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ranking vault consulting 2017In consultancy there’s one league-table that really matters. The annual ranking by of the best consultancies to work for is eagerly watched by industry insiders and graduates alike. So what do this year’s tables show?

While August brings the US data, on this side of the pond, it’s the European table that is often most waited for, and last month’s announcement of Europe’s ‘Top 25’ means that for the first time this year, true comparisons can be made. So, what does the 2017 edition show?

First the results that hardly ever change: historically the top three US consultancies are always either Bain, McKinsey & Company or The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). This year’s rankings are no different. The order may change (these three have been either first, second or third since at least 2012), but that’s about it, and this year, it’s Bain that tops the US list (with BCG second, and McKinsey third).

However, switch to the European league tables and there is much more fluidity and the results are much more interesting. Yes, its top two are also predictable – but there are predictable in a slightly different way. Here McKinsey scoops the top spot (it has done every year since they first started in 2010), with BCG second. What’s striking though, is while the US table constantly juggles its top three around (first and second-placed firms have only ranked the same in consecutive years on two occasions since 2012), the European one-two has been exactly the same year-on-year.

vault consulting 50 2017

But what else do we see? This year, Boston Consulting Group – which has gradually fallen down the European rankings (it was 21st in 2014 and 2015 and 23rd in 2016) finally slips off the top 25 list altogether. Despite attempts to find out why, doesn’t disclose the reason for this. One of the largest risers is L.E.K. Consulting – which has risen an impressive 8 places to 7th since the 2016 list, but it’s the consistency of the top six (all non movers since last year) that is also marked. This proves just how established these have become now. Even those who have moved up in recent years have only made incremental gains. Oliver Wyman, which is now ranked 3rd, spent two years at number 4 (2014 and 2015) and a year earlier was 5th. The top consultancies are doing a good job of keeping their listing stable.

In the top 25 (European) rankings, more than half (13) are non movers. In fact there are more consultancies that have gone down than up (7 vs 4) because of some brand new entrants to the list: coming in at 20th place for instance is Corporate Value Associates. Typically, fallers only tend to drop a single place though.

vault consulting 50 2017 europe

Intriguingly does not explain how rankings appear how there are – even if there does not seem to be a link between this, and the reality of their business. It’s also worth noting that there are lots of different measuring criteria, meaning a simple number one, two, three ranking overall doesn’t always give the clearest picture. For instance, overall-placed number 2 European firm, Bain, actually comes number one for ability to change, its diversity, training, promotion, work-life balance, satisfaction, and a whole host of other areas – things that might sway different audiences. Overall winner McKinsey meanwhile, is only 7th for work-life balance, and 6th-best when it comes to compensation.

And there’s a separate table too, which identifies those firms when are regarded as most ‘prestigious’. This table is comprised from an accumulation of votes by practicing consultants who can rate other firms they are ‘familiar’ with (but not their own), out of 10. This also shows that there is some variation in the results. Although McKinsey wins again, suddenly lowly-overall-placed Boston Consulting Group spectacularly sits at number two – suggesting that actual (working) consultants know better about just how good this firm is. Bain, Oliver Wyman and Roland Berger complete the top five, and are non-movers from last year. In fact the first nine are non-movers, suggesting the opinion of actual consultants is less wavering year-on-year than the overall Europe list, which include job candidate views.

One interesting firm already mentioned is boutique consultancy Corporate Value Associates – which, in just 20 years has now seen itself catapulted into the top 20 list. Founded in 1987 by three French partners, it has expanded from first opening in London, Paris, Boston and Amsterdam to have a global footprint. Today it has offices in 17 countries spanning Europe, Asia Pacific and the US. It’s appeal seems to be in providing CVA much more bespoke advice and solutions rather than off-the-shelf process consulting. It now has specialism in a number of industry verticals including financial services, energy & utilities, automotive & transportation. Its staff clearly acknowledge this too – while it occupies 20th spot overall, it ranks third for ‘ability to change’ and 4th for interaction it allows with clients.

A final mention however, must go a new-for-2017 list that ranks the best consultants for their internships (it is US and Europe combined at the moment). Because the internship data looks at five key areas (quality of life, compensation and benefits, career development, full-time employment prospects and the quality of the interview process), arguably this is the list the next generation are most interested in reading first. Here, it’s Bain that takes the crown, while firms much lower down the overall list show very strong performances. This indicates that while the established firms may well be able to bask well with overall industry recognition, but they still have a lot still to do to impress interns that they are great places to target at the start of people’s careers.

Peter Crush for

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