Management consultants provide advice to companies on areas such as strategic direction, cost-cutting and streamlining operations.
The role of an analyst, which is the beginning of a management consultant's career, involves research and assisting senior consultants in preparatory work, which contributes to their recommendations for clients, according to Levina Poon, director for banking and financial services at Hudson Hong Kong.
Research is a major part of an analyst's job. Analysts scour online databases for relevant trade journals, market reports and media articles. They interview executives, make observations through site visits, and do preliminary analytical work which goes into a consultant's research report.
Thomas Tang, president of the Institute of Management Consultants Hong Kong, says one of the job's challenges is having to critically analyse an over-abundance of information.
"In the past, whatever information we got was quite valuable. But now, there is just so much information out there. You need to sift through it and [choose] things that are relevant," Tang says.
He says that analysts at the institute who want to become consultants must have at least three years' experience. Consultants generally become senior and then principal consultants.
The next step up is to become a technical director, who is recognised as an expert in a particular field, and then a director, an expert in multiple subjects. It can take about four years to advance from a senior consultant's position to that of a director. The top position in this industry is that of a partner, with equity stakes in a consultancy business, which is by invitation only from the company's other partners.
Poon says consultants can also choose to work in private equity firms or investment banks, or take on business development roles within companies.
She says analysts who join after completing an undergraduate degree can earn as much as US$60,000 a year, while salaries can increase up to US$120,000 for graduate degree holders. These figures exclude bonuses.
Certification is a three-part process
The certified management consultant qualification, developed by the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes, recognises consultants who have met world-class standards in terms of competence, ethics and independence.
The qualification is administered by the Institute of Management Consultants Hong Kong.
Certification involves three parts - a multiple choice test on the consulting code of ethics and basic knowledge; a consulting case study; and a panel review.
As part of the process, candidates will be tested on a range of competencies and knowledge, from basic analysis and problem-solving methodologies, to interpersonal skills, project management, case presentation, and being culturally aware and sensitive.
Quick learners needed
Analysts need to be quick learners because they are expected to become knowledgeable on the subjects they are commissioned to research in a short period of time.
They need to be mature and know not only what to say to clients, but how to say it.
A consultant's clients will likely take actions based on the advice they are provided, so they need to be able to feel that the advice adds value.