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Chances with strat firms in London?

#1 Chances with strat firms in London?
23/09/2008 07:29


Hi everyone,

I am from Central/Eastern Europe and am thinking of relocating to London. Below is a summary of my details. I would appreciate your thoughts/comments on my chances with strat consulting firms in London.

I graduated valedictorian from college (business degree) with the best GPA in class and have a master’s degree in public policy from an Ivy League school in the US. I consider myself a well-rounded and mature individual, with extensive background in classical music (performed with the symphony as a soloist). As for my extracurriculars, I’ve worked as a staff writer for student newspaper, won a number of national dance competitions, edited a book on my home country by an American writer, and am giving private music lessons in my free time. English is my third language.

I have about six years of work experience combined: two with a central government dept in my home country, two with the local practice of KPMG Advisory, one with a large local consulting and technology company as an internal business consultant, plus have also held a number of contracted/part-time/intern positions, e.g. as a course assistant at grad school in the US, etc.

I interviewed with the local McK office about three years ago (with no prior consulting experience at the time), went out in the final round. The feedback they gave me was that I made all case interviews, but one of the partners didn’t feel I would enjoy working in consulting. I asked if I can give them my feedback too. They said yes and so I put it down in writing. A few weeks later I met with one of the partners who interviewed me over a coffee. She said that, based on the feedback I gave them, they might have made a mistake, but added that they don’t usually consider re-applicants… Now go figure…

I have worked in consulting since then and have very much enjoyed it. However, I don’t feel I’m achieving my full potential right now and am thinking of relocating to London. I believe it’s better suited for building a career in consulting, with far greater opportunities for professional growth and development. I consider the local consulting market here to be rather underdeveloped. Except for the Big 4, there’s only a handful of consulting companies in town, such as McK, BCG, RB or ADL, but no Bain, BAH, OC&C, LEK, OW, etc… Rather limited opportunities + everything is a much smaller scale: Big 4’s are mostly accounting firms here (e.g. KPMG has almost 700 people in the entire country, but only about 60 in their Advisory arm), and strat firms here are much smaller too: the local BCG office is about 20 people strong altogether (including admin staff).

I’ve already met with one recruiter in London and it left me a bit demotivated. She said that they can’t access the educational system I come from, nobody in the UK knows anything about my current employer, and basically suggested I should aim at something lower profile than big strat houses. But I don’t feel I should settle for less just because I come from an unfamiliar background.

Any thoughts/comments/suggestions?

Many thanks.

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#2 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
23/09/2008 07:35

Curious to Curious (#1)

just noticed, i meant "assess" the educational system...

too early in the morning i guess... ;-)

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#3 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
23/09/2008 10:07

Dan E to Curious (#2)

Don't give up so easily - just because you found one lousy recruiter in London doesn't mean they all will be. Be positive. Act your way through interviews if people think you won't fit - if you're sure you will, make them believe it too.

Search thoroughly and speak to lots of people.

Put your CV on and let people call you.

Apply direct to firms you like the look of - there are plenty on here at

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#4 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
23/09/2008 20:48

Curious to Dan E (#3)

Thanks for the advice. I've already applied direct to a number of firms, will also post my CV on Monster.

I was thinking of including my GRE general test scores in my CV, just to put my skills into perspective. It's an American standardized test (similar to GMAT) required by most grad schools in the US, except business. My analytical score was in the 97th percentile at the time, which means that, on average, I scored higher than 97% of all other test takers in the given year (both American and international). Do you think I should put that on my CV, even though I've been out of grad school for more that three years now? Thanks.

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#5 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
24/09/2008 09:21

MBB to Curious (#4)

Based on your description of your CV I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to get a shot at a top strat firm in London. Applying direct is probably the best way and including the GRE score is a good idea.

Do you still have the contacts for the McK partner? If she seemed to like you then it can't hurt to get back in touch for some advice and a potential referral. Indeed if you know any other MBB people (from your ivy-league alumni network??) then a referral is a useful way to get over the lack of understanding of some of your education and experience.

One thing I would say is that if people haven't heard of your current employer then this will be a slight barrier so giving info to prove that they are a good firm or that you have done spectacular things there would be useful. Also, because of this you may need to accept going in at a slightly more junior level - e.g., Junior Associate rather than Associate - at somewhere like McKinsey.

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#6 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
24/09/2008 21:01

Curious to MBB (#5)

Thanks, MBB.

The McK partner left the firm about a year ago and is now working in industry. Getting back in touch might be a challenge but I will try. I know quite a few MBB people from grad school, but most of them are based in US/Canadian offices, plus they know very little about my experience in Europe after school.

Do you think it will help to include in my application a brief description of my current employer and/or a recent consulting project I've worked on? I see myself as a senior team member right now, somewhere between a Business Analyst and an Engagement Manager in McK terms. Joining at a slightly more junior level wouldn't be a problem as long as there is a merit-based promotion system. I don't think it'd take me long to prove myself.

Aside: Which strat firms in London are strong in public sector/non-profits, int'l development, energy and transportation? I've heard LEK has done some work in government, presumably OW general management track, too. ADL is known for their work in energy. What about others? Thanks.

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#7 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
24/09/2008 21:43

l man to Curious (#6)

LEK government? not in abundance. Mostly M&A and PE.

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#8 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
25/09/2008 09:18

MBB to Curious (#6)

The only one of the strat consultancies in London that does a big chunk of Public Sector work is McKinsey. They are also the only one that has anything approaching an International Development practice.

There are lots of other people who do work in the government space, but either not-quite-strategy like PA or more boutique places like 2020 Delivery.

In your CV I would do something v. brief about your current employer or a project, focusing on things that might connect with the person reading the CV: impressive EBIT, revenue or growth figures, market position (moved from the third to first best xx in yy market) quality clients (i.e., people that the CV-reader might have heard of) - anything that allows people to say "oh, I can understand that, that sounds like a good place to hire someone from". In addition, you should show what you are doing there and again link this to things people will understand - managing xx people, project budgets of xx.

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#9 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
26/09/2008 01:55

Curious to MBB (#8)

Thanks a lot for the advice. This has been super helpful.

Where can I learn more about boutique firms who do work in the public sector/non-profits and/or energy/utilities/transportation fields? Any specialized websites? Lists? Would you recommend anyone in particular? I've browsed through the Definitive Guide to UK Consulting Firms by Top-Consultant, but e.g. 2020 Delivery is not included in there.

Also, what are major industries for OC&C, Roland Berger and Oliver Wyman (general mgm)? Is Credo Group well-known in London? I've heard they are active in business services. Are they strong in PPP? Thanks.

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#10 RE: Chances with strat firms in London?
26/09/2008 09:02

MBB to Curious (#9)

Unfortunately there aren't really any lists out there, it's a lot to do with word-of-mouth, maybe some recruitment consultants can help.

Two that spring to mind are:

But there are loads and loads of other ones (most of which I probably won't have heard of).

Credo are not very well known, but seem like a decent-enough firm - business services, infrastructure and some PPP are their focus areas I believe.

OC&C are mainly retail, media, PE, business services.

Don't know for RB and OW.

Good luck!

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