Top 10 Consulting Firms in San Francisco


Here at MC, we’ve been absolutely thrilled to launch our new series and bring you some juicy insights into the Top 10 Consulting firms in every major consulting city and region around the world.

This week, we continue with sunny – and windy – San Francisco. Before we begin, for those of you who do not know the layout of the Bay Area well; here is a little geography lesson – The San Francisco, California Bay area is also commonly referred to as the Bay Area region on the west coast of United States, comprised of about 8 million people. The region has 3 major cities: San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland.

It also consists of nine counties and is known for the Golden Gate Bridge, wine (Napa Valley, anyone?), organic foods, and people who are not afraid to try new things. In fact, that is the mantra of the area – if anything is new people flock to try it. This may be one of the reasons NBC news says that some of the happiest cities in the U.S. are in the Bay Area! So with happy, gleeful faces, let’s check out the Top 10 Consulting Firms in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area.

1. Bain & Company, One Embarcadero Center, Suite 3400, San Francisco, CA, 94111

There is so much hype about Bain in the consulting world, it shouldn’t surprise you that it sits pretty on our list at #1. Vault recognized Bain as the “Best place to work in 2015” in the entire U.S., and the firm has consistently received such honors the past nine years running.

The firm has two offices in this region: in San Francisco and Palo Alto. The San Francisco office is focused mainly (but not exclusively) on technology & telecommunications, private equity, healthcare, retail & consumer goods, and utilities & energy. This office’s stated priority is going green and creating social impact through knowledge.

When it comes to health & other benefits, these offices go all out for their employees: medical, dental, eye wear, great maternity leave benefits, health insurance for dependent care, three weeks PTO, and tuition assistance programs are offered.

Bain is high on community service and their offices in the Bay Area are ahead of the company curve. Bain’s San Francisco and Palo Alto offices have collaborated with the KIPP Bay Area Schools, a branch of the national KIPP charter school network, to improve the educational system, provide learning opportunities, and to close the achievement gap for low-income students in the area. As per the firm’s rich tradition, the Bay Area offices have a community impact day and spend the entire day volunteering for a variety of local non-profit organizations.

2. McKinsey & Company, 555 California St., San Francisco, CA, 94104

Not far behind Bain on our list is McKinsey. What will make these rankings valuable for you will be determining what you are looking for in a firm and office environment, as well as what practice areas you prefer to work in. McKinsey was founded in 1926 and now has 107 locations in over 60 countries, as well as 10,000 employee worldwide. McKinsey’s Bay Area operation consists of two offices: San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley office is especially fast paced with a highly entrepreneurial culture. It is the home of McKinsey’s Technology Business Practice and also offers a whole spectrum of Healthcare services to boot.

McKinsey’s Bay Area offices serve major technology and financial firms, as well as leading healthcare and retail companies needing strategy and innovation help. Consultants from these two offices are on the road for at least 4 days of the week (wowzee!). There are 200+ Consultants across the 2 Bay Area McKinsey offices, as well as 79+ years of overall industry consulting experience. In addition, McKinsey’s Bay Area offices are some of the most culturally diverse in the entire firm: 30+ nationalities are represented in this region alone!

3. Boston Consulting Group, 2 Embarcadero Center #2400, San Francisco, CA, 94111

BCG reminds us a little bit of famed U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Confused yet? Here’s why: the firm’s leadership is always looking for new strategy and new, creative ways to bring value to clients. Creativity in delivery is a much bigger emphasis at BCG than at Bain or (especially) McKinsey. BCG also has a two-office presence in this area: San Francisco and Palo Alto. If you’re an engineer, designer, software architect, into strategic design, or just in general thrilled with the combination of IT consulting and Management consulting, BCG is after you! The next generation of clientele is pouring in from these industries, and BCG – especially in the Bay Area – is looking for these specific industry experts.

These two offices focus mainly in the practice areas of technology, media, healthcare, and consumer & industrial goods. The firm was ranked No. 2 on Fortune Magazine’s 2015 list of the “Top 100 Consulting Companies to Work for.” It was BCG’s fifth consecutive year of being among the top 5. In addition, BCG hosts combined Training & Development events between the San Francisco and Palo Alto offices to incorporate team-building across offices and engage them in learning together.

4. Deloitte Consulting, 101 Market St., San Francisco, CA, 94105

One of the world’s largest consulting firms, Deloitte is comprised of independent member firms who offer advisory, audit, consulting, financial advisory, operations, mergers & acquisitions, risk & resilience, strategy, technology, tax and related HR services to select clients. At last count, Deloitte had 1400+ consultants in just one Bay Area office! It’s no surprise, since Deloitte’s FY15 revenues were a cool $35.2 billion.

Deloitte is primarily an Audit firm and part of what are known as the Big 4 firms. So why work here? Well, Deloitte is the gold standard in financial consulting. The firm is well grounded, rich in experience, and already has systems in place to ensure your success, if you’re willing to put the work in. The San Francisco office leadership has an “open-door” policy, meaning anyone can come and speak with management about concerns at any time. The local office also actively takes part in “Impact Day,” a day set aside for every employee to give back to the community. San Francisco employees can be found on this day in different NGO’s, teaching in different schools, cleaning the city, etc.

The San Francisco office has also developed a strong learning culture. There are many inbuilt programs and training modules for employees at various levels in their career to upgrade both hard and soft skills.

5. Accenture, 560 Mission St. #1200, San Francisco, CA 94105

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The firm has two offices in the San Francisco Bay Area: in the city of San Francisco itself, and a little further east in San Jose. Makes sense, as Accenture’s technology services are world class and get put to good use out in Silicon Valley. Presently, these two offices work closely with state and local government to bridge the gap between government, citizens, and business.

Some of the firm’s current projects are related to community based empowerment, and examples include working on the California Franchise Tax, California’s public employees retirement system, and California Child Support automated system. These are projects of a massive scale, and the Bay Area offices are known to have poor work-life balance. However, employees at these two offices rave about the energy in the workplace, and Accenture has done a good job of building a culture of mentorship in its Bay Area operation.

6. Strategy&4 Embarcadero Center #2350, San Francisco, CA, 94111

San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general, is famous for its long history of leadership in computing, semiconductors, software, biotechnology, the Internet and other innovation-based industries. Strategy&’s one local office leverages the best of the city. The firm has worked with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute (the strategic research arm of the Bay Area Council and a consortium of more than 275 companies in the San Francisco Bay Area), to identify the cultural, strategic and organizational attributes that have led to the sustained success of the region. In addition, major practice areas at the San Francisco office include tech (duh), healthcare, and energy.

The one knock we’ve heard on this office is how tough it can be to maintain a good work-life balance, but then again, you should know what you are getting in to when joining a top consulting firm in a premier city. As you learn over time to work smarter instead of harder, this should become less of a concern.

7. Brattle Group201 Mission Street, Suite 2800,San Francisco, CA, 94105

The smallest firm on our list, the Brattle Group checks in here at #7. The firm has one office in San Francisco and 7 other locations around the world. The San Francisco office opened in 2002, and houses around 30 consultants. While this office is not very large, it has a diverse client base, and has quickly become one of the most important offices in the firm’s U.S. presence. The San Francisco office services many industries, including electric power, financial institutions, natural gas & petroleum, telecommunications & media, and healthcare. As this is one of only a handful of U.S. offices for the Brattle Group, consultants here get the opportunity to work in a wide variety of the biggest industries on the planet.

This office’s chain of command is flat, which helps sustain a peer-group atmosphere. This core value exposes junior staff to some of the more experienced brains, and allows them to work on some of the more complex issues and projects earlier on in their career. The firm’s work is an excellent mix of due diligence and corporate strategy type of work. However, the firm has been known to be slow to introduce new initiatives – probably due to lesser bandwidth due to its size – and serves a smaller number of industries, again due to its current size.

8. Parthenon-EY, 555 California St.  #3100, San Francisco, CA, 94104

Merged with EY in 2014, Parthenon-EY bills itself as a firm of pragmatic thinkers offering strategic advisory solutions to C-suite executives. But what specifically does the firm offer in San Francisco? It serves industries such as consumer products, healthcare, information & media, life sciences, private equity, and oil & gas. Interestingly enough, the San Francisco office deals quite a bit with the education world – K12, education business, education transactions.

The local office has built a collaborative culture, where employees rave about the smarts about their co-workers. Parthenon-EY also offers above industry-average compensation and great opportunities for advancement out of this office. Many consultants based here end up going to go work for startups right down the road in Silicon Valley. There is easy access to senior leadership, which has helped build a culture of collaboration. If you enjoy travel then you won’t be disappointed; most cases require international travel. One complaint we’ve heard from employees here is a lack of case diversity, as well as some grumblings about logistical issues after the merger.

9. Oliver Wyman, 4 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA, 94111

OW counts around 2,000 employees in its huge San Francisco office. Employees enjoy the laid-back office atmosphere, where opportunities to advance and gain professional skills are plentiful. Employees love working with industry experts, and talk well of the general friendliness of the San Francisco office, where it is not uncommon for colleagues to be friends outside of work.

The people in this office are talented, and come exclusively from top-tier schools, so there can sometimes be little variation in thought. As with other big firms, especially in a city like San Francisco, there is practically no work-life balance, so be ready to burn that midnight oil. You could say the motto of this office is play hard, but work harder!

10. Willis Towers Watson, 345 California St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA, 94104

Featured by Fortune Magazine on its list of World’s Most Admired Companies from 2012-2015, Willis Towers Watson makes the cut for us as well and checks in on our list at #10. The local San Francisco office is one of the leading HR, risk & financial management offices in the city. It is excellent in areas of talent management, rewards, consulting, and technology, as well as risk and capital management.

If you are considering a move to the San Francisco area for consulting, these firms are setting the bar in the city for top consulting services. If you’d like to discuss your options 1:1 with one of our ex-MBB consultants, schedule a Power Half Hour or email us today!

Honorable Mention – Boutique Firms in San Francisco

Waterstone Management Group: A boutique management consulting firm with clients in industries ranging from technology to service, as well as technology-focused private investment firms and Fortune 100 technology companies.

Argos Consulting: Partners with San Fransisco & Bay Area Fortune 500/Tech firms creating additional value by planning, designing, and executing business transformation.

The Croner Company: A boutique management consulting firm specializing in compensation plan design, strategic planning, and organizational design.

C1 Consulting: A boutique life-sciences consulting firm committed to helping pharmaceutical and biotechnology clients.

Patpatia & Associates: A boutique management consulting firm focusing on strategy development and implementation for financial services firms.

Verus: An independent, institutional investment consulting firm.

  • 2ranma75

    Did you mean “Willis Towers Watson”? or is it still Wyatt in SF?

  • 2ranma75

    If you made one of these posts for Montreal in particular or Canada in general, that’d be great.