After debates around nepotism have erupted in several top consulting firms, Boston Consulting Group has become the latest industry member to face criticism for alleged favorable treatment of relatives. Employees from the business have reportedly taken umbrage to a London-based work expertise program which flew in children of the firm’s high-ranking professionals from around the world.
As the class divide widens across the UK, social mobility is becoming a hot-button issue in the corporate world. Even as the UK continues to generate historically high numbers of higher education graduates, many continue to find that getting by in business depends less on what you know, and more on who you know. Or, more specifically, who your parents were.
Prior to the pandemic, a study by the Debrett’s Foundation found seven in every 10 young people aged 16-25 had to use family connections to get their first job – something which meant depending on the status of their family, certain lines of work became utterly unobtainable. This situation was reinforced by the Covid-19 crisis – with 57% of recruiters falling back on personal networks and word-of-mouth recommendations, and 28% stating they were more likely to hire someone they already knew because they saw them as a safer bet in uncertain times. As a recession looms on the horizon of the UK economy, such behavior looks set to continue.
In response to this, in recent years the consulting industry has made efforts to open itself up to social mobility, and bring on board more staff from different backgrounds. While many firms have been praised for this policy, and the impact it has on Britain’s economy, there have been a growing number of questions asked as to how seriously firms are taking their promises. Boston Consulting Group has found itself caught in a sticky situation to that end, after reports initially published by the Financial Times alleged that its London staff were complaining of alleged “nepotism” exhibited by the firm’s upper-echelons.
The incident which seems to have raised ire from BCG staff occurred when young family members of dozens of the firm’s ‘high companions’ jetted in from around the world, to experience a week-long work expertise program. The program allegedly consisted of several days of workshops, during which some 30 children and relations of managers and partners received training and treatment that employees suggested other new joiners would never get a chance at.
One present BCG worker informed the Financial Times, “They received office tours, dinners and stuff that wouldn’t normally be given to [job] candidates. They basically made it a bit of a holiday for the partners’ kids who came over,”
The ‘kids’ in question were collaborating in BCG’s “Bruce Henderson Summer Programme”, named after the agency’s founder. One attendee – the daughter of a partner primarily based in France – reportedly stated on LinkedIn that the retreat had helped her learn “strategic consulting basics” while also giving the chance to ask questions of “a panel of senior consultants”.
According to internal sources, organizing the event took three BCG staff two months. This kind of work and training would usually cost an external purchaser upwards of £1 million, they told the Financial Times, before suggesting the case had caused “a lot of internal disquiet both among more junior staff.” [and at] more senior levels, particularly in the London office” – whose concerns were “simply overruled”.
A statement from the firm disputed these claims. It told the Financial Times that “BCG did not employ a team to organize this”, and that the organizers had instead volunteered their time. Meanwhile the firm, which employs 25,000 folks in more than 100 cities worldwide, asserted that the Bruce Henderson Summer Program had been in place “for many years” and that “participants stay in college dorms,” while the program is strictly “focused on education.” .”
The story breaks shortly after Big Four firm KPMG was also attacked for alleged nepotism in its Middle East wing. The firm saw unrest among partners at KPMG Lower Gulf, after Talal Cheikh Elard, the brother-in-law of CEO and Chair Nader Haffar, was elevated to a senior position. Two senior partners who raised concerns about the issue were reportedly forced out of the firm, according to internal sources. Haffar and Elard were also both accused by employees of shouting at staff, slamming fists on tables and storming out of meetings.