BRIDGESPAN AND A.T. KEARNEY AMONG THIS YEAR’S BIG WINNERS
There were several winners in this year’s rankings. The Bridgespan Group, a Bay Area-based non-profit, went from being unranked to 10th in one year. It focuses heavily on social issues and philanthropy, providing consultants with a chance to find a purpose and make a difference. “Bridgespan should be the first place talented people who want to work in the social sector look for employment, writes one survey respondent. “This firm has its finger on the pulse of major trends and conversations, and is a driving force of bringing rigor and strategic effectiveness to organizations working on society’s toughest problems.”
Cornerstone Research, which ranks second in compensation, also rose from 13th to 8th. At the same time, A.T. Kearney returned to the Top 10, going from 17th to 9th. Philip Stott, the consulting editor at Vault, attributes this to the firm reverting to its mean this year. “They’re a firm that consistently appears in our top 10,” Stott tells Poets&Quants. “Last year was the first time they’d dropped out of it since we introduced our weighted ranking in 2010. As I’m sure you recall, they were one of the firms that was being heavily tipped as an acquisition target for one of the Big 4 firms back in 2013-14. Typically when we see rumors like that, a dip in quality of life scores isn’t far behind, because employees really don’t like uncertainty.”
Three firms – Eagle Hill Consulting, Kurt Salmon, and ZS Associates – made the unexpected leap from being unranked to becoming Top 20 consulting firms. At the same time, ClearView Healthcare Partners jumped from 11th to 19th, with the firm scoring a #1 ranking on overall business outlook and #2 rankings in firm leadership, promotion policies, and travel requirements (and all-important #3 rankings in compensation and satisfaction). “There does not appear to be a ceiling,” wrote one respondent about the firm, “which is great because it means there will be opportunities for upward mobility all the way to Partner.” The Analysis Group also vaulted from 23rd to 12th, with pay, benefits, and exit opportunities among the firm’s chief benefits to staffers.
STRATEGY& AND ACCENTURE TUMBLE
Last year, Strategy& was the talk of the consulting world. Formed in a merger between Booz & Company and PwC, some predicted that Strategy& would muscle in on the Big Three due to its sheer size. Others wondered if the firm would get distracted internally as its operations and cultures coalesced. Turns out, the name change became the issue in an industry where, as Vault notes, “reputation is everything.” “To all intents and purposes, the structure and expertise of the firm remains the same after the acquisition as it was before,” Stott observes. “But with the added scope that comes with being part of the global PwC organization. While we saw some drop-off in quality of life scores due to ongoing merger-related uncertainty from Strategy&’s consultants, the major factor in the ranking drop seems to have been consultants elsewhere in the industry not recognizing the new branding when asked to identify the most prestigious firms in the industry. That’s something that I expect to see improve in future, and will be watching with interest next year.” Overall, Strategy& only dropped from 4th to 14th, giving it ample room to claw back into the Top 10.
Strategy& wasn’t this year’s only big loser in Vault’s consulting rankings. Accenture also tumbled out of the Top 10, plummeting from 10th to 20th. To continue the inches theme, the fall stemmed from relatively small changes in their scores. “Generally, scores in the quality of life categories went up this year,” Stott tells Poets&Quants, “while [Accenture’s] dipped a fraction. To put it into perspective: If Accenture had maintained last year’s scores across the board, they’d still have dropped to 15th from 10th, because many of the firms around them moved up. What specifically the dip was down to is difficult to put a finger on, but one of the interesting effects that we see in the data is that when firms get busier–something that is a net benefit to consultants and firms, and which causes scores in areas like firm outlook to go up–then other areas related to satisfaction can actually dip. (Work-life balance is an obvious one).”
The Cambridge Group, known for being flexible and accommodating with employees’ schedules, slipped from 9th to 16th. The Chartis Group also stumbled, falling from 15th to 25th.
- See next page for Vault’s Boutique Firm ranking.