McKinsey & Company

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McKinsey & Company
Type Incorporated partnership
Industry Management consulting
Founded 1926
Founder(s) James O. McKinsey
Marvin Bower
Headquarters 55 East 52nd Street
New York City, U.S.
Key people Dominic Barton (MD)
Services Management consulting services
Revenue $ 7 billion (2010 est.)[1]
AUM $5 billion (MIO Partners)
Employees 17,000 (9,000 consultants)

McKinsey & Company, Inc. is an American global management consulting firm that focuses on solving issues of concern to senior management. The firm serves as an adviser to businesses, governments, and institutions around the world. Between 2002 and 2014, McKinsey has been ranked in the number one position of the "The Best Consulting Firms: Prestige" list of the career intelligence website and was cited as the "most prestigious consulting firm of all" in a 2011 New York Times article.[2][3][4][5] As of September 2013, over 100 McKinsey offices exist in 60 countries.[6]


Early history[edit]

McKinsey & Company was founded in 1926 in Chicago under the name James O. McKinsey & Company by James McKinsey,[7] a professor of accounting at the University of Chicago.[8][9]:3 The firm called itself a team of "management engineers" and started out giving consulting on using accounting principles to make management decisions.[10][11][12]:3 Mr. McKinsey's first hires were partners Tom Kearney in 1929[13] and Marvin Bower in 1933.[14]:133 The firm's second office was opened in New York City in 1932.[10]

In 1935 Mr. McKinsey left the firm temporarily to serve as the Chairman and CEO of client Marshall Field's as they implemented the restructuring plan created by James O. McKinsey & Company.[14]:133 McKinsey was merged with accounting firm Scovell, Wellington & Company that same year, creating McKinsey, Wellington & Co.[15]:7 A Wellington project that accounted for 55 percent of McKinsey, Wellington & Company's billings was about to expire[15] and Tom Kearney and Marvin Bower had disagreements about how to run the firm.[16] Additionally, in 1937 James O. McKinsey passed away after catching pneumonia.[12][17] This led to the division of McKinsey, Wellington & Company in 1939.[17] The accounting practice returned to Scovell, Wellington & Company, while the management engineering practice was split into McKinsey & Company and McKinsey, Kearney & Company.[15] Guy Crockett became the Managing Partner of the new McKinsey & Company, while Marvin Bower is credited with founding the firm's principles and strategy as his deputy.[15] The New York office purchased exclusive rights to the McKinsey name in 1946.[18]:25


McKinsey & Company grew quickly in the 1940s and 50s, especially in Europe.[11][16] It had 88 staff in 1951[19] and more than 200 by the 1960s,[18] including 37 in London by 1966.[19] It established an office in Australia in the early 1960s.[20] By the end of the decade, more than one-third of the firm's revenues were from six European offices.[18] Guy Grockett stepped down as managing director in 1950, and Marvin Bower was elected in his place.[15] McKinsey's profit-sharing, executive and planning committees were formed in 1951.[15] The organization's client base expanded especially among governments, defense contractors, bluechip companies and military organizations in the post-World War II era.[21] After seven years of deliberation, McKinsey became a private corporation with shares exclusive to McKinsey employees in 1956. A plan for international expansion was developed and an office in London was established in 1959.[15]

After Bower stepped down in 1967, the firm's revenues declined. New competitors like the Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company stiffened competition for McKinsey by marketing specific branded products, such as the Growth-Share Matrix, and by selling their industry expertise.[11][22][20] In 1971 McKinsey created the Commission on Firm Aims and Goals, which found that McKinsey had become too focused on geographic expansion and lacked adequate industry knowledge. The commission advised that McKinsey slow its growth and develop industry specialties.[11][16]:14 In 1976, Ron Daniel was elected managing director, serving until 1988.[23] Daniel and Fred Gluck helped shift the firm away from its generalist approach by developing 15 specialized working groups within McKinsey called Centers of Competence and by developing practice areas called Strategy, Operations and Organization. Daniel also began McKinsey's knowledge management efforts in 1987. By the end of his tenure in 1988 the firm was growing again and had opened new offices in Rome, Helsinki, Sao Paulo and Minneapolis.[11][16]

Fred Gluck served as McKinsey’s managing director from 1988 to 1994.[24] The firm's revenues doubled during his tenure.[22] He organized McKinsey into 72 sectors, centers, working groups, and projects.[16] Over two decades McKinsey & Company grew eightfold.[25] In 1989 the firm attempted to make a talent acquisition in IT services through a $10 million purchase of the Information Consulting Group (ICG),[26] but a culture clash caused 151 out of the 254 ICG staff members to leave by 1993.[24]

Recent history[edit]

The burst of the "dot com bubble" led to a reduction in utilization rates of McKinsey's consultants from 64 to 52 percent; although, McKinsey avoided dismissing any personnel following the decline.[27] In 1994 Rajat Gupta became the first non-American-born partner to be elected as the firm’s managing director.[28] By the end of his tenure, McKinsey had grown from 2,900 to 7,000 consultants.[27][29] In the 1990s, McKinsey set up “accelerators,” where the firm accepted stock-based reimbursement to help internet startups.[30][27] In 2001, McKinsey launched several practices that focused on the public and social sector. It took on many public sector or non profit clients on a pro bono basis. [21] By 2002 McKinsey had invested a $35.8 million budget on knowledge management, up from $8.3 million in 1999.[21]:1

In 2003 Ian Davis, the head of the London, U.K. office, was elected to the position of managing director.[31] Davis promised a return to the company’s core values, after a period in which the firm had expanded rapidly, a development that, according to some people related to McKinsey, was a departure from the company's heritage.[32] Also in 2003, the firm established a headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region in Shanghai, China. By 2004, more than 60 percent of McKinsey's revenues were generated outside the U.S.[21]

By 2009, the firm consisted of 400 directors (senior partners), up from 151 in 1993,[22][33] and Dominic Barton was elected as Managing Director, a role he was re-elected for in 2012.[33] Former Google executive Henrique De Castro was a consultant for the firm prior to his appointment as chief operating officer at Yahoo! in November 2012, a role that he was dismissed from in January 2014.[34]



McKinsey & Company was originally organized as a partnership[35] before being legally restructured as a private corporation with shares owned by its Partners in 1956.[15][36] It mimics the structure of a partnership and employees are called "partners".[35][37] The company has a flat hierarchy and each member is assigned a mentor.[38] Since the 1960s, McKinsey's Managing Director has been elected by a vote of senior directors to serve up to three, three-year terms[39] or until they reach the mandatory retirement age of 60.[22] The firm is also managed by a series of committees that each have their own area of responsibility.[40]

McKinsey has a de-centralized structure, whereby different offices operate similarly, but independently. Each office is expected to put the overall organization's best interest before the office's, which McKinsey refers to as the "one firm" principle. Consultants and engagements are often shared across offices.[39][10] Revenues from all offices are pooled and an individual office's revenue does not effect it financially.[41] The company's budgeting is centralized, but individual consultants are given a large degree of autonomy.[42]

McKinsey consultants are either industry experts, functional experts, or a generalist that covers a geographic region.[43] The firm has 23 Industry Practices focused on individual industries, 9 Functional Practices that work in areas like finance, marketing or risk, and 5 Capabilities and Solutions areas related to technology consulting.[39][44] It started a Social Sector Office (SSO) in 2008. The SSO is divided into three practices: Global Public Health, Economic Development and Opportunity Creation (EDHOC) and Philanthropy. McKinsey also does much of its pro-bono work through the SSO. A Business Technology Office (BTO), founded in 1997, provides consulting on technology strategy.[39]


McKinsey serves as an adviser to many businesses, governments, and institutions. Recent McKinsey clients include AT&T, BBC, NBA, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Siemens, Home Depot, Bank of England, Oxford University, Mitsubishi, Royal Dutch Shell, City of Chicago, Government of the United Kingdom, Government of Mexico, and Government of Taiwan, according to a latest publication by Wetfeet on the company.[45]


Bower broke with then-common industry practice by hiring recent graduates from the best business schools rather than among experienced managers.[46] Today the firm is among the top recruiters of graduates of the top-ranked business programs in the US and overseas, in addition to hiring a significant number of people with other advanced degrees in science, medicine, engineering and law. The firm is notable for the number of Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars and Truman Scholars it is able to attract.[47][48] McKinsey also hires undergraduates into business analyst positions.

McKinsey is the top employer for recent graduates from MIT,[49] Harvard Business School,[50] Oxford University's Saïd Business School,[51][52] Stanford Graduate School of Business,[53] Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania,[54] The London School of Economics,[55] and INSEAD.[56][57] McKinsey's recruiting process is notoriously demanding, typically taking candidates through problem solving tests followed by multiple rounds of case- and experience- based interviews. In August 2013, career review website Glassdoor ranked McKinsey number 1 in its "Top 25 Most Difficult Companies To Interview (2013)" list.[58]

The firm is organizationally divided into partners and non-partners. It is generally not possible to join the firm as a partner; instead, partners are promoted internally from the existing ranks of principals and associates. According to the Firm's career website, "successful consultants who join McKinsey early in their career can expect election to principal (equivalent to partner) within five to seven years. ... There is no limit to the size of our partnership."[59] Successful partners are sometimes elected director (senior partner) after at least seven years as partner, though there are fast-rising exceptions: Daniel, Gupta, and Kumar became directors approximately 10 years after joining the firm as associates.

Officially, "director" is the highest position (other than the rotating managing director) at McKinsey, though top directors are distinguished by reputation and influence. The firm's mandatory retirement age is 60, after which directors become "director emeritus."[60]

As of September 2013, the firm receives 225,000 employment applications annually and about one percent—or 2,200—of these are successful. McKinsey has explained that it specifically targets the “insecure overachiever” when it recruits new talent. McDonald explained following the publication of his book on the company:

There are very few stars at McKinsey—those who need a personal limelight generally end up leaving. What remains is a group of highly talented people who choose to give up the possibility of mainstream renown that a CEO enjoys in exchange for the benefits that come from having McKinsey on their business card.[6]


As a private firm, McKinsey is not required to disclose compensation figures. Unlike the financial services sector, consultants are not paid proportional to the business they bring in; top senior partners and the managing director have similar compensation. This was estimated to be $2–4 million in 1994 dollars ($3–5 million in 2009 dollars).[61] However, there are indications these numbers have increased ~40% in the subsequent 20 years.[62] For example, according to public tax records, the senior partner leading McKinsey's Norwegian office in 2011 earned 67 million NOK ($11.5 million USD).[63] In 2003 this figure was 33 million NOK ($5.5 million USD) after-tax,[64] implying pre-tax income of at least 51 million NOK ($8.5 million USD) at a Norwegian tax rate of at least 35%.

Other estimates similarly place the managing director's compensation between $5 and 10 million.[65] McKinsey paid former managing director Rajat Gupta a retirement income of $6 million in the first year of retirement and $2.5 million a year for at least the next three years.[66]

Junior directors were said to earn at least $1 million a year in 1994 dollars ($2 million in 2009 dollars).[61] There were over 400 directors at the Firm in 2009, up from 150 in 1994.[67][68]

A 1993 Fortune profile says, "The Firm places itself above discussing money as a motivation, yet senior partners often earn as much, or more, than the CEOs they advise",[68] though over the last 15 years CEO compensation has increased disproportionately.[69]


McKinsey is one of the market-leading "Big Three" in management consulting services to the Fortune 500 set, along with The Boston Consulting Group and Bain & Company, and consistently recruits top talent globally from elite colleges, professional schools, and graduate schools.[70] Other leading competitors include A.T. Kearney, Oliver Wyman, and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.[citation needed] These firms compete directly across all major sectors (financial services, operations, and IT).


McKinsey publishes several journals, most notably McKinsey Quarterly.[71] It also publishes McKinsey on Business Technology, McKinsey on Payments, McKinsey on Corporate and Investment Banking, and McKinsey on Finance. Several business books have been authored by McKinsey consultants, including Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies, The Alchemy of Growth, Creative Destruction, and The War for Talent. Former consultant Tom Peters co-authored, with Bob Waterman, the well-known book In Search of Excellence based on a project initiated by Ron Daniel in 1977.

Knowledge management system[edit]

McKinsey invests significantly in its knowledge management system to support field consultants. The system includes generalist researchers, industry- and function-specific experts and librarians, and access to journals and databases. McKinsey maintains an organisation called the McKinsey Knowledge Centre (McKC) that provide rapid access to specialized expertise and business information.[72] In addition, consultant-authored internal "practice development" documents capture generalizable insights from client engagements. There are also methods to access individual consultants with expertise from previous client studies or previous employment, for background assistance (competitive information is not shared).

This system was created and chaired by former senior partner Anil Kumar as an early example of knowledge process outsourcing.[73]

Asset management[edit]

McKinsey maintains a family of hedge funds and private equity firms collectively known as the McKinsey Investment Office (MIO Partners) for its own exclusive use. MIO is a wholly owned subsidiary of McKinsey and Company and reports to its finance and investments committee, which is chaired by a top senior partner (formerly William Meehan).[74][75]

These funds have had over $5 billion in assets under management (AUM).[74]

From the firm's website:

This firm manages a wide array of investment vehicles for the Firm’s Partners and pension plans, with significant expertise in alternative strategies including hedge funds and private equity. A principle objective of the Investment Counseling Function is to help our investing partners create long term wealth by constructing appropriate investment portfolios and avoiding expensive and/or inefficient products. At the same time, the products and services offered must save Partners time relative to those which are available externally. This firm’s role is to provide investment education, counseling and select products to Partners.[76][77]

MIO is "responsible for pension and discretionary partner investments, with a particular focus on alternative investments."[78]

Notable alumni[edit]

McKinsey has produced more CEOs than any other company and is referred to by Fortune magazine as "the best CEO launch pad".[79] More than 70 past and present CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are former McKinsey employees. Among McKinsey’s most notable alumni are:


Failures of McKinsey—according to Adam Sternbergh writing in Bloomberg Businessweek[80]—include its massive reorganization of General Motors in the early 1980[81] "that's widely judged as disastrous," its close relationship with Enron,[82] and its vigorous support for the Time Warner merger with AOL.[80]

According to firm policies, firm members may not discuss specific client situations. The firm also maintains a deliberate and low-profile external image. Maintaining client confidentiality protects client interests; this policy is maintained even among former employees.[83]

Despite such a policy of confidentiality, there has been criticism of incidents that have been made public. These include:

  • In February 2011, McKinsey surveyed 1,300 US private-sector employers on their expected response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).[84][85] 30 percent of respondents said they anticipated they would probably or definitely stop offering employer sponsored health coverage after the ACA went into effect in 2014.[86][87] These results, published in June 2011 in the McKinsey e-Quarterly,[84] became "a useful tool for critics of the ACA and a deep annoyance for defenders of the law" according to an article in TIME Magazine.[88] Supporters of healthcare reform argued the survey far surpassed estimates by the Congressional Budget Office and insisted that McKinsey disclose the survey's methodology.[89][90][91][92] Two weeks after publishing the survey results,[88] McKinsey released the contents of the survey including the questionnaire and 206-pages of survey data.[93] In its accompanying statement,[94] McKinsey said the survey should not be compared with other estimates that use different methodologies[89][95] and that it was intended to capture the attitude of employers at a certain point in time rather than make a prediction.[96][97] A subsequent article in TIME Magazine called McKinsey’s disclaimer that the survey was not predictive "rather absurd," but said the survey methodology was sound.[88] Some supporters of the Affordable Care Act criticized the survey's methodology, arguing it used slanted questions, cherry-picked information and had uninformed recipients.[89][98]
  • In 2010 Rainforest Foundation UK released a report claiming recommendations McKinsey had given to developing countries on how to reduce deforestation were of poor quality. The NGO argued the company’s work has serious methodological flaws and as a result systematically underestimates the destructive impacts of industrial agriculture while exaggerating those of subsistence farming.[99] Adding to this, a Greenpeace study claimed McKinsey’s advice failed to address some of the main drivers of deforestation such as logging and mining, and that the company’s proposals would actually reward those industries. Greenpeace argued that if McKinsey’s recommendations were followed, large-scale monoculture plantations would expand into ecologically important areas.[100] Discussing McKinsey’s decision not to publish the data and assumptions underlying their recommendations, senior personnel at the World Bank criticized the company’s lack of transparency, noting ‘that the blackbox is a problem for everybody’.[101] Potential conflicts of interests could arise from the fact that if McKinsey’s policy recommendations were implemented, they would heavily benefit industries like logging, mining and paper with whom McKinsey maintains close business relations.[102] McKinsey’s refusal to disclose its business clients has added to those concerns.[citation needed] The firm’s work was subsequently criticized by think tanks and in academic reviews.[citation needed] Researchers from the University College London called attention to the fact that by not considering highly relevant implementation barriers such as forest governance and the costs of enforcement and the installation of sufficient institutional frameworks, McKinsey promotes an overly simplistic view of environmental policy-making.[103] A study by the Stockholm Environment Institute which was granted access to McKinsey’s data set found considerable discrepancies between the company’s estimates of the costs for reducing deforestation rates and those assumed by most renowned scientific models.[104] While the quality of the company’s advice has become a widely discussed question at the World Bank and in United Nations meetings on climate change, McKinsey is reported to continue its work in rainforest nations such as Papua New Guinea (PNG), where the company has ‘refused to comply with PNG laws and register with the Investment Promotion Authority and Internal Revenue Commission’.,[105][106][107]
  • Enron was headed by McKinsey alumni and was one of the firm's biggest clients before its collapse.[108] In particular, McKinsey's "deep-seated belief that having better talent at all levels is how you outperform your competitors", a HR program implemented at Enron with McKinsey's knowledge, resulted, in the opinion of one author, a workplace culture of prima donnas that "took more credit for success than was legitimate, that did not acknowledge responsibility for its failures, that shrewdly sold the rest of us on its genius, and that substituted self-nomination for disciplined management."[109] Jeff Skilling, sentenced to 24 years in federal prison as the CEO of Enron, was formerly a partner at McKinsey and "loyal alum."
  • Another notably troubled company associated with McKinsey is Swissair, which entered bankruptcy twelve years after McKinsey recommended the Hunter Strategy.[110]
  • Several civil suits have been filed against home insurance and vehicle insurance companies after the insurers were advised by McKinsey, and allegedly paid the insured parties significantly less than the actual value of the damage.[112] McKinsey was cited in a February 2007 CNN article with developing controversial car insurance practices used by State Farm and Allstate in the mid-1990s to avoid paying claims involving soft tissue injury.[113]
  • General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt in defending GE Capital's poor performance, maintained that no one had foreseen the crisis. He maintained that he had sought external opinions from McKinsey in 2007 before the global financial crisis which suggested that that "money from nations with a trade surplus, like China, and sovereign wealth funds, among other investors, would provide enough liquidity in the financial system to fuel lending and leverage for the foreseeable future."[114]
  • Concerns from teachers and parents regarding their consultation for public school districts. Recently, McKinsey worked for the Minneapolis Public Schools, where the firm recommended that the district cut "high costs" such as teacher health care, and recommended converting the 25 percent of schools that scored the lowest on standardized tests to privatized charter-school status. Teachers in Seattle passed a resolution of non-compliance with McKinsey's study of the Seattle Public Schools in protest.[115]

Among other books and articles, The Witch Doctors (1996), written by The Economist editor-in-chief John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, presents a series of blunders and disasters alleged to have been McKinsey's consultants' fault. Similarly, Dangerous Company: The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses They Save and Ruin (1997), by James O'Shea and Charles Madigan, critically examines McKinsey's work within the context of the consulting industry and Vijay Prashad argues that McKinsey has worked to promote private interests against the public good.[116] The popular 2013 book The Firm discusses some of the nonsense forced on the BBC by McKinsey's London office. "They had the employees cutting out paper frogs and pretending to sell them to each other." Meanwhile, the cost of running the BBC skyrocketed as the size of the staff plummeted.[117]

Galleon insider trading scandal[edit]

FBI wiretap from July 28, 2008 of McKinsey senior partner emeritus Rajat Gupta speaking to Galleon Group founder Raj Rajaratnam about Goldman Sachs, senior partner Anil Kumar, Galleon International and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts

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McKinsey senior executives Rajat Gupta and Anil Kumar were among others convicted in an ongoing government investigation into insider trading for sharing inside information with Galleon Group hedge fund owner Raj Rajaratnam. Gupta and Kumar were close friends of each other and of Rajaratnam, as well as the co-founders of the Indian School of Business and (with Rajaratnam) of New Silk Route.[118][119] Though McKinsey was not accused of any wrongdoing, the convictions were embarrassing for the firm, for which integrity and client confidentiality are a major premise of its business.[120][121][122] Following the initial allegations McKinsey no longer maintains a relationship with either senior partner,[123][124] though the manner in which it severed ties attracted controversy.[125]

Senior partner Anil Kumar, described as Gupta's protégé,[126] left the firm after the allegations in 2009 and pleaded guilty in January 2010.[127][128] While he and other partners had been pitching McKinsey's consulting services to the Galleon Group, Kumar and Rajaratnam reached a private consulting agreement violating McKinsey's policies on confidentiality.[129] He testified in criminal trials against both Gupta and Rajaratnam.

During Raj Rajaratnam's trial, a wiretap recording showed Rajaratnam and his brother had also contacted McKinsey junior partner and Kumar protégé David Palecek, saying he was "a little dirty."[29][130] Palecek's widow claimed he had been approached but refused to be a part of the incident.[29]

Former managing director (CEO) Rajat Gupta was convicted in June 2012 of four counts of conspiracy and securities fraud, and acquitted on two counts, resulting from his board memberships at Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble while a senior partner emeritus of McKinsey.[131] In October 2011, he was arrested by the FBI on criminal charges of sharing insider information from these confidential board meetings with Rajaratnam.[132][133] Among other crimes, Gupta was convicted of passing information to Rajaratnam within 4 minutes of the completion of a special Goldman Sachs board meeting to approve a capital injection by Warren Buffett during the height of the financial crisis in 2008. He stood to profit as the chairman of Galleon International and as the chairman of New Silk Route.[134] At least twice, Gupta used a McKinsey phone to call Rajaratnam and retained other perks — an office, assistant, and $6 million retirement salary that year[66] — as a senior partner emeritus.[135]

After the scandal McKinsey performed an independent review of its policies and procedures, including investigating other partners' ties to Gupta.[136][137] There is no evidence of any damage to McKinsey's brand, though some controversy has been leveled at the firm for having former leading senior partners (Gupta and Kumar) as well as a junior partner (Palecek) all implicated with the Galleon Group and insider trading.[138] The firm's revenues grew 10% during the same period, though its long term impact remains unknown.[130][132]


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