Returners in Financial Services


Over the last few years the UK has made progress in making improvement to the female labour market, but there is still enormous potential that is underutilised, and no more so than women returning from career breaks.

New research from PwC reveals that around 427,000 female professionals, who are currently on a career break, want to return to the workforce in the future – and addressing the career break penalty could deliver gains of £1.7 billion to the UK economy.

Career breaks can be taken for a number of reasons, to look after a young family, provide elderly care, for health reasons, travel, volunteering, study or just time out, but women often face challenges when returning to the workplace.

But enlightened businesses are starting to take action. Pioneered by investment banks, ‘Returnships’ are paid internships for returning professionals, normally lasting between three and six months and focus on offering women (and men) the chance to keep their skills up to date, boost confidence and, the possibility of being hired permanently. There are about 30 financial services firms in the UK that currently have formal returner programmes, and although they are a relatively new concept they are starting to gain traction in European financial services. However, they typically require a lot of resources and are often therefore not viable for smaller firms.

What we are starting to see more broadly is that financial services firms are now proactively seeking women returners as part of their wider diversity strategy. From an employer perspective, hiring returning professionals back into the workplace has significant benefits. As a whole the sector has often struggled to attract and retain senior female talent, but HR and hiring managers are now increasingly open to more creative ways to resource key skill-sets and improve diversity. This includes championing flexible working, promoting or recruiting more women into senior leadership roles and improving support for maternity returners, all through to a largely untapped pool of high-calibre experienced and motivated women.

Now has never been a better time to think about returning to work after an extended break.

BRUIN is actively working on behalf of a number of financial services organisations that are seeking experienced returners, for more information please contact one of our Leadership Team.

Top Tips from BRUIN’s own Returners:

Kirstin Duffy:

Deciding on the right time to return: It can be tempting to keep delaying and waiting for the ‘perfect time’ to go back to work, but life is rarely black and white. The circumstances that prompted the career break in the first place might not have felt like they happened at the ‘right’ time either. I would advise anyone considering returning to work to think about it carefully, and when it feels about 80% right to go for it.

Emily Ayre:

Be willing to invest in yourself: For some roles, you might find that technology, regulations or responsibilities have changed whilst you’ve been away. The best advice here is to embrace these evolutions and renew any lapsed professional memberships, explore options for CPD training or similar through your chosen professional body, and attend relevant industry events. Not only will this ensure that you’re up to date, but also demonstrates to employers that you’re committed to continuing your career.

Kirsty Pineger:

Figure out the right working pattern for you: Flexible working doesn’t just mean part-time work; it can be so much more than that, so try to think outside of the box. For example:

  • Compressed hours so five days in four
  • Delayed start or finish to allow for family commitments
  • Project working only so you work full-time for a project and then take time off in lieu
  • Working from home
  • Job shares

Don’t be afraid to bring up the F word – flexible working is as good for businesses as it is for employees – but if you don’t ask you don’t get!

Claire Smith:

Don’t undersell yourself: Don’t automatically assume that returning to work after a career break means compromising on salary or level. Your skills and experience haven’t lost their value, but if you have been off work for a significant amount of time, you may underestimate what you can offer an employer. Part of your job search should be an honest self-assessment and a review of your strengths and weaknesses – use this process to update your CV and identify your own unique selling points.

Rosalie Wallis

Be clear about your career goals: Start with clarifying your motivations to go back to work – what does success mean to you? Returning to work after a career break is a great opportunity to consider what you really want to do, so take some time to think about what makes work enjoyable and fulfilling for you. What did you most enjoy about your previous roles? This might also be a golden opportunity to transfer your existing skills into a new field and try something different.

Returning to Financial Services

BRUIN is involved in a number of initiatives focusing on Women Returners, including representation on the Returners steering committee of The Diversity Project, and their #Restart campaign. For more information please contact one of our leadership team.

Over the last few years the UK has made progress in making improvement to the female labour market, but there is still enormous potential that is underutilised, and no more so than women returning from career breaks.