The different types of strategy consulting firms

All candidates applying to strategy consulting firms wonder which ones they'll be sending their applications to. Most apply to the MBBs at McKinsey, BCG and Bain, then extend their applications to the Top 6.

Dec. 14, 2021 Carrière

Back to summary

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie

All candidates applying to strategy consulting firms wonder which ones they'll be sending their applications to. Most apply to the MBBs at McKinsey, BCG and Bain, then extend their applications to the Top 6 with Roland Berger, Oliver Wyman and Kearney. Then comes the question of other strategy consulting firms, notably those in the Big Four and smaller firms, sometimes generalists, sometimes specialists. In short, the strategy consulting market is made up of different players, and to make the best choice about where to apply, you need to know who they are.

In this article, discover the main strategy consulting firms, divided between international players, Big Four brands and specialist firms.

Leading strategy consulting firms: McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Roland Berger, Oliver Wyman, Kearney

MBBs in the lead: McKinsey, BCG and Bain

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie - MBB - McKinsey - BCG - Bain

McKinsey, founded in 1926 by James O. Mckinsey; the Boston Consulting Group, founded in 1963 by Bruce Henderson; Bain & Company, founded in 1973 by seven former BCG partners; together they form the MBB. Today, they are the three main players in the strategy consulting industry, covering the whole world, with tens of thousands of employees and generating sales of close to 25 billion euros. Considered the world's most prestigious strategy consulting firms, they have a reputation for having the "smartest people", the best remuneration packages and the best exit opportunities. They are also known for having the "biggest name clients", and consequently the most challenging and impactful projects.

  • McKinsey (1926): McKinsey is the world's leading strategy consulting firm, established in France in 1964, with over 14,0000 consultants in 120 offices, including 350 in France. The firm is recognized worldwide for its expertise in the public sector, but is nonetheless a multi-specialist, capable of intervening in all sectors and all business lines, with a strong focus on industry.
  • Boston Consulting Group (1963): Leader in France and a global player, BCG has 90 offices in over 50 countries, 1,200 Partners and 16,000 consultants, including 500 in France, making it the largest office after Boston. A diversified generalist, BCG has distinguished itself by developing numerous specialties within the firm through its brands: BCG Turn, BCG Gamma, BCG Platinion.
  • Bain & Company (1973): Ten years after the founding of BCG, 7 alumni create Bain & Company. The firm is present in over 63 offices in 38 countries, with 8,000 consultants worldwide. The Paris office is renowned for its private equity expertise, and as such is organized into two entities: the Generalist Pool and the Private Equity Pool.

The three firms are very similar in terms of reputation, performance and assignments. If you get an offer from all three firms, congratulations, it'll be a Grand Slam! At that point, all you have to do is choose the one with whom you've had the best fit.

See also: McKinsey, The Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company - The MBBs: A trio of leading strategy consulting firms ad vitam aeternam?

Top 6 strategy consulting firms: Roland Berger, Oliver Wyman and Kearney

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie - TOP 6 - Roland Berger - Oliver Wyman - Kearney

Behind the MBBs are equally international firms, known and recognized for their generalist deployment. Roland Berger, founded in 1967, is Europe's leading strategy consulting firm. Oliver Wyman, the only listed strategy consulting firm, is the result of a series of mergers and acquisitions, and today belongs to Marsh & McLennan Companies, an American group with risk management, insurance and consulting activities. Finally, Kearney was created following a split with McKinsey in 1946. The Paris offices of these three firms differ from the MBBs in that they have smaller staffs, allowing for greater proximity between teams and potentially more responsibility on projects.

  • Roland Berger (1967 ): Europe's leading strategy consulting firm, 2,500 consultants worldwide in 51 offices, including 250 consultants in Paris. Generalist operations, covering all sectors, with a strong strategic orientation characterized by short-term assignments.
  • Oliver Wyman (2007): The only strategy consulting firm listed on the stock exchange through its parent company, with 5,000 consultants in 60 offices and 31 countries, including 275 consultants in Paris. Generalist, but recognized for its expertise in financial services, which account for over 50% of its assignments worldwide.
  • Kearney (1946): Once again independent after an MBO in 2005, Kearney has 4,000 consultants in 60 offices and 40 countries, including 150 consultants and 30 Partners in Paris. A generalist like its competitors, Kearney is recognized for its expertise in operational strategy and PMO assignments.

These three firms at the bottom of the famous Top 6 strategy consulting firms are major international players offering excellent career prospects.

Big Four international brands: EY-Parthenon, Monitor Deloitte, Strategy&, GSG

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie - Big Four - EY-Parthenon - Monitor Deloitte - Strategy& - GSG

EY, Deloitte, PwC and KPMG have accelerated the development of their strategy consulting activities over the past 10 years. The Big Four are historically auditing firms. Several regulations have long prohibited the right to have both auditing and consulting activities, deemed to carry conflicts of interest. However, since 2013, the Big Four have been making a comeback by acquiring strategy consulting firms. Their positioning is clear: they are not pure-players in strategy; on the contrary, they sell their clients and consultants a multi-disciplinary range of businesses, with the possibility of intervening across the entire value chain of an assignment.

  • Monitor Deloitte (2013): Historically founded in 1983 in the United States, notably by Michael Porter, Monitor was acquired by Deloitte in 2013. The firm has 3,000 consultants across 30 offices and 30 countries, including 80 consultants in France. The Paris office is renowned for its expertise in healthcare, particularly the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Strategy& (2013): The firm was created following PwC's 2014 acquisition of the well-known strategy consulting firm Booz & Company, founded in 1914. Strategy& has 4,000 consultants worldwide, in 70 offices across 30 countries, including 180 consultants in France. The firm is organized into 4 platforms: Corporate Strategy, Deals, Operations and Digital.
  • EY-Parthenon (2014): Founded in 1991 by Bain & Company alumni, The Parthenon Group was acquired in 2014 by EY to develop its EY Strategy business. With 9,000 consultants worldwide, the firm has 60 offices in 30 countries. EYP works on growth, transformation and transaction issues.
  • KPMG Global Strategy Group (2015) : Introduced in France in 2015, GSG is the strategy consulting arm of KPMG. It is the only Big Four not to have made a major acquisition to boost its Strategy Consulting business. The firm employs 3,500 consultants, including 50 in France, and is present in 35 countries. In Paris, GSG was recently attached to the Deal Advisory activity, and works mainly on strategic due diligence, particularly in Life Science.

The Big Four have big ambitions in strategic consulting, as recently demonstrated by EY's rejected plan to separate its auditing and consulting activities in order to widen its field of opportunities even further - for more information , see a Challenges article on the subject. Their development is dazzling, and is set to continue over the next few years.

International, generalist strategy consulting firms recognized for their specialties

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie - Internationaux et généralistes - ADL - LEK - SKP - Kéa

Some international generalist strategy consultancies stand out from the MBBs, the Top 6 and the Big Four players, because they are recognized for their specialization. This speciality may relate to a sector or industry, or to a profession or function. Nevertheless, these firms are not regarded as specialist boutiques, because they remain leading international players.

  • Arthur D. Little (1886): The first strategy consulting firm in history, Arthur D. Little was originally founded to help managers deal with the disruptions brought about by new technologies. Since then, the firm has retained this DNA of innovation and strategy. It has positioned itself as a specialist in strategy, accounting for 80% of its assignments, compared with 20% for due diligence. In Paris, the firm employs 70 consultants.
  • LEK (1983 ): Founded by former Bain & Company employees, LEK is a firm of European origin. The firm has 1,600 consultants worldwide, including 100 in Paris. It specializes in due diligence assignments for midcap investment funds.
  • Simon-Kucher (1985): Founded in Germany, Simon-Kucher is one of Europe's leading strategy consulting firms. The firm employs over 2,000 consultants worldwide in 42 offices in 27 countries, including 120 consultants in Paris. Historically recognized for its expertise in pricing issues, the firm also operates in three other verticals: strategy, marketing and sales.
  • Kéa (2001): Founded in Paris and formerly known as Kéa & Partners, Kéa has become a global consulting group following numerous acquisitions in recent years. Nonetheless, it remains a major player in strategy consulting, recognized in particular in the retail and consumer goods sectors, and more recently in sustainable development.

These international strategy consulting firms are smaller than the main players, and offer the advantage of being able to specialize rapidly in a given subject, while still being able to work on other types of assignment. What's more, these 4 firms also have an international presence.

See also : How to join a strategy consulting firm

Specialist strategy consulting boutiques

Les différents types de cabinets de conseil en stratégie - Les boutiques spécialistes du Conseil en stratégie - Advancy - Advention - Courcelles - Ares&Co - Mawenzi - PMP Strategy

There are a multitude of strategy consulting firms, some of them generalists or multi-specialists, others specialists and experts in a niche field. The list below is by no means exhaustive, and some firms are active in several sectors at the same time, with a strong international dimension.

Specialist due diligence firms: Advancy and Advention

Strategy Consulting due diligence is generally strategic due diligence on companies or markets. They are usually carried out for private equity transactions with investment funds and companies, or for traditional M&A transactions.

  • Advancy (1999): Founded by a Kearney alumnus, Advancy is a French firm based in Paris, with offices in London and New York. Recognized in the industrial sector, particularly chemicals, Advancy also has expertise in strategic due diligence for investment funds, with over 40% of its assignments in private equity.
  • Advention (2001): Founded in Paris by a former member of Bain & Company, Advention has 85 consultants in 5 offices worldwide. The firm is renowned for its expertise in private equity, which accounts for the vast majority of its assignments.

Firms specializing in financial services: Ares & Co and Courcelles

Strategy consulting for financial services generally involves assignments for the insurance and banking industries, with some firms also specializing in fintech. They are generally a good gateway to positions in the general management of the major players: BNP, Société Générale, AXA, Allianz, Groupama, etc. In Paris, there are two strategy consulting firms known for specializing in financial services.

  • Courcelles (2004): Founded by BCG alumni, Courcelles positions itself as a consulting firm for general management, and only for general management. Specializing in the insurance sector, which accounts for 70% of its assignments, the firm also works with banks, accounting for 20% of its assignments, and on a small number of due diligences (10%).
  • Ares & Co (2009): Founded by former strategy consultants, notably from Roland Berger, the firm has 40 consultants in Paris and has opened an office in London. Its main clients are banks, insurance companies and investment funds, with some due diligence assignments.

The firm specializing in topline issues: Mawenzi Partners

Top-line issues include all sales-related missions, generally involving growth, pricing and marketing. Mawenzi Partners is particularly active in these areas.

  • Mawenzi Partners (2011): Founded in Paris by alumni of Vertone and Oliver Wyman, Mawenzi Partners comprises 45 consultants and 6 Partners. The firm specializes in strategic issues and sales growth. Mawenzi is appreciated and recognized for its entrepreneurial spirit and good internal atmosphere. A London office may be opened in the next few years.

The specialist TMT consultancy: PMP Strategy

TMT (Technology, Media, Telecommunications) assignments represent a large proportion of the subjects handled by strategy consulting firms in recent years, due to the importance of Tech companies in the global economy, which is set to continue with the arrival of Artificial Intelligence. All generalist firms are involved in TMT, but one in Paris is particularly well known as an expert in this field.

  • PMP Strategy (2003): Founded in Paris, PMP Strategy has 150 consultants worldwide, including 100 in France, and is present in North America and the Middle East. TMT assignments account for 40% of the firm's business, and it is renowned for its expertise in telecoms, working with major telephone operators.

Firms specializing in specific sectors or trades enable consultants to rapidly build up their skills and expertise. This developed expertise sells well afterwards, and is a real asset for future careers.

Read also: Everything you need to know about strategy consultants: assignments, careers, salaries

Which strategy consulting firm should you apply to? You now have the answer!

As a candidate, it's imperative that you do your research on the various strategy consulting firms. There's something for everyone. Obviously, you'll be tempted by the best-known, the big multi-specialist international strategy consultancies: the MBBs, the Top 6, the Big Four firms. But don't forget other firms with recognized specialties that may be of interest to you. And don't forget that this list is not exhaustive, and that there are still other strategy consulting firms out there.

Want to join a strategy consulting firm?

Then join us and be part of the 90% of our candidates who integrate a TOP 6 every year. PrepaStrat is the first interview preparation program for strategy consulting firms, with :

  • 7 years of expertise, we're the oldest player in strategy consulting interview preparation
  • 6 bootcamps per year, comprising 35 hours of training over 5 days
  • 1 referent coach from an MBB for each supported candidate
  • 100% of our coaches are Senior Consultants and Managers from McKinsey, BCG and Bain
  • 6 online training modules to prepare you for interviews and understand what Strategy Consulting is all about
  • 50+ corrected case studies that have already fallen into the hands of top strategy consulting firms
  • Aim for excellence and join the top strategy consulting firms with PrepaStrat

Discover our bootcampour real-life interviews and our e-learning platform !

Back to blog