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Part Twelve: Oliver Wyman

Max is an aspiring consultant who is looking to secure an analyst role with one of the top firms for the upcoming recruitment cycle in September 2011. His interest in management consulting was sparked by a failed McKinsey interview last year. In this series of blogs, he will be sharing his background, case preparation process, useful resources, and any breakthroughs or setbacks that he experiences.


I would like to take a quick break from my series of posts regarding case preparation, and share some information which I acquired during an Oliver Wyman (OW) information session a few weeks ago. An OW partner, who is an alumnus of my university, came to campus to talk about opportunities at OW, as well as resume/interview tips. This information session was actually quite eye-opening for me as it really increased the level of respect I have for the firm. In my unofficial mental ranking of the consulting firms, OW was seventh before this info session – but I now place them at fourth (keep in mind that I am only considering firms that have a presence in Canada). The partner started off by telling us a little bit about the firm, and the information included the following: 1) 1.4 Billion in revenue 2) ~90% repeat work 3) Revenue per Consultant is approximately $500,000 4) Two “streams” in the company: Financial Services, and General Management Consulting

One interesting thing to note was that “McKinsey” came up quite a few times during the presentation as a point of comparison for Oliver Wyman. I guess that’s what happens when a firm is traditionally regarded as the gold standard.

The point that concerns the proportion of repeat work actually surprised me a bit. When I looked into McKinsey’s stats a while ago, their percentage of repeat work was at roughly 80%. I’m not sure if this means that OW has a higher client satisfaction rating, or if McKinsey is able to get new clients more easily. The presentation also included a graph that shows a lot of growth in recent years. According to the partner, this rapid growth means that people are going to have lots of opportunities to make partner.One interesting thing to note was that “McKinsey” came up quite a few times during the presentation as a point of comparison for Oliver Wyman. I guess that’s what happens when a firm is traditionally regarded as the gold standard. I was extremely impressed with both the partner, and his presentation material. He was very personable, well-spoken, and seems to take a genuine interest in the success of the students. A point he mentioned, that I completely agree with, is that Canadian schools tend to lack the pride of its U.S. counterparts. According to him, U.S. candidates take great pride in the schools they attend, and many of them choose to attend certain schools because their parents (sometimes their grandparents as well) went to the same one. There are three major areas where the partner offered some great advice: application, fit interview, and case interview. Application (Resume/Cover letter) • Clearly explain previous work experience, and why the experience relates to the position • Don’t exaggerate • Use formal language • Display passion about work ethic • Be personable in the cover letter • Ensure that the cover letter is firm-specific • Connect what you learned in school with what you can offer at work (e.g. ability to learn, working hard with passion, breaking down problems) Fit Interview • Be who you are • Be calm • Have fun and engage the interviewer in a conversation He mentioned that the case interview is much more important than the fit interview. The justification he uses is that there is nothing he can do to make someone smarter, but he can teach people skills to individuals who may be lacking in that department. Of course, it is best to nail both types of interview – but it is not worth “faking” your attitude during the fit interview. If you do fake your personality during the fit interview it will show, and all the interviewer will think afterwards is “Wow, I wasted an hour of my time and learned nothing about who this candidate is.” Case Interview • Show the interviewer your thinking process • Evaluate the plausibility of your answer, and revise assumptions as necessary • There may not be hard numbers in the cases you receive, and you may have to use your market sizing skills often if the interviewer isn’t giving you the critical numbers required for analyzing the case Overall I was extremely impressed with the professionalism of the partner and the consultants he brought. Everyone from OW was sharp and friendly. Most importantly, he said that the parent company doesn’t play a role in Oliver Wyman’s operations. According to him, they are just another stakeholder who rakes in profits at the end of the year. The justification he provided is that the partners at OW are highly employable people, and they would walk out if the parent company interfered with their operations. This was my primary concern with Oliver Wyman before the information session, and it doesn’t seem to be a valid concern if what this partner says is valid.

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