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The new thing: Going back to your ex-employer for more money and a promotion

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Feel stuck or undervalued in your current employer? Simply leave on good terms, and then return a couple of years later, having gained valuable experience elsewhere, on more money and with an inflated job title.

Going back to what you know appears to be a new trend in the financial sector. For those who remain tapped into their ‘alumni network’, the option of going back to your old stomping ground, usually in a more senior position than when you left, appears the thing to do, suggest recruiters and career consultants.

One example is Ramon Baljé, who was at Nomura for over five years before switching to JPMorgan to head up fixed income sales for Netherlands and Nordics. He stayed there for under two years before making the move back to the Japanese bank again. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse recently poached back traders Neilan Govender and Julien Eisenberger after brief stints at hedge fund Brevan Howard, while Karl Green, an equity researcher who spent four years at boutique Altium Capital, returned in February.

“For the organisation, there’s a guarantee that the returnee will align with the values and culture,” says Graham Ward, adjunct professor of leadership at INSEAD and former co-head of Goldman Sachs’ European equity business. “Methods of career advancement and compensation will be clearly understood so there’s less risk of a departure. You also get a finished product rather than having to do three years of development.”

This trend also demonstrates that financial services employees are “managing their own career”, according to Linda Jackson, managing director of career consultants 10Eighty, rather than relying on their employer. “It might sound a little drama queen-ish, but if your current employer isn’t meeting your career expectations, you have every right to look elsewhere,” she says. “However, it’s incredibly important to maintain your alumni networks and advocates at the firm because in two years’ time there might be a great opportunity for you at your old employer.”

Companies are keener on this approach because it ultimately cuts out both the cost of recruiting and the gamble associated with a new hire, says Jackson. From the employee’s perspective it’s also a chance to earn more than if they’d stuck around the first time – as we’ve mentioned previously, those who tend to stay with the same firm can be paid 20% less than their peers who switched jobs more regularly.

In certain positions, it’s a chance to earn far more than you could ever hope to through remaining loyal to your current employer. Compliance professionals, for example, are being recruited by their former employers on double their previous salaries because of a combination of talent shortage and regulatory requirements to fill the seat.

This is particularly bad in developing markets. “A compliance guy left us three years ago for another bank and we recently rehired him for 2.5 x more than what we paid him before,” a banking HR professional told us at a recent roundtable in Hong Kong.

Ward believes that banks are going back to rewarding loyal employees anyway, but says it’s best to stay plugged into any company you’ve left: “Goldman Sachs (among others) has proactively cultivated and maintained its alumni network. As long as you stay plugged in, and so long as you maintain social contact with your peers across the industry at your various points of employment, there is a strong likelihood that the door will swing open again at some point.”

Don’t expect an easy ride, though: “You’re going back with more skills and a rounded perspective to take on a role with more responsibilities, not because it’s a cushy option,” says Jackson.

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