Real Returns™: How an Innovative Program Helps Reboot Careers
In 2008, Adrianne D. left a career in investment banking to take a different path. An officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, she helped the U.S. State Department create an enterprise management platform, consulted with the U.S. Department of Defense, and worked as an advisor to technology startups.
“After working with smaller companies for a couple of years, though, I realized how much I missed working on large-scale projects,” said Adrianne, now retired from the military. “I decided it was time to go back to working in finance at a large organization.”
Adrianne knew the transition would not be easy after an eight-year hiatus from finance. “A lot had changed in the industry, and I had been working in government and technology circles, which is a different culture,” she said.
Then a friend suggested she look into the Real Returns™ program at Credit Suisse. Launched in 2014, the program is designed to help individuals who have taken an extended career break from financial services transition back into the workplace.
“The longer you are out, the more difficult it can be to go back,” said Tali Z., who is the global head of Internal Mobility & Diversity Recruiting at Credit Suisse. “Managers are reluctant to hire someone who has a gap in his or her CV, particularly if it’s a senior position, and for individuals going back into a corporate environment can be daunting.”
Developing untapped talent
Real Returns™ is one of several initiatives within Internal Mobility & Diversity Recruiting that aim to identify and develop untapped talent, both internally and externally.
The program, which is offered in the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland and India, is geared toward women who have taken an extended career break to not only raise their children, but for a wide range of circumstances. “We’ve had participants who took time off to raise their children, to pursue degrees, look after elderly parents, start their own companies, you name it,” said Belinda J., who manages the US Real Returns™ program.”
By some estimates, 40% of all women will leave the workforce for a period of time, typically to care for children. This, say experts, is a contributing factor to gender inequality among senior management and on corporate boards.
While women are the primary focus, men have also participated in the program. “In Switzerland, we recently had two men in the program, one who took time off to stay home with his young children and another who followed his wife’s demanding career,” Tali Z. added.
Regardless of the circumstances, traditional recruiting and hiring philosophies are often a barrier to re-entry. “In one study, managers indicated that they were more likely to hire a junior person than hire a more experienced person who had a career break,” said Tali Z., adding that to date nearly 180 people have participated in Real Returns™.
While there are some regional variations, most Real Returns™ programs last 10 to 16 weeks, and include practical training—such as refreshers in technology and communication—and networking opportunities. Participants are placed in positions that suit their backgrounds and interests, and many receive full-time offers at the end of the program.
“We see so much talent, people with MBAs and Ph.Ds. who are extremely motivated,” Tali Z. said. “It is so satisfying to see the impact this program is having on individual careers, on our organization and in our industry.” Meanwhile, she said, other companies and organizations have begun rolling out similar initiatives of their own.
In 2016, nearly eight years after she left investment banking, Adrianne D. rebooted her career and joined Credit Suisse. “The opportunity to come back to finance was enormous, but I also got a lot out of the training I received through Real Returns™,” said Adrianne D., now a director in Global Markets who leads change and program management in leveraged lending, and oil and gas lending. “Having that extra confidence coming into my new role made all the difference.”