Do banks’ returnship programs really work? A look at where returnees are today

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Goldman Sachs started the trend a decade ago, and most every big bank has since followed suit. Paid internship-like programs designed for experienced candidates who voluntarily left the workforce for a number of years who are now looking to return are now a thing. The concept behind the programs is to tap into an underrecruited talent pool that may be struggling due to a lengthy gap in their resume – typically women who stepped away to raise a family. It’s also hard to deny that the initiatives are good PR; dozens of articles have been written on Goldman Sachs’ “returnship” program – a phrase it actually trademarked – as well as similar initiatives offered by other banks, including J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Barclays.

But just how successful are these 8 to 12-week programs, which, like traditional internships, offer recruits training while also scouting for potential full-time hires. We scoured through articles written several years ago – including one of our own from 2013 and a New York Times piece from early 2014 – where banks touted returnees who were recently made full-time hires. We then cross-referenced the names through LinkedIn, Finra and other sources to see where they are now.

Generally speaking, those who were hired at the conclusion of their returnship have mostly found success, particularly when it comes to job security. While not all have been promoted over the past few years, several have. Others have moved on to bigger positions at rival banks.

Featured in our article, Elyse Goodman was hired into the operations group at Goldman Sachs in 2010. Six months after publication, she joined the investment management division’s communication department and has since been promoted to co-head of a global team of analysts and associates, according to her LinkedIn profile. A member of Goldman’s inaugural 2008 returnship class, Arlene Houston started in regulatory operations in Jersey City and was eventually made VP of equity derivative negotiations in New York. She left Goldman in 2015 to join J.P. Morgan, where she is now an executive director who manages capital stress testing.

Andrea Chermayeff, who was selected as a member of J.P. Morgan’s initial “re-entry” program in 2013 following 15 years away from the industry to raise her children, landed a full-time role as a business manager within JPM’s private bank, according to the Times piece. She is now an executive director and lending advisor for high-net worth clients. A member of the same class, Hope Tully joined J.P. Morgan full-time following a 14-year layoff to raise her kids. She still works as a vice president in the global strategy group. Only one banker mentioned in the 2014 Times article is no longer working in the industry, at least according to LinkedIn. She spent three-and-a-half years with Morgan Stanley’s asset management group before leaving in 2017.

Among the more than dozen other returnees who were featured in separate years-old articles, only one isn’t currently working, according to LinkedIn. Two have been named executive director, though no returnee we came across has made MD. Some jobs are client-facing, though no one we identified works in a traditional investment banking role.

Ten years following Goldman’s launch of the industry’s first-ever returnship program, it therefore seems clear that the concept is more than PR fodder. The programs have helped banks find and, perhaps more importantly, retain talent that may have otherwise gone overlooked. (The level of turnover among returnees is well below industry norms). However, it’s important to note that those few who get the initial opportunity and turned it into a career have otherwise impeccable resumes.

Of the four bankers featured in the Times piece, two received their MBA from Harvard while a third has both her masters and law degree from Duke. Three worked at a tier-one bank before taking time away, while the fourth had a background in private equity. The backgrounds of others are similar. The fact is, the bar may be even higher for returnees, despite the fact that they need to go through the equivalent of a paid internship before earning a full-time offer. It's a good option, but you better bring more than just a gap in your resume, along with a good reason for having it.

 

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: btuttle@efinancialcareers.com

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