The top 20 strategy consulting firms to work for in France

14 May 2018 12 min. read

McKinsey & Company, BCG and Bain & Company are the three top strategy consulting firms to work for in France, Europe’s third largest consulting market, in a result which is in synch with the MBB’s domination across Europe and the globe. Parisian firms Kea & Partners and Advancy are the highest native consultancies on the list, and the only two to break into the top ten.

When graduates leave their university in search of a new career, strategy and management consulting is the top destination for many – with according to one survey over a fifth of students heading into the industry. This is in line with a global trend, which is increasingly seeing the best and brightest head for consulting work post-graduation.

Once aspiring consultants enter the industry, meanwhile, for many entering the strategy consulting arena becomes the chief goal – with the firms working with top companies, public entities and governments being perceived as the ‘real deal’. Strategy consultants booked revenues of over $30 billion last year. In France, strategy consultancies generate, according to Consult'in France, total fee income of €1.4 billion, which amounts to 21% of France’s €6.5 billion management consulting industry.

Strategy firms work on the highest impact projects, shouldering with Chief Executive Officers and senior management in a bid to solve their most complex strategic, managerial, organisational, as well as digital challenges. These firms are, in French terms, perceived the industry’s ‘crème de la crème’.

The French strategy consulting industry

In France itself, this is no different, and according to a survey by conducted among 500 students studying at top universities and business schools in the country, enthusiasm among students for strategy consulting is high. More than two-thirds of students say they are interested in strategy consulting, while 40% of them say that they follow the developments of firms to stay in touch and up to date.

The survey focuses exclusively on consultancies that reap the majority of their revenues from strategic advisory services – and hence qualify as strategy consulting firms. General professional services firms, such as the Big Four, or functional specialists such as operations consultancies, HR experts or financial consulting firms have been excluded from the analysis. The survey also asked students to pinpoint which strategy consulting firms they believe are the best places to jump-start their career. The results threw up a list of the leaders in the French strategy consultancy industry in terms of student sentiment, headed by a runaway group of six global players.

Top strategy consultancies

Half of these six firms, perhaps predictably, consisted of the MBB. McKinsey & Company were followed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Bain & Company as the clear leaders. McKinsey has been active in France for over five decades, while BCG established its Paris office in 1973, today hosting a team of 400 consultants, including about 50 partners and managing directors. Bain was the last of the trio to enter the French scene, launching in 1985, with its Parisian hub now led by the Italian Domenico Azzarello, who took over at the helm at the start of 2014. All three firms have made several senior appointments in France in the first quarter, but focus strongly on graduate recruitment in the country too, boosting their popularity there among students.

Following the trio are rivals Oliver Wyman, Roland Berger and A.T. Kearney. This year’s top six was identical to that of the previous year, the only change being that Oliver Wyman leapfrogged Roland Berger. A.T. Kearney, which launched as a carve-out of McKinsey (founder Andrew Thomas Kearney was McKinsey’s second partner, and after a disagreement with James McKinsey he established A.T. Kearney), has been active in France since the 60’s. The Paris office was A.T. Kearney’s third international office – launched in 1967, three years after it first touched down in Europe with a hub in Dusseldorf, Germany, and months after it set foot in the UK with a London office.

Oliver Wyman France is led by the Lebanese-national Hanna Moukanas and is estimated to have just under 300 employees in France, including roughly 40 partners. For Roland Berger, France became a special place to do business for the firm in the summer of 2014, when the Frenchman Charles-Edouard Bouée replaced the German Burkhard Schwenker as CEO – Bouée is the first non-German to lead the consultancy since Roland Berger was founded in 1967. Today, Roland Berger France has a team of around 300 partners and consultants, making the Paris office the firm’s second most important market after home base Germany. The office is co-led by Olivier de Panafieu and Anne Bioulac, former consultants of A.T. Kearney and Oliver Wyman respectively.

The top 20 strategy consulting firms to work for in France

Newcomers to the list Monitor Deloitte – founded in 2013 after Deloitte bought Monitor Group, a consultancy co-founded by strategy guru Michael Porter – ranked seventh, ahead of the first French-origin firm on the list. Established in 2001, and based in the Malakoff district of Paris, Kea Partners offers strategic advisory services to clients looking to transform their operational performance and managemental organisation. The firm is also the founder of ‘The Transformation Alliance’, a group of 370 independent consultants across Europe.

Maintaining a rank in the top ten, OC&C Strategy Consultants saw its French arm decimated in 2017 – after its network member joined Parthenon-EY. OC&C has since committed to rebuild in the country: the firm’s CEO said back then “France is and will remain a key market for OC&C. We continue to be committed to offering independent strategy consultancy to the French market.” The British-origin firm is followed by rapidly expanding Advancy – a firm launched in 2009 by Eric de Bettignies which has since expanded to 270 management consultants, of which 70 are based in headquarters Paris.

Top 20 firms

Beyond the top ten, the French wing of L.E.K Consulting maintained its position on last year’s poll. Based in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, the firm was founded in 1983 in the UK, with the Paris office launched in 1989. Between 1992 and 2017, L.E.K Consulting Paris was led by Clare Chatfield – at the start of this year company veteran Arnaud Sergent took over the top role. Last month the firm promoted three advisors to directorial positions – further displaying opportunities for advancement that have made the firm popular among prospective employees. Based in Square Edouard VII in Paris, Simon-Kucher & Partners is a consultancy specialised in strategy, sales & marketing and commercial oriented digital transformation. The firm, which recently broke through the barrier of 1,000 consultants globally on the back of consecutive years of double-digit growth, has ascended rapidly in the French scene, having been absent from the 2016 edition of the study.

Launched in December 2006 by four co-founders, Exton Consulting today employs more than 120 consultants operating from offices in France (Paris), Italy (Milan) and Morocco (Casablanca). The firm, ranked 13th, recently expanded into a new office in Munich, as it looks to grow its international profile. Chappuis Halder & Cie follows, having climbed six rungs on the previous year. The Paris-headquartered financial services consultancy recently expanded in Europe, North America and Asia, growing to more than 180 consultants.

The largest strategy consulting firms of the globe

Eleven, a French-origin firm with offices in Paris, London and Madrid, bills itself as the first ever European strategy firm specifically founded to address the challenges of digitalisation. The fast-growing firm is expanding revenues by double-digits, with its heightened reputation reflected in the study – Eleven’s position enhancing by three places to 15th this year.

Following closely is Mars & Co. Founded in Paris in 1979, business and operational strategy firm Mars & Co has since expanded to tally seven offices across the globe, employing around 250 consultants. Launched 30 years later, Ares & Co is an independent strategy firm specialising in assisting clients from the financial services industry. Founded by partners from large strategy consulting firms, Ares & Co is now home to more than 30 consultants split between London, Luxembourg and Paris, who work exclusively with established and new to market ‎financial institutions.

Established in 1999, Vertone is a consulting firm with a team of 100 consultants specialising in strategy, marketing, sales and customer relationship management. Next on the list of France’s top strategy consulting firms to work for is Corporate Value Associates (CVA), which sees its reputation enhanced as it was absent from last year’s list. Having launched in 1987, the boutique strategy consulting firm has achieved a global reach, operating out of 17 offices in Europe, the US and the Asia-Pacific region, boasting around 45 consultants in France.

The last firm that can calls itself one of France’s top 20 strategy consultants is Estin & Co, a Paris-headquartered firm launched in 1997. The company has since expanded to London, Zurich, New York and Shanghai, having been developed by former executives and partners of Mercer Management Consulting (today Oliver Wyman), Braxton Associates (acquired by Deloitte), BCG and McKinsey.

Noteworthy is that a number of major (international) players in the strategy consulting, or broader strategy & operations landscape, did not participate in the 2018 edition of the ranking. Among these firms are four players that have featured previsouly. Strategy&, formerly Booz & Company (rebranded Strategy& as poacher PwC had to drop the name ‘Booz’ from its name following contractual agreements with US’ Booz Allen Hamilton), is the globe’s sixth largest strategy consultant by revenue; Arthur D. Little is the globe’s oldest management consultancy; and Emerton and Advention are both French-origin strategy boutiques. .

Related: Top strategy and management consulting firms in the Netherlands.