Are you a consultant living in Boston? Looking to move to Boston? Considering Boston as a potential choice among others, but are not entirely sure? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve reviewed locations, employee counts, industry focus, and reputation of many firms in and around the Boston area – and this article will help you make life-changing decisions. We bring to you the Top 10 consulting firms in Boston and our rationale behind why they made the list.
Read away – and enjoy!
Boston, Massachusetts holds a prominent place in American history. Sometimes called the “Cradle of Liberty” for hosting the instigation of the American revolution, It was founded by Puritan colonists from England and soon became the political, religious, commercial, financial and educational center of the New World. Have you heard of the “Boston Tea Party” or the famous “Battle of Bunker Hill”? Well, they all took place in Boston.
Apart from this history, there is a rich academic heritage that shapes Beantown – 35 colleges and universities, including the not-too-shabby Harvard (+ HBS and the Kennedy School) and MIT (+ Sloan), call Boston home. Crazily, the city swells by 250,000 students when terms are in session.
And then, there’s a sociological anomaly – a sub-group of people called the “Consultants.” In fact, 2 of the MBB (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG) elite firms, Bain and BCG, have their headquarters in Boston, MA.
1. Boston Consulting Group: It would be pretty hard not to give one of the world’s top firms – with BOSTON in its name – the top rated slot here for its global HQ office in Boston. Thank heavens, BCG Boston lives up to its storied reputation.
BCG opened shop in 1963 with founder Bruce Henderson at the helm. The Boston office was the originator of concepts such as the experience curve, the portfolio concept, time-based competition, and segment-of-one marketing. (Pretty interesting, eh?) Word has it that you get smarter just by sitting in a cubicle in the BCG office.
The office is a reflection of the beautiful historic city itself, with 250+ high-powered employees creating history everyday for their top class clients (this is the main reason we were tempted to place Bain first – at only 250 staff, it’s an itty bitty office). BCG’s clients typically include many of the world’s 500 largest companies – BCG Boston is no exception, but in this office, the focus is on healthcare, financial services, industrial goods, retail, and high tech. If these areas are of interest to you, this will be a great place to learn and grow in your career.
Like its respected peers, BCG is high on community service. The firm organizes quarterly trips to serve lunch at the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans and boasts an annual Community Service Day where the office closes so that the entire staff can work together on a project. Plus, every year BCG throws a holiday party and kids’ holiday party, Friday night drinks, and staff also get to choose from different dates for the firm’s Red Sox season tickets! They also have something called the Around the World Celebration, where they enjoy and celebrate food, drink, and décor from countries and regions around the world – a festive event that helps welcome ambassadors and transfers visiting from other offices. The Boston office, not surprisingly, also has a very good local alumni network.
BCG just renovated their Boston office space – showing off the still-fantastic view of the Boston harbor. If you want to join BCG Boston, what are they looking for? Incredibly motivated, intellectually curious, and down to earth staff who love to solve complex problems and willingly take on challenges while hoping to make a tangible difference in the world. The cost of living in Boston is high, but so are salaries. When the company does well, you will see it in your raises and bonuses, and for post-MBAs, the offered salary is the best in the industry – yet another reason why they top our list.
2. Bain: Founded in 1973, Bain is headquartered in Boston, MA. Located at 31 Dartmouth Street, the Bain flagship office has a headcount of 650 in just this one location. Located between Boston’s historic Back Bay and hip South End neighborhoods, the office is in easy walking distance of the city’s best shopping, restaurants, entertainment, and nightlife. And with Bain’s globally-recognized social culture, Vault ranked Bain as the Best Place to Work in 2015. As one of the oldest and most storied cities in North America, Boston is full of historic sites and leading cultural institutions which the employees and their families enjoy on holidays or weekends.
For daytime fun, the Boston office is home to many of the firm’s leaders, including global practice leaders, regional practice heads and recognized industry gurus. Working in Boston provides the consulting staff an amazing opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most respected men and women in the consulting industry!
Both the Boston and New York offices work in conjunction with industries across the northeast regions in an area such as telecommunications, financial services, private equity, e-commerce, consumer products, and healthcare, among others. In fact, Bain’s PEG (Private Equity Group) has its largest presence in Boston, and you can do some PEG cases without completing a full killer 6-month PEG rotation or “externship” as you would have to if you were working in Chicago or LA.
Bainees are passionate about influencing society and the city. They are involved with many community-based organizations and give thousands of hours of community service to a range of organizations in the Greater Boston area, with a particular focus on education reform and economic development.
3. EY: EY’s Boston office boasts close to 1100 employees, second only to Deloitte in employee strength. Like Deloitte, its presence in Boston is quite strong even though EY’s US operations are headquartered in NYC. The industry focus in Boston is on Financial Services, Wealth & Asset Management, Banking & Capital Markets, Insurance, Technology, Life Sciences & Health, and Private Equity.
EY Boston offers a plethora of services that clients can choose from. Therefore, they offer a wide range of opportunities for employees to receive maximum benefits and growth. EY’s in-house support teams, cross cultural diversity, work ethic, global mindset, rewards and benefits, and community systems have created a place where people from all backgrounds are easily welcomed in their culture.
Importantly, EY’s recent strategic acquisition of Parthenon Group bolstered its Boston office considerably – Parthenon Group was headquartered in Boston and still keeps a separate office at 50 Rowes Wharf. EY’s #3 Boston ranking – behind the prestigious BB firms – owes its honor mostly to Parthenon’s reputation for impressive strategy.
The focus on the EY floor is all about learning, striving for excellence, and collaboration. EY has made it part of their culture to invest wholeheartedly in corporate social responsibility (think a plethora of volunteering activities) — in education, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability. Plus, its alumni network is strengthened through its alumni magazine, from Connect (the Alumni Network website), and monthly Learning and CPE Connectors to dozens of special live events and reunions.
4. Accenture: Accenture boasts an 800+ employee headcount at its Boston abode, mostly made up of a mix of professionals from IT Consulting and Management Consulting. You can (or have to – depending on how you look at it) work with industry engineers and consultants. The teams are great to work for and have amazing core values. The projects are interesting, but work-life balance (as it is across Accenture) is tough to maintain.
Accenture caters to wide areas of expertise including Technology, Information and Analytics Strategy, Advanced Analytics, Information Management, Analytics for Business Functions, Analytics Solutions for Industry, and the Accenture Insights Platform. Based on the (largely analytical) services they cater to in Boston, the firm has a never-ending supply of interesting work, wonderful benefits, and strong training programs. Accenture in Boston also offers cross-functional team work, where business analytics and technology work together to bring customized solutions to clients.
5. McKinsey: McKinsey, usually the big brother to all other consulting firms in other environments, has a long history but small presence in Boston. The office serves clients across a broad set of sectors including high tech, advanced industries, pharma and medical products, health systems, banking, insurance, private equity, consumer goods, and the public sector. In the Northeast region, the firm has offices in Boston, New Jersey, and New York – but Boston is absolutely the baby of the party out of those 3 offices.
In the Boston office, there are only ~100 employees. Still, the office is typically McKinsey-swanky. Despite the teeny-tiny footprint (compared to most McKinsey locations), several global practice leaders – in Corporate Finance, Marketing & Sales, Innovation, Strategy, Consumer, and Transactions – are based in Boston. Plus – for a firm with a global staffing model that can be cold and empty during the week, the Boston office has more local work than NY or NJ and a more collegial feel.
McKinsey Boston is home to innovation – differentiated among all its other offices – and is high on diversity. Although the office is small, McKinsey’s projects are notably intense, and the Boston office is no exception. There is a hierarchy, and that is client-first, firm-second, you-last. Thankfully, the firm initiated a Take Time Off Program, where consultants are encouraged to pursue their passions and interests. The Boston office, like the city, is high on Diversity, Inclusion and Women’s initiatives which are distinctive but not disjointed from McKinsey’s DNA.
The icing on the cake: even though the office is small, the pay is fantastic, and acceleration through increments as you go up the ladder are very good indeed. Extravagant meals are covered while on business travel and teams have budgets to have fun events to get to know each other. McKinsey Boston is an NE underdog, but there are still many reasons to choose to come here.
6. Deloitte Consulting: Deloitte Consulting (plus all other Deloitte functions) has close to 1200+ employees in the Boston area, making it the largest employer among these top 10 firms in the city. Each year, Deloitte’s famous IMPACT day takes 1000+ Boston employees out to get their hands dirty with community service in the city. The culture in the Boston office is quite exciting and marked by diversity. For consultants in strategy, the projects they work on are high profile. The functional areas focused on in the Boston office include Financial Services, Technology, Strategy, Consulting, and Mergers & Acquisitions – a great opportunity to get deal experience.
Deloitte promotes an open door policy with senior partners and directors – in a city known for its cold weather and colder shoulder, it’s easy to walk up to the big brass during office parties (which are many, by the way) and engage in interesting and fun conversations.
Deloitte is high on training and development and offers some amazing training programs to employees to up-skill themselves – many of these are developed or led directly from Boston. After 5-6 years in the firm, you have options to take a sabbatical, pursue an MBA or even a Ph.D., and more.
Deloitte offers very lucrative packages (comparable to MBB), and the employee’s choice of location is given high preference. If you’re interested in transitioning over to MBB after a few years at Deloitte, the Boston office is a great choice – with sizable offices for both BCG and Bain, you’ll be able to explain how you endure the winters in Boston and still manage to effervescently love the city.
7. Oliver Wyman: This relative newbie on the strategy scene is already at #7 on our list for Boston offices. But what does Oliver Wyman do in Boston? Lots of things – from strategy, operations, and risk management to organizational transformation and leadership development.
Oliver Wyman’s Boston social events are frequent and fun, and the people are really smart, friendly, down-to-earth and ambitious. Narcissistic people are a big no-no here. Interestingly, the brand presence of Oliver Wyman across the U.S. is quite inconsistent – it’s a huge name at Dartmouth (recruiting for Boston and New York) but is almost unknown at Stanford.
Some good news? Oliver Wyman Boston is collegial and fast-paced. Whether you want to start and end your consulting season there or move on to greener consulting pastures (i.e. MBB), you’ll get a great start and great brand name at Oliver Wyman. Just be aware that post-consulting support and placement services do not exist at Oliver Wyman like at McKinsey – one reason why joining (in Boston, or really anywhere) might not make sense if you have an up-list opportunity.
Oliver Wyman has won awards in the industry for its pro-women and diversity programs. This culture is virtually the same across all of the firm’s offices. In the Boston office, the focus is on industries such as communications, media and technology, financial services, and energy. OW Boston staff are involved with many volunteer days and philanthropy work across Boston. OW also believes in supporting organizations that improve the lives of people in the developing world through microfinance, healthcare, and education – groups such as the Red Cross and Save the Children.
8. Mercer: Founded in 1975 and headquartered in New York, Mercer is a $3B company offering a wide range of human resources-related consulting, investment management, and outsourcing services for companies around the world.
In the Mercer Boston office, the focus is on talent strategy, executive compensation, workforce rewards, talent mobility, HR transformation, M&A due diligence, M&A PMO, post-merger integration, and private equity advisory – a fun start for those of you with interest in the people and process pieces of an M&A transaction. Some attributes that mark Mercer’s Boston office include competitiveness, aggressive, adaptive, ahead of the competition, global reach, dynamic approach, integral, ethical culture, respect for diversity, and flexible timing.
Mercer Boston is a great place for working parents – the top management provide support with work-life balance opportunities. At Mercer, internal growth is very good, but salary hikes are not impressive when compared to other consulting firms. Cross unit movement is sparse, but layoffs and firing are also very rare. Overall – if you’re interested in HR consulting, Mercer Boston is an excellent choice.
9. Strategy&: Strategy&’s merger with PwC has provided clients with strategy consulting expertise and a proven track record of delivery on a global scale. Like many of the top firms, Strategy& has great medical coverage, the company contributes 10% of the annual salary towards 401K, and time off is also very good.
The team in the Strategy& Boston office works in financial services, healthcare, technology, communications, and private equity and the functions they cater to are in corporate finance, deals, digital business and technology, enterprise strategy, marketing and sales & operations. Since its merger with PwC, projects across the company are getting more juicy and interesting – Boston, with its focus on PE and healthcare, is no exception. Plus, management across offices has created a great mentorship model.
The firm placed lower on our list because it does have some mountains to climb before it can be compared again to the likes of MBB. The required changes will involve reshaping the brand and structure within the organization, which will take time. Plus, Strategy& is starting to look more like PwC rather than the other way around – from Monday to Thursday travel and the on-going integration, the future of the firm is still a bit hazy.
10. Willis Towers Watson: Willis Towers Watson has two office locations in the Boston area: one downtown and the other in the burbs.
The reason? Towers Watson has now merged with Willis and is now called Willis Towers Watson. Together, the firm’s history is massive and rich, going back to 1828 where Willis established himself in the Marine business and founded Henry Willis & Co. In the same century, Rueben Watson formed R Watson & Sons, the oldest actuarial firm in the world.
The firm made our list here because it has a large presence in Boston and is known for advisory services where you can build strong skills. However, Willis Towers Watson focuses on Corporate Risk, Investment Risk, and Reinsurance – analytical work, but not typical for consulting.
The firm offers some amazing perks – a decent bonus allowance and fair compensation. Plus, their HR teams are on point. The major con of the Boston office? Long, unpredictable hours of work – now that can be very stressful indeed.
Honorable mentions of boutique firms in Boston:
Cornerstone Research is a litigation consulting firm with an office in Boston, MA (although it is headquartered in San Francisco, CA).
Analysis Group, Inc. has its headquarters in Boston, MA – the company provides expertise in economics, finance, health care analytics, and strategy to top law firms.
The Bridgespan Group has its main office in Boston, MA. A spin-off of Bain, Bridgespan is a consulting firm that serves nonprofits by partnering with leaders in the social sector.
Bulger Partners is headquartered in Boston, and have positioned themselves as strategic advisers to the software economy.
Artisan Healthcare Consulting Inc. provides strategic and quantitative analysis that helps clients’ leadership to act decisively in the areas of pharma consulting, supply chain management, market development, and research.
Clarion Healthcare partners with clients in the life sciences industry to develop growth strategies and build organizational capabilities.
Putnam Associates serves global biopharmaceutical, diagnostics, and medical device clients, along with private equity and venture capital clients.