McKinsey, widely considered the most prestigious management consulting firm in the world, is also the largest of what are often referred to as the “MBB (McKinsey, Bain and BCG) firms.”
McKinsey was founded in 1926 by James McKinsey, who left his position as an accounting professor at the University of Chicago to put accounting principles to work in the field of management. In 1933, McKinsey hired Marvin Bower, a JD/MBA from Harvard, who helped with the Chicago-based firm’s expansion to New York City. When McKinsey died prematurely of pneumonia, Bower took the helm and led the firm for the next two decades.
Harvard Business School (HBS) calls Bower “the father of modern management consulting” and credits him with the expanding the firm internationally, increasing its billing exponentially and developing its “up or out” recruiting policy. Under this policy, which has since become commonplace in the management consulting industry, consultants are promoted at regular intervals or asked to leave. According to HBS, Bower also pioneered the practice of hiring business school graduates rather than experienced managers from other organizations.
Of the firm’s approximately 17,000 employees, more than 10,000 are consultants. Non-consulting roles include technologists, data experts and researchers, as well as internal service professionals who provide HR, IT, legal and finance support to client-facing teams.
McKinsey has no official headquarters—instead, it has 110 offices across 61 countries around the globe.
The company prides itself on longstanding client relationships built on trust, claiming that 70 percent of its work is for clients it has served for 10 years or more. Those clients include a diverse mix of organizations in the private, public and social sectors. Approximately 40 percent of clients are in Europe, 35 percent in the Americas, 15 percent in Asia Pacific and 10 percent in the Middle East and Africa.
McKinsey is also known for its publications and research. Books published by McKinsey and its consultants include In Search of Excellence, War on Talent and Creative Destruction, among many others. The McKinsey Quarterly was established in 1964 and is an outlet for research conducted at the firm. Many McKinsey consultants also are regular contributors to the Harvard Business Review. And in 1990, the firm established an in-house think tank, the McKinsey Global Institute, to conduct research on major global challenges and trends.
Like Harvard for MBAs, McKinsey’s brand is top notch, which has contributed to the coining of words and phrases such as “McKinseyites” and “the McKinsey Way.” The firm also touts the fact that it invests more than $500 million annually in capability building and knowledge development, which it notes is “more than the research budgets of Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, and Wharton combined.”
McKinsey is the market leader in terms of size, breadth and reach. Its expansive alumni network is also a powerful resource for its members, much as the alumni network of a top business school is.