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Returner Employer Q&A – Stephanie Marshall, Fidelity International

Julianne from Women Returners interviews Stephanie Marshall, Fidelity International UK & Ireland Talent Acquisition Lead and Programme Manager on Fidelity New Horizons Returner Programme.
Q. What was Fidelity’s motivation for setting up the New Horizons programme?
A. There are a couple of motivators. We saw the huge value and
business benefit that a company like Fidelity could get from a returner
programme. I also felt quite passionately about it from a personal point of
view. I have been a return to work mother, and been in a position
where I’ve been out of work myself and looking to make a slight career
change. It was very difficult for me to break back into the sector,
until I approached an old client of mine who was willing to help me.
Q. What do you see as the business benefits?
A. There are several big business benefits. Firstly, to
improve gender diversity. Financial Services can sometimes have a reputation of
being a male-dominated environment. We chose the technology area as a
pilot for our returnship programme, because sometimes we find it challenging to
recruit women into those roles. Fidelity International has signed up
to the Women in Finance Charter, which is a UK Government initiative to
encourage more companies to report on their gender balance at a senior level. The
returner programme is one of the initiatives that will help us reach our goals.
From a more specific recruitment perspective, Fidelity International has
some offices outside of London, and it can sometimes be a challenge to find
candidates with niche skills that are local to us. However, we’ve found this
can also be a massive selling point for returners. Lots of people had a career
entirely in the City but don’t want to do that anymore. They want a job closer
to home that offers more flexibility, but still offers an interesting and
challenging place to work.
Finally, we operate in a very competitive environment, and the
experienced hire candidates we interview can sometimes be interviewing with
other firms. We always want to explore any avenue to open up new pipelines of
candidates for us.
Q. What are the challenges for Fidelity as a business to recruit
returners directly? Why did you feel you needed a returnship?
A. If you look at the demographics of a lot of organisations, there
can be an increased outflow of women compared to men. This can be for various
reasons but many leave to start a family. It’s a group that is then hard to reconnect with, who may feel that
they are unable to come back. We wanted to promote that Fidelity is a company
that supports people returning to work, and a returnship programme is a good
way to do that.
Q. What were your impressions when you first received the applications
for the New Horizons Technology Programme?
A. We were really, really encouraged, not just by the volume
of applications we received, but by the quality. Lots of candidates who applied
to us had a background in financial services. Many also had a
background in Technology although we didn’t say it was essential. There were
relevant candidates that were local to our offices and we may have missed those
in an ordinary recruitment cycle. This first impression was further
corroborated on the assessment day when the hiring managers were blown away by
the quality of the applicants that they saw. It was a really positive
Q. How many people did you bring into the organisation on the Technology
A. We brought three people in. One went into an IT support role, another
into risk, and the third into project management.
Q. What was the experience like for you as an organisation throughout
and at the end of the programme?
A. It was a new programme for us and we were very honest about that from
the beginning. I think the candidates appreciated our honesty because it was
new for them too. The partnership with Women Returners was very helpful from the
beginning as it enabled us to really think about the returners’ on-boarding
experience. We tried to connect them with as many peers and senior people
within the organisation as we could, so that they got to understand who we were
as a firm, what businesses we operated in and how we worked
We aimed to give the returners as much exposure, investment and help as
we could. To help them feel supported, we had a review point midway through the
programme, we had lunches and we encouraged them to attend a variety of talks. They
were each assigned a mentor who provided support outside of their day to day
team. We asked for their feedback at the end of the programme and were
encouraged to hear that it was a great experience for them.
Q. How did the support from Women Returners fit in with the overall
support programme?
A. Women Returners in my opinion offers a very high level of
support from beginning to end, which complemented the support we also gave
throughout the programme. Their coach gave a face to face briefing with the
people who were going to be managing the returners. This was a really
worthwhile exercise as they got to understand exactly how the programme was
being setup and what their responsibilities were. Women Returners was also
involved in the assessment day, where they led a workshop to make the
candidates feel more at ease and confident in preparation for the interviews in
the afternoon. They then hosted a series of workshops throughout the 20
weeks where they would come down to the offices and work through various
training modules with the returners to provide a safe space to express any
concerns they had. They acted very effectively as a conduit between
ourselves as the employer and the returners as the employees.
Q. What have been the main challenges for you running a returnship
A. That’s a tough one, no major challenges. The business was
receptive to it and were very willing to get on board, so we didn’t have to win
over anybody’s hearts and minds – they were there from the
Q. What have been the benefits for you as an organisation?
A. We have hired some exceptionally talented, committed returners who I
know have had a really rewarding experience, and who have all been offered
permanent roles. We have increased the quality of our workforce by
hiring these women, and that’s probably the biggest benefit to us, because any
organisation is only as good as the people within it. Our talent is our most
valuable commodity.
There has also been a lot of positive external and internal PR around
the programme. Returnships are very much in the media at the moment, talking
about how hiring returners is good for the economy and everyone involved. It’s
great to be a part of that and to show our employees that we are participating
in these programmes.
Q. What has the reception been more broadly within the business?
A. It’s been very good. One of the testaments of that is that the
programme has spread into other business areas. We started in Technology
and we are now doing a programme within the Investments space. We are looking
to scope out a programme in different business areas too. Alongside the successful
permanent hires, the main success is that we have expanded the programme beyond
its original pilot.
Q. What advice would you have for any other companies thinking of
running at returnship programme?
A. Getting key senior level business sponsorship is really
Understanding the type of roles that you want to bring people into is
also key. Having a well-defined job description, and knowing what the final
destination might be for the returner helps everybody have much more clarity
around the programme.
Making sure that everyone is on the same page, that’s not just an issue
for these kind of programmes, it’s an issue for all kind of
organisations. Get the right people in the room and get them agreeing on
the same things and everyone can move forward with the same understanding.
Q. Are you planning to run future programmes, do you think this will
become part of your annual recruitment?
A. I very much hope so. We have completed one programme and we are now
into our second. It’s something we hope to continue with going forward. I
thoroughly enjoyed working on it from a personal and professional point of
view. It’s good to find something in your work that you are passionate about.
It’s been a positive experience for me to be on this project, to drive it and
to deliver it.

Posted by Julianne