Vault's 2015 Consulting Rankings Are Here!

Published: Aug 19, 2014

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It's been quite a year for changes in the consulting industry, which is apropos for the launch of our 2015 Consulting Industry ranking—the pendulum for "Best Consulting Firm to Work For" has swung back to Bain this year, with the firm beating McKinsey to pole position by the slenderest of margins, powered by incredible performance across our individual Best to Work For categories.


Out in the industry, the biggest change is easy to identify: the deal that saw Booz & Co. join forces with PwC, creating Strategy& in the process. If the combination of Booz's expertise and PwC's global reach and ability to execute hasn't made consulting leaders sit up and take notice, then not much will. Who knows: maybe in years to come, they'll crack the holy trinity at the top of our prestige rankings. Until, then, there's not a huge amount of surprise in store for those who follow the industry: this year, it's McKinsey, BCG and Bain, in that order. Again.


While the industry is certainly growing, in a year that has seen so much narrowing of the middle (the Booz deal is merely the largest consolidation of the year—there are plenty of other examples out there), it's imperative that would-be consultants keep their options open. For that reason, we have launched an all-new ranking this year, aimed at identifying the Best Boutique Consulting Firm to Work For. The inaugural winner, Insight Sourcing Group, thoroughly deserves the crown.


Finally, one other new ranking to pay attention to is a new Best to Work For category—Exit Opportunities. Based on feedback from previous years, we created the ranking to help aspiring consultants to understand which of the firms out there would give them the best platform for launching their post-consulting career—whether that's through helping facilitate placements with clients, grad school applications, or simply the gold-plating that a top firm's name can add to your resume. While there are no prizes for guessing which firm came top—McKinsey—some of the other names on the list might surprise you. For example, Putnam Associates might be a new name to you, but it's increasingly well known within the life sciences sector, and is a great place for those interested in the field to launch a career.


Read on for the press release announcing the rankings below, or click the link to dive straight into the 2015 Vault Consulting Rankings


The Top 10 Best Firms to Work for Based on Vault’s Annual Consulting Survey are: 


  1. Bain & Company
  2. McKinsey & Company
  3. The Boston Consulting Group
  4. Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.)
  5. Deloitte Consulting
  6. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  7. The Brattle Group
  8. Oliver Wyman
  9. The Cambridge Group
  10. Accenture



Bain missed out on the top spot last year by a mere .17 points and was able to regain the crown this year based on its strong performance in Vault’s Best to Work For Rankings, coming out ahead of the pack in 16 different categories. But even when Bain was not No. 1, the firm scored high enough across the board to overtake McKinsey as the Best to Work For in 2015.


“Bain makes a great effort with everything from onboarding new hires, to training, career development and, of course, compensation,” noted Stott. “One of the areas where they’ve had most success is in their efforts to mitigate work-life balance issues--that's something that comes across really strongly in the ratings and comments we see from employees. It's been a growing trend in the industry over the past few years, and Bain is definitely a leader among large consulting firms in that respect.”


Consultants at Bain agree. “I came to Bain because of the firm's culture and I have stayed here for 4+ years because of the culture,” noted one survey respondent. “Embedded in the DNA of every person at Bain is a sense of collaboration and relationship building. As a direct result, my quality of life and ability to balance my personal and professional satisfaction is higher than I ever imagined. Working with people who all want to help me out massively makes the job more enjoyable.”


Only .030 points separated Bain from its closest rival. While there's no doubt that McKinsey is the most prestigious firm in the industry, its commitment to quality of life issues also comes across in the rankings and comments from employees. “This is a demanding job and we provide outstanding impact for our clients, but this takes hard work and sometimes long hours,” explained one McKinsey consultant. “The best thing, in my opinion, is the respect for boundaries. There are certain things I won't do to compromise my life balance, and I have had Partners take the load to protect that.”


Other changes taking place in the Top 10 included Deloitte Consulting jumping two places to No. 5, dropping PricewaterhouseCoopers back one spot to No. 6. Deloitte moved up in the rankings because survey respondents believe the firm is making a truly concentrated effort on addressing the needs of its consultants. “We are a consulting firm in transition on how we manage quality of life,” noted one Deloitte consultant. “Career flexibility has always been created for individuals because of the culture of the firm, but initiatives such as "Go Flex" and others have formalized our commitment to innovate the model for aligning our work to the individual needs of each of our practitioners.”


The Brattle Group, a boutique firm, climbed into the Consulting 50 Top 10, its appearance at No. 7 causing Oliver Wyman to drop two spots to No. 8. “Brattle has made a concerted effort to propagate the collegial "small firm" feel that it has had since it was founded,” noted one consultant at the firm. “And these efforts have largely been successful. It's a friendly environment where you can know virtually everyone in the firm by their first name. We regularly have in-office happy hours and several annual events, like baseball games and holiday parties.”


Another boutique appearing in the Top 10 is The Cambridge Group, which sits at No. 9 this year. Consultants at the firm believe Cambridge provides a balanced working experience. “People work very hard, but there is a culture of flexibility to allow people to work where/when/how they want to when possible,” said one respondent. “Travel is less than other institutional consulting firms, which means most of the time I get home in time to put my little girls to bed, which is important to me.”


As a result of The Cambridge Group’s ranking, A.T. Kearney fell out of the Top 10 for 2015. The Boston Consulting Group (No. 3), Strategy & (formerly Booz & Co) (No. 4), and Accenture (No. 10) all held on to their spots this year.


New Category Looks at Boutique Consulting Firms – Insight Sourcing Group No. 1


While bigger firms tend to make the headlines, smaller firms also offer a number of opportunities for consultants to grow in their field. Offering a narrower focus and an alternative to larger, generalized firms, these boutique firms tend to offer better work-life balance opportunities, while some staff employees locally, as opposed to firms that operate on 80-100% travel models. Others, still, offer a greater specialization in specific practice areas. Because Vault's research indicated that consultants who work at boutique firms tend to discount prestige as a factor in their choice of employer, Vault’s editors paid closer attention to quality of life factors when ranking boutique firms, weighting the ranking based on firm culture, job satisfaction, work-life balance, ability to challenge, compensation, business outlook and promotion policies.


The Top 10 Best Boutique Firms to Work for Based on Vault’s Annual Consulting Survey are:


  1. Insight Sourcing Group
  2. Point B
  3. Censeo Consulting Group
  4. The Brattle Group
  5. The Chartis Group
  6. The Cambridge Group
  7. ClearView Healthcare Partners
  8. Strategic Decisions Group
  9. Clarkston Consulting
  10. CapTech


“The top 5 boutique firms all have average scores above 9 out of 10, which is an incredibly high level, given that the score represents a weighted average of a number of different factors,” added Stott. “Having said that, Insight Sourcing Group thoroughly deserves its position at the top of the boutique ranking--the consultants we surveyed literally did not have a bad thing to say about the firm, and went out of their way to praise it for the quality of life they enjoy there.”

Survey respondents explained what separates Insight Sourcing Group from the rest of the pack, with one stating, “Quality of life is one of the primary reasons I chose ISG over larger firms. The difference is that this is one of the main areas that this firm was built on and has a vision for, and not just something to put on paper to compete with other businesses. For example, at the slightest hint of diminishing quality of life, a huge initiative was put in place involving every single member of the firm to ensure everyone's concerns were addressed.”

Bain and McKinsey Continue to Dominate Individual Best to Work For Categories


Bain took the No. 1 spot in 16 of the Best to Work For categories – Ability to Challenge, Business Outlook, Compensation, Firm Culture, Firm Leadership, Formal and Informal Training, Internal Mobility, Promotion Policies, Relationships w/ Supervisors, Overall Satisfaction, and five of the six diversity categories - Diversity-Disabled, Diversity-LGBT, Diversity-Minorities, Diversity-Women and Overall Diversity.


Consultants at Bain believe that their stressful jobs are made easier by a leadership that understands their needs. “What we do is inherently difficult and stressful -- we're working on the most important issues facing a company and its leaders,” said one survey respondent. “Having said that, Bain leaders all have lives and understand that we do, too. They work hard to make sure that we stay balanced, sometimes going so far as pushing teams NOT to work on weekends, even when they express a desire to do so. It's gratifying to be part of a culture as balanced as Bain's.”


McKinsey also scored strongly in all Best to Work For categories, while taking the top spot for International Opportunities, Exit Opportunities, Clint Interactions Benefits, Innovation in the Industry, Hiring Process and Diversity with respect to Military Veterans.


“McKinsey makes available many individual opportunities to balance work with personal life/goals, such as part-time, take-time, and sabbatical programs,” said one McKinsey employee. “These programs are not only designed with quality of life in mind, they do actually improve quality of life in a demanding career of a McKinsey consultant. It is not possible to deliver the impact that matters to clients and the world without some travel to work side-by-side with clients.”


In other Best to Work For categories, the following firms were No. 1 (along with quotes from employees):

  • Green Initiatives: Triage Consulting Group (“They are committed to Green awareness. This is really one of the main reasons why I stayed this long as it is important that they value social responsibility.”)
  • Hours: Point B (“Point B allows me to work 100% in my local market. I can consult and be home for dinner every night and attend my kid's school events. Pinch me!”)
  • Philanthropy: Jabian Consulting (“We have a local, no travel model which is perfect and enables us to get involved with the community.”)
  • Travel Requirements: Jabian Consulting (“No travel model. Lots of time for family, community service and mentoring.”)
  • Work/Life Balance: Point B (“Point B strives and thrives on balancing the needs of their clients and the needs of their employees to have a great work experience and life outside of work.”)


McKinsey & Company Remains Most Prestigious; Tops Six Practice Area Rankings


It was lucky number 13 for McKinsey & Company. The global consulting giant was not only named the Most Prestigious firm by its peers for the 13th straight year; it also came out on top in six practice areas – Energy Consulting, Economic Consulting, Healthcare Consulting, Management Consulting, Retail Consulting and Strategy Consulting.


Peer consultants at rival firms noted about McKinsey that “they “define ‘prestige,’” with others calling the firm “innovative,” “innovative,” “top tier,” “thought leaders,” “formidable,” the “gold standard,” “incredibly impressive,” and “strategy consulting at its best.”


The only other firms to score multiple wins in this year’s Practice Area category were Deloitte and Accenture. Deloitte, which respondents note is “stating to compete with the big three,” due to its “strong relationships and “good consultants,” took the top spot in both Financial Consulting and Operations Consulting. Accenture, who consultants said was “techy,” “innovative,” and known “more for big technology projects,” took the No. 1 ranking in IT Strategy Consulting and IT Operations Consulting.


In other Practice Area Rankings news, Booz Allen Hamilton continued to reign supreme in Public Sector Consulting. Respondents believe Booz is a “leader in the public sector,” “intellectual,” a “top consulting firm,” and offer clients “well researched insight and coaching.”


Mercer also repeated as the HR Consulting champions with peer consultants noting that the firm is “credible, detail oriented,” “extremely accomplished,” “solution driven,” and “the best in HR.”


And Lockheed Martin Corporation was No. 1 for Aerospace Defense Consulting with respondents calling the firm a “legitimate defense contractor” and a “leading aerospace company.”


View the entire Vault Consulting Rankings


About Vault 

Vault is the most comprehensive resource for employer, university and internship program rankings, ratings and insight. Vault’s influential rankings and reviews are sourced from directed surveys of professionals and students, and evaluate companies, schools and internships in terms of prestige, best place to work, diversity, quality of life, compensation and other categories. Vault provides users with in-depth information on employers, industries, interviews, and available jobs and internships. In addition, Vault partners with employers to help build their brands and assist with recruiting efforts, and with universities to help their students with employment placement and career selection.



Dan Williams

Phil Stott