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Returnships investment banks

Banks are encouraging career U-turns

Once, taking time out from a financial services job would have been a death knell for your career. Things have changed. Banks on Wall Street are now fluttering their eyelids at all sorts of people who’ve been hanging out at home – especially if those people are women with law degrees who’ve been looking after the kids.

“We’re seeing banks expanding returnship programs to include compliance divisions,” says Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, a company that specializes in helping professionals who’ve taken career breaks back into the workplace. “Most banks are expanding regulatory compliance teams. Non-working mothers with law degrees are a great resource for them.”

‘Returnship’ programs are becoming a big thing for investment banks. Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Morgan StanleyCredit Suisse, Liberty Mutual and Lloyds Banking Group, are all running programs to attract people who’ve taken career breaks back to the workplace. Most of the participants are women – and most have taken time out to have children. “We recognized many years ago that there’s this talent pool out there,” says Edith Cooper, global head of human capital management at Goldman Sachs. “There’s an untapped pool of highly qualified individuals who have been on a career break while caring for their families, and we want them back,” Ailsa Saltrese, European head of Morgan Stanley’s lateral recruiting team, told the Evening Standard in London.

Fishman Cohen says iRelaunch is in “deep collaboration” with all the finance firms running programs. “We’ve helped companies develop their programs over the years,” she says. Participants from each of the main banks spoke at iRelaunch’s return to work conference in New York City last fall. A partnership with the New York Institute of Finance helps prepare returnees for work.

While 50%-75% of people on summer internships for college and MBA students receive job offers, Fishman Cohen says success rate on return programs is typically higher. “We’re seeing up to 90% of people coming out with jobs.” Credit Suisse offered 94% of the women on its inaugural UK returnship program a job last year. However, its pool was small, at only 16 people. Among banks, Fishman Cohen says the longest running returnship program is offered by Goldman Sachs: Goldman has taken on around 150 people for its 11 week paid program since 2008.

Applications for Goldman’s 2015 returnship program are now closed. Morgan Stanley’s program is also closed for 2015 in NYC, although the bank appears to be inviting applications in London. Fishman Cohen says programs are often heavily over-subscribed, with hundreds or thousands applying for what can be a mere 20 or 30 person class.

What makes a successful ‘returner’? Fishman Cohen says most are women. They usually have five to seven years’ experience in banking and have been out of the market for anything from one year to 20. “Goldman Sachs hired someone who was out for 20 years,” she claims. Most don’t go into front office banking jobs, although this may be changing. “We’re seeing these programs growing and expanding and covering new divisions,” Fishman Cohen adds. Compliance divisions are at the forefront of this expansion. With banks like Deutsche, Citigroup, Commerzbank and HSBC all adding hundreds of compliance staff, women on career-breaks make the perfect source of new talent.

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  1. What about people whose careers were cutoff by the Bush Recession? Typically out of work or in very low pay jobs for a few years now, many would love to go back to firms like JP Morgan, etc.

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