Returning To Work

Written by: Sarah Dudney
Published on: Sep 14, 2018

Developing a diverse work force in today’s investment management industry is now a mainstream agenda item. Some leading investment companies, such as M&G and Man Investments, have initiated HR and business practices to ensure that women and men who leave the industry to care for a young family can successfully navigate their way back to work.

In 2015, Office of National Statistics figures showed that there were approximately 2.1 million women at home looking after families and 240,000 men (this figure does not include those who are balancing part-time work with family care). This figure gives a scale of the challenge ahead in terms of ensuring that corporates in all sectors encourage active workforce participation from this particular cohort. This article outlines the route back to work and identifies transition strategies that allow successful integration.

Encouraging a better balance

In 2008 some US corporates established an HR strategy for this group of returners, exemplified when Goldman Sachs trademarked the term “Returnship Programme.” In the UK, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank established their own format for the “Returnship Programme” in 2014. At time of writing in 2017 it is estimated there are approximately 20 corporates in the City engaged in developing a structured HR programme for women and men returners. It can be assumed from this number of corporate sponsors that the number of professional

returners benefiting from the schemes is limited, leading to the conclusion that there is still a long way to progress. Traditionally, some corporates have perceived women returners as potentially risky to take back in the work place after a prolonged absence for maternity leave. There’s a view that the returner will not manage the work and family balancing act and will return to family duties after a brief period.

These programmes create an entry ramp over three months and function as a trial period for both employees and employers. They comprise of a programme of coaching and mentoring which allows the returner to enjoy a project based re-entry back to work and receive suitable compensation for this grace period. All things being equal, this grace period is then converted to permanent employment. Some investment management firms like M&G ensure all their recruitment is open to women and men returners, whether they have been out of the industry due to child care, elder care or further study.

In 2015 there were approximately 2.1 million women
at home looking after families and 240,000 men

Source: Office of National Statistics


Small, not sideways steps

Experts in career transition such as Professor Herminia Ibarra, The Cora Chaired Professor of Leadership and Learning Professor of Organizational Behaviour at INSEAD suggests in her book on career transition, Working Identity, that small steps in any transition are more useful than one big leap. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, noted in her book Lean In that careers today are more like “jungle gyms” consisting of sideways moves rather than an upwards trajectory. Using these insights from Ibarra and Sandberg, returning to work should be a carefully managed, subtle step forward into the career stream. Women and men should view time away from the office as a means to gain new perspectives on life and work, which should build self-confidence rather than detract from it.

Tactics for a return to the workplace

What are the tactics for those who want to return to work but have not been able to access the appropriate programme? The strategy here is like any other career transition. The returner has to be proactive and take the long view, since any career transition usually takes six to 12 months. It’s vital that the returner continues to develop and maintain both social and intellectual capital to learn the trends and discontinuities in their niche and the existence of career openings. This means keeping up to date with technical developments in one’s own area of the investment market. Virtual resources like the CFA Knowledge Centre can help, as well as the CFA UK jobs board. Julianne Miles of Women Returners states the importance of making time for these activities. She recommends building a local neighbourhood network of trusted friends at a similar life stage who might be able to exchange time and childcare, for example. She also advises casting a ruthless eye on current activities to release more time for career development since finding a job is a job in itself. Entering the employment sphere requires deft logistical management to give you the best possible chance of success. Meanwhile, there are recruitment firms that deal purely with returners, such as The Return Hub, led by Dominie Moss (

Returning role models

The Diversity Project ( is helping the Investment Association promote greater diversity in all aspects of the industry. With the support of CFA UK and other entities, they have been running various initiatives, including one focused on encouraging returners to the investment management industry. A specific output of this work will be a targeted returners database for women and men, which will launch in Autumn 2017. This will be proactively supported and used by members of The Diversity Project and hosted by The Buy-Side Club. Further details will be found on their website come Autumn 2017 (

So what does the future hold for companies and returners, current and future? It is hoped that there will be a ripple effect, with other companies reviewing their approach to returners. This strategy should create more role models of women and men who have successfully returned to work after a break. It is worth noting that when Mohammed El Erian stood down as CEO from PIMCO in 2014, he mentioned the appeal of spending more time with his family, having missed some key milestones in his family’s early life (apparently his daughter had pointed this out to him). This type of CEO message may become more common and begs the question of corporates needing to develop a mature business culture which allows for a successful and sane balance between work and life.

"It is hoped that there will be a ripple effect, with other companies reviewing their approach to returners."