance.
- And finally, last time I checked (~2 months ago), Bain had very little recruitment in Dubai, McKinsey was only recruiting in KSA/Qatar (not in Dubai), but the BCG was highly recruiting throughout their ME offices.
2. Talking about S& Middle East
- Strategy& is clearly one of the leaders in the Middle East. They are positionned in the Top5 of the region, if not among the Top3 with Bain falling slightly behind.
- Strategy& clients are very close to McKinsey-type clients and projects, with salaries higher than all 3 MBBs at first, however, a slightly longer career track (6-7 years until manager)
- Regarding work/life balance, Strategy& is known for a challenging work/life, however, this has been improving over the last few years, with an apparently high variation from team to team, and client to client.
3. Brand / Exit Opportunities / Transfer from MBB to S&
- As discussed so far, in terms of brand, S& is highly recognized in the Middle East, with a clear leading positionning.
- Exit Opportunities in the Middle East are not the same, not even among the MBBs themselves. As discussed, a Bain Consultant has higher chances ending in a Private Equity fund or more generally in a private-company environnement for example. McKinsey and S& exit opportunities are relatively similar, although some S& consultants have end up in Mega Projects in KSA.
- Exit Opportunities internationally are completely different. This is where MBBs show a clear advantage. Strategy& has a leading position in the Middle East, however, in other regions they are still small and considered as a tier-2 challenger with high potential. Exiting from a Middle East MBB to a European job is more doable than a S& Middle East to Europe.
- Transfer from S& to MBB and vice-versa is quite easy in almost all the regions I know of. Quite easy in the sense that a S& consultant will get interviews for an MBB position in his own region. The only difficulty again would be transferring from the Middle East to Europe/US. This has happened over the past, however, having an MBA was key for S& consultants to be able to transfer.
I can tell you more data-driven and accurate information on a private discussion.
4. Defining your career goals
- You need to think about what is it you're looking for in consulting. The famous Why Consulting question. But really, why consulting? And how do the MBBs / S& offer you what you need?
- Aiming for MBBs for the brand is a wrong reason to go to MBBs (or even S&). It is true, they have internationally-known and highly respected brands and success stories, however, how does that benefit you as a future consultant?
- If one of your goals is let's say exist into Transportation, or TMT, there are boutiques that would get you there faster, with a clear focus on these sector and highly recognized in the Middle East. I can also help orient you towards the right consulting firms in a private discussion.
5. Other criteria than what you have mentioned
- There are other criteria than the 3 you have mentionned that you should keep in mind before deciding.
- What industries do they work in
- Who are the recurrent clients they have
- How difficult is the work/life balance
- What are the opportunities in terms of MBA sponsorship and international mobility (short-term / long-term)
- How good are the training programs
- How diverse is the office culture
- How high are the salaries (long term vs. short term)
All these question I can happily answer. I am currently giving away 1 more free 1-hour session that you could benefit from.
Best of luck