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Management Consultant MBB Big4 etc etc etc

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  #11 (permalink)  
Old 03-08-2016, 02:09 PM
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Can anyone shed some light on the smaller players like the boutique firms??

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Old 03-08-2016, 03:11 PM
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My sense is the smaller consulting outfits don't survive as well in the current climate. E.g., Monitor was eventually bought by Deloitte after years of resisting the overture. Roland Berger tried to expand in Southeast Asia but eventually pulled back from some market they were trying out. Others try to serve Southeast Asia via remote control, but without presence here, find it hard to win business.

MBBs can weather storms better because they are essentially generalist firms. They serve pretty much everyone that wants their service and can pay their rates. So when one industry is in downturn, they can serve others. Boutiques that choose only certain industries to cater to must do so carefully because focusing on the wrong verticals means a dry pipeline. Oliver Wyman is the only one I know that's been pretty successful as a rather large "boutique". This is because they choose to concentrate on Financial Service sector... which is fast becoming a crowded place.

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Can anyone shed some light on the smaller players like the boutique firms??


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Old 03-08-2016, 06:04 PM
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MBBs can weather storms better because they are essentially generalist firms. They serve pretty much everyone that wants their service and can pay their rates. So when one industry is in downturn, they can serve others. Boutiques that choose only certain industries to cater to must do so carefully because focusing on the wrong verticals means a dry pipeline. Oliver Wyman is the only one I know that's been pretty successful as a rather large "boutique". This is because they choose to concentrate on Financial Service sector... which is fast becoming a crowded place.
Oliver Wyman is part of M&M, so they aren't really boutique per se as they generate a lot of cross businesses from other M&M lines like Mercer, Carpenter and Marsh that tend to cater to a broad base of industries.

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Old 03-08-2016, 10:40 PM
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Oliver Wyman is part of M&M, so they aren't really boutique per se as they generate a lot of cross businesses from other M&M lines like Mercer, Carpenter and Marsh that tend to cater to a broad base of industries.
Indees, this strengthens the assertion that smaller outfits find it hard to survive in the long term. OW needs an internal ecosystem in order to fluorish.
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Old 08-08-2016, 11:59 PM
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am i right to say that it will be better to work in london or usa if one was to work in a smaller consulting firm rather than sg?
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Old 09-08-2016, 02:38 AM
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My sense is this is true for just about any consulting firms, not just smaller ones.

The market for strategy consulting in US / EU is larger because there are more clients who can pay for the service. The clients understand better the value of C-level consulting; I have met clients in ASEAN who don't understand why they have to pay for expert advice.

On the blocking-and-tackling of consulting, there are simply more data tracked that makes it easier to do analysis, unlike here in ASEAN (which can be frustrating... how can I value a market when I cannot confidently assume the # of potential users?)

The Western culture places more emphasis on work-life balance; when I was at MBB, my colleagues from other parts of the world often mentioned that I did the work of two consultants.

And there are plenty exit options should you decide to do something else. I.e., pay gap with industry pay is not as big as it is here.

BUT beware of the glass ceiling for foreigners in the Western world. It's less these days but it's still there. I know that several of my fellow b-school alumni who are non native speaker of English and worked in the US in consulting were dismissed because they spoke English with non-native accent. In their words, "you could not create a bond with your clients".

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am i right to say that it will be better to work in london or usa if one was to work in a smaller consulting firm rather than sg?
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Old 09-08-2016, 11:46 AM
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The market for strategy consulting in US / EU is larger because there are more clients who can pay for the service. The clients understand better the value of C-level consulting; I have met clients in ASEAN who don't understand why they have to pay for expert advice.
That is the "official" explanation given by the consulting industry. The reality though is that institutional ownership structure and board composition are very different in ASEAN compared to US/EU and this in turn present rather different market dynamics.

I was in this industry for many years serving the European and Asian markets as well. The reality is that most consultancies were charging outrageous amounts for relatively simple work that was pretty turnkey once you figured out the methodology initially.

As ownership tends to be disperse and separation of powers between directors is more entrenched in US/EU governance, the decision makers were more inclined to pay whatever amounts consultants asked for as long as it is a reputable third party with an independent opinion which they can sell to all the shareholders.

My managing partner has always remarked privately that we were more in the insurance business than a consulting one. Our role was really to provide insurance to directors and executives that what they were doing was in line with industry best practices and any strategy screw up must by definition be due to 'unforeseen circumstances' rather than their own incompetency.

ASEAN businesses on the other hand are far more owner driven and usually have a government entity, individual or a group of strongmen dictating the running of the business. Board and excos are more formality and everyone knows who exactly the real apex decision maker is. Minority shareholders either accept and go along with the system or exit their positions. There really is nothing much they can do to influence any key strategic decision.

Under such context, these dominant owners naturally are not inclined to overpay huge amounts for supposed expert advise to validate what internally they have already decided on. The usual tactic these guys deploy is to invite multiple consultancies to the tender process, dangle a potential contract carrot to keep them coming back for engagement, pick up a few latest industry buzz words and trends from their presentations and either subsequently dump them or squeeze project terms when they feel confident enough.

I would view Western and ASEAN more as a different competitive landscape rather than there is some sort of inherent lack of intelligence/sophistication in ASEAN business executives that cause them not to recognize the value of paying for "expert advice".
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Old 09-08-2016, 01:00 PM
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It's not everyday that my words are taken as an official explanation. Thank you.

Kidding aside, I do see that some (not all) conglomerate business owners don't quite understand the need to pay for management consulting. I see this attitude mostly among the founders. Perhaps it is a generation gap, as many of their sons and daughters that are now running the business are more welcoming to us.

As for outrageous amounts of consulting fees, I think both parties bear the responsibility for it because it takes two to tango. MBB, the place I worked for included, do on occasions make a mountain of a problem out of a mole hill... on the initial proposal. But we are always open to negotiate on work scope so long as it still allows us to work towards a proper recommendation.

On your comment re: consulting as an insurance business, I concur. True story: we were once retained by a major bank in a neighboring country to help assess a rather large loan request... by providing a perspective on the business that the loan was intended for. This is puzzling because a major bank should be able to review this on its own. It turns out that it is not a question of capability, but rather one of integrity. Apparently, the bank did not trust its own loan review team for fear they could be influenced (read: bribed) by stakeholders. In their mind, since MBB consultants are paid high salaries, we are less likely to engage in shady side deals.
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Old 09-08-2016, 09:57 PM
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Thank you very much you guys for very insightful discussion.

Regarding the glass ceiling for foreigners in the States, I do agree that it exists. I also like to share my perspective on this one. Since the majority of the population in the States speak English and 70% of them are Caucasians, it’s inevitable that one who can speak their language and understand their intrinsic cultural norms, it’d always will be the case that glass ceiling exists for minority professionals. But most are happy with what they’ve got here. Hispanic Americans who earn 80k will take the job even if there’s a glass ceiling. There are also White Americans who get stuck at 30k job albeit they have no glass ceiling?

One user mentioned that since the guy who doesn’t have a native accent, it’s hard to build bonds with their clients and eventually let go. I wondered if that’s the case, would there be a possibility that MBB will staff more of their consultants in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia in near future? No Singaporeans, to my personal experience, speaks Thai, Malay, Indonesian fluently while majority of the projects tend to localize in those regions.

MBB in general is recognized by presence of those high achievers in their workforce. The staffing model, in general, is European offices will staff more of their local with the US education, especially from Ivy and Top ones.
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Old 10-08-2016, 01:45 AM
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Well, I know that one MBB office in a neighboring country outside of Singapore has expanded their consulting staff 5X in the last 7-8 years, mostly on the junior levels.

I think that Singapore will always have the largest management consultant pool in the region... they are the net exporter of talents for engagements in neighboring countries. The foreign consultants are teamed with local staffs to facilitate better communications.

Top talents like to live in Singapore (vs. Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok, KL) for obvious personal and familial reasons. But whereas 10 years ago, the Singapore talent pool was perhaps as large as those in its neighbors combined, the gap is not as large these days.
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