CAs struggle to find opportunities at Global Management Consulting Firms. Focus on communication, presentation, and collaboration skills.
After becoming a CA, Manas learned that management consulting excited him the most. How he went from a strategy and operations role at KPMG to making it to Kearney, global management consulting firm.
- Hi, I am Manas Kulkarni, a Chartered Accountant (CA), who found his calling in the world of management consulting.
- The transition for a CA from core financial work to consulting may not be so easy, but it’s not impossible.
- Having communication, and presentation skills helped me navigate my role at a global management consulting firm.
- My journey from choosing a strategy role at two of the Big 4s, to eventually making it to Kearney.
Management Consulting seemed ideal for my analytical mind
If you look at my family background then I would definitely look like an outlier. Both my parents are doctors, so naturally, I was to get into the medical science field.
However, I was more into math, thus it seemed like a natural choice for me to pursue commerce and eventually Chartered Accountancy.
When you do your articleship from a midsize firm as I did, you get to dip your toes in almost every field possible, and not just auditing or taxation.
We were developing Standard operating procedures (SOPs) for a couple of our clients. It was about process analysis, understanding operations, process documentation, and most importantly talking to clients extensively.
That was one of the things that I enjoyed more, amidst all the other tasks, as it required me to use my analytical mindset more.
I wanted a job role similar to this and that is when I got introduced to the term “management consulting”.
You should know that, while more Chartered Accountants are going that route nowadays, it was certainly not the case, a few years ago.
Despite it being a non-traditional path for a CA, I said, “Let's see how it goes.”
Dreaming to join a management consulting firm
In 2014, I qualified as a Chartered Accountant and started looking for an opportunity as a management consultant.
When I was starting out my job hunt only Boston Consulting Group (BCG) did CA-specific recruitment for consulting. BCG is one of the Big Three Global management consulting firms by revenue.
I had heard that as a management consultant at BCG or a similar boutique consulting role, you would be involved in a lot of strategic thinking.
In a lot of projects, you can get into the financial aspect or analysis as well.
That excited me even more.
I applied to BCG along with a role in the Performance Improvement team at EY and Strategy & Operations team role at KPMG.
After a few months of recruiting processes, I got an offer from KPMG India’s Strategy & Operations team focusing on the financial services industry.
It wasn’t typical for such teams to hire CAs for a consulting role, as Partners/Practice leaders were typically MBAs.
But when they saw my work experience in the Financial Services and process analysis space, along with my eagerness to make it a career choice, they decided to give me a chance.
As an associate consultant at KPMG, my key focus was the operations transformation space within the financial services sector. I continued down that path for 3+ years, including at another Big 4 firm, Deloitte.
Is an MBA required for the management consulting role?
For a long time, I was also planning to study abroad and get some global exposure.
As amazingly as my work was going, I started to realize that an MBA qualification was one of the prerequisites for global management consulting firms as one's career progressed.
I started scouting around for the best colleges for an MBA and started talking to people who had done their MBAs before me. It was evident that I was going in the right direction.
In 2018, I went to the US to do my MBA at the University of Michigan.
The thing that I most admired about their MBA program is that it was not as academically weighted as our Indian MBA programs.
It focused more on teaching us real-life leadership skills, learning from one another in the classroom, and making us adept in our preferred industry or vertical.
I must say, it increased my confidence drastically and improved my soft skills.
Like most B-Schools, they held a robust campus recruitment program and I luckily landed a job at Kearney (Previously A.T. Kearney) in their Chicago office.
Kearney is a global management consulting firm with offices in more than 40 countries worldwide.
I was excited to work in their global headquarters in Chicago, across a broad range of industries and functional areas.
Life as a management consultant at Kearney
The projects were a lot different than what I was doing in India. The basic talent requirements for a consulting role here; are communication skills (being in front of the client), driving discussions, and problem-solving. Let me elaborate further.
Driving problem solving
One of the biggest responsibilities I have as a management consultant at Kearney is driving problem-solving.
When a client arrives with a problem I have to first figure out, what I want to do with it, and what analysis needs to be done. Most of the problems that I solve regularly are CXO-level which are complex and require strategic thinking.
So obviously none of the answers are as simple as, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I have to weigh the pros and cons to figure out whether the solution to the problem will work or not.
When I get insights after brainstorming, the next step is to communicate those to clients. You have to talk to your team members, brainstorm, and come up with a solution. You have to onboard stakeholders and clients. Strategic collaboration and communication are very important skills. To do that, what has helped me is my communication skills.
(In my school and college days, I participated a lot in stage presentations, and public speaking. I think that combined with my CA course piped more confidence to me.)
Presentation: The next skill is presentation. Your bread and butter are creating stories using data and making recommendations to the client with PowerPoint.
As a consultant, you will often be required to analyze financial statements to enhance revenue and facilitate cost reduction.
As CAs we have learned the art of critical thinking through audit and tax work. During my stint at KPMG and Deloitte, I noticed how important it is to have an analytical mindset.
When I say analytics, it could be looking at a massive database of transactions, and financial impacts, or looking at numbers and figuring out what can be done that would be beneficial for the client.
Developing financial models, and predicting financial impacts, are some transferable skill sets that a CA has. This I think has been the most helpful for my role at Kearney.
How a CA get into a global management consulting firm
I think most global management consulting firms look for MBAs for roles greater than associate level.
For a business analyst role, they mostly hire from undergrad schools, whether it's from a variety of backgrounds such as finance or business.
They do recruit people from possibly every background.
The transition for a CA from core financial work to consulting may not be so easy, but it’s not that difficult either.
During our CA course, we tend to focus on building our technical skills. This is why CAs understand finance and analytics way better than most candidates with an MBA degree.
However, as I said before, having communication, presentation, and team collaboration skills in place, is a must for this role. This at times, is missing from a lot of chartered accountants.
All you need is a little bit of change in mindset…and you’ve got the upper hand.
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