Top strategy and management consulting firms in Australia

22 July 2019 8 min. read

More than 20,000 young professionals – students and graduates – in Australia have identified the country’s best companies to work for. Analysis of the data shows that the world’s largest strategy consulting firms and the globe’s largest accounting and consulting firms are in the eyes of Australian graduates the top employers of choice.

Australia is home to around 1.3 million students, of which an estimated one fifth graduate per year. These graduates all seek to land their dream job, with analysis of survey data from over 20,000 respondents (graduates and recently graduated professionals) showing that if to would be up to them, the majority would venture into the healthcare, education and public sector industries. The field of consulting is the next in line in terms of popularity – over one tenth of Australian students relish a career in strategy consulting, management consulting or digital consulting. 

Asked why consulting is such a popular industry to kick start a career, Australian graduates provide a number of reasons that resonate closely with some of the key facets of working in consulting. Students enjoy the prospect of working on variety of projects across industries and functions, allowing them to see different problems at different organisations in different sectors. This provides for a steep learning curve, which is further boosted by the high-impact (and sometimes meaningful) projects they can work on, the large investments in training & development provided by consulting firms, and the quality of colleagues and leadership. Working in consulting also caters for a good future career outlook, with many ex-consultants working in top management positions cross Australia’s business and public landscape. 

The feedback from Australian students is not much different to that received globally. In a similar survey by Universum, a research agency, held among over 100,000 students in Europe (amalgamated from country surveys), strategy and management consulting surfaced as the top sector to work in after graduation, with challenging work, a dynamic work environment, professional learning & development and high-profile leadership all standing out as facets that hand consulting an edge to other industries. 

Big Four consulting firms

Overall, it are the booming Big Four giants of Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC that rank as Australia’s top consulting firms for graduates. Deloitte edges its rivals for both students with a business and engineering background, with EY coming in second for both groups. Among students with a background in humanities, liberal arts or education, the roles are turned around, and EY edges Deloitte, as well as KPMG and PwC. 

In Australia, Deloitte generates revenues of over $2 billion, making the second largest of the four, but is the fastest growing of the quartet. The company’s employees provide a wide range of services across audit, assurance, tax, financial advisory and consulting. The latter division is the firm’s fastest growing unit, against a backdrop of digital disruption and digital transformation which is driving stellar demand for consultants and digital experts. Deloitte markets its consulting services through three labels: Deloitte Consulting (the overarching brand), Deloitte Digital (the digital and creative unit) and Monitor Deloitte (the firm’s strategy consulting arm).

EY is the third largest Big Four player, with revenues of around $1.8 billion (FY18). Consulting services are provided by EY Advisory, which helps clients with matters including strategy, mergers & acquisitions, finance & risk, operations, supply chain, technology and human capital. The firm’s unit dedicated to strategy consulting is EY-Parthenon, which formed after EY acquired The Parthenon Group five years ago. 

PwC, the largest of the four with over $2.3 billion turnover, and KPMG, share third spot. Both firms have grown by more than 20% over the past three financial years, and both have advisory units with a strong track record. PwC serves the consulting landscape with PwC Advisory, and Strategy&, its strategy consulting subsidiary which it launched after it acquired Booz & Company for a reported $1 billion, in a move that sent a tidal wave through the strategy consulting market. As part of contractual agreements with Booz Allen Hamilton (the former parent of Booz & Company), PwC had to rebranded the unit, and opted for Strategy&. KPMG’s strategy, management and digital consulting portfolio is housed in its KPMG Advisory business unit. 

Strategy consulting firms

Hot on the heels of the Big Four are the globe’s three most well-known strategic consulting firms – the McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Company, collectively dubbed as the ‘MBB’ by analysts. While McKinsey is the largest of the trio in Australia (in terms of revenues), arch rival BCG edges its competitor in terms of graduate popularity. Among business students, BCG ranks just behind the Big Four, while among engineering students, the firm holds third spot overall, ahead of KPMG and PwC.

The recognition comes at a time when Boston Consulting Group is thriving in Australia. Last year, the company enjoyed stellar growth, lifting its revenues by one third to nearly $400 million. BCG first landed in Australia in 1990, following a merger with local consultancy Pappas, Carter, Evans and Koop, and has since grown to a headcount of roughly 450 partners, consultants and staff across offices in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Wellington. BCG is active with several brands in Australia. BCG provides its traditional strategy and management consulting services, BCG Gamma focuses on data science, and BCG Digital Ventures focuses on incubation and venturing. 

The globe’s largest strategy consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, is next in line as the top employer of choice among students aspiring a career in the top echelon of the management consulting industry. McKinsey is of roughly similar size to BCG in headcount, and has four offices in Australia, in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. McKinsey has been active in Australia for over 50 years, and more recently, the firm has branched out into new domains. McKinsey Digital is the firm’s digital arm, McKinsey Analytics provides advanced analytics services, McKinsey Implementation is its strategy execution and project management unit, and RTS is a unit that helps clients with turnarounds and restructuring.

US-headquartered Bain & Company, founded by a former BCG partner, has three offices in Australia, in Sydney, Melbourne (launched in 2000) and Perth (opened in 2011). Bain & Company work primarily with ASX200 companies throughout Australia and New Zealand, and has a particular strong track record in the private equity sector. The strategic consultancy made its debut in Australia thirty years ago, and has booked strong growth in the past years – Bain has nearly doubled in size in the past seven years.

Other top consulting firms

The list of Australia’s top consulting firms for graduates includes two other consultancies, Accenture and Grant Thornton. With around 480,000 employees in over 120 countries, Accenture is the largest IT services and consulting company in the world. The firm employs more than 4,500 people in Australia, with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth as well as people working at client sites across Australia. The firm's consulting services are clustered within the Accenture Consulting and Accenture Strategy brands, with Accenture Digital and Accenture Interactive used for digital and creative offerings.

Grant Thornton is together with BDO and RSM one of the largest mid-market accounting and consulting firms of the world, and in Australia, Grant Thornton has around 1,200 people working in offices across Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney.

According to the latest data, Australia’s management consulting industry is worth just over $5 billion. 

Students from major universities

The Australian survey was held among students from 40+ universities, including Monash University, RMIT University, University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, Curtin University, Deakin University, Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University, University of Western Sydney, Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, University of Newcastle, La Trobe University, University of South Australia, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Wollongong, Victoria University, University of Tasmania, University of Southern Queensland, Edith Cowan University, University of Adelaide and University of Western Australia.