Working in the change and transformation space there seems to be a continuous stream of candidates migrating from Management Consulting to Financial Services, more specifically Banking or visa versa. The prevalent excuse is in the pursuit of better prospects, be them financial, cultural… the list goes on.
However, in searching around the web any articles on the subject are aimed at those starting out upon their careers. With the current uncertainty in the market, a wrong decision can have far reaching implications over ones’ career, many individuals are contemplating potential moves into or out of consultancies at different stages in their professional life.
What to consider?
There are numerous points to reflect on and the combination of which will be entirely down to the individual. Nonetheless there is a theme to several of the questions I get asked and I have tried to outline them below.
- Salary – It is no secret that investment banking can pay very lucratively and historically bonuses have been far bigger than consultants. Yet with the never ending media focus this has changed and packages have taken a more conservative stance.
- Hours – The hours in investment banking (especially at the junior levels) can be very long.
Travel – Although there are trips for conferences or to carry out due diligence this is relatively minimal.
- Type of Work – Some of the work can be relatively mundane at points particularly when starting out. Yet, at the same time some of the deals can be very high visibility being publicised widely. As with much of the comparison the type of work is heavily reliant on where you work within banking.
- Career Progression – There is certainly room for career progression however can often be criticised for being on a time served basis. The reduced variety compared to consultants can perhaps reduce the opportunities for progression.
- Colleagues – Common stereotype of bankers are ‘lifers’ who become entrenched in one role. You can expect more tense relationships with your bosses, you’ll probably be yelled at from time to time for mistakes, and co-workers are much less willing to help each other out (they’ve got enough on their plates, and your success means there’s more competition for the biggest bonuses). In addition, you’ll have limited exposure across the company to other groups, departments, etc – less ability to network across the company.
- Salary – Consultants can earn attractive salaries especially as careers progress.
- Hours – Consultants also work long hours however often more predictable than investment banking. However, it’s all project work, so the hours can be long, depending on the stage of the assignment. You will often find that you can also have internal projects to work on for your consultancy as well.
- Travel – This is often a criticism of consultancy as there is a large proportion of travel depending on where the next client is located. You will certainly need to get used to living out of a hotel and questioning the associated work life balance.
- Type of Work – There is a wide variety of assignments – e.g strategic, advisory, turnaround, implementation, review. Similarly variety can also be found in the clients you work with, yet beware you will not always have the chance to choose.
Career Progression – This is key to any well established consulting business. Their commodity is the people they hire and ultimately what they sell. The best Consultancies will generally support/ sponsor individuals to gain professional qualifications etc.
- Colleagues – Consulting firms have a very collegial atmosphere, where the focus is on getting the work done but also ensuring your professional success. This attitude permeates all interactions. Managers rarely yell, coworkers try to help each other out whenever possible, and companies are organized to provide consultants support with training, expertise, etc.
Is it worth it in the end?
There is no right or wrong however; looking at careers in change and transformation the consultancy route can give you a solid grounding in training and breadth of experience helping you break into banking at a higher level. Having mentioned this there is much to be said for cutting your teeth in a bank with lucrative salaries and ability to develop a deep understanding of your market space opening up further career opportunities! I would be interested to hear your thoughts, have you given this much thought?