How WCM’s returnship program, Return to Bay Street (RTBS) provided the on-ramp for a new career in Canada

By WCM | March 18, 2022

As the pandemic continues to strain parents and working women, the rise of returnship programs like WCM’s Return to Bay Street are gaining traction globally. Returnships are paid back-to-work programs which also provide extra training and mentorship for those who’ve taken a career break. Organizations like Amazon, IBM, Accenture, and Goldman Sachs all offer paid returnship programs that provide an opportunity for individuals to return to their careers without having to start at the bottom of the career ladder. The focus of a returnship is to make the transition back to work easier through experience, training, and skill-building. In some organizations, returnships are used to evaluate an opportunity for full-time employment.

For Meric Koksal, meeting a former WCM CEO & President in early 2015, was the introduction she needed to relaunch her finance career in Canada. After acquiring a decade of work experience – starting in the Equities Division of Goldman Sachs in New York – Meric later moved to Japan and Singapore where she worked as an Equity derivative sales specialist focusing on hedge funds.

Shortly after moving to Canada, Meric learned about WCM’s Return to Bay Street (RTBS) program. Return to Bay Street plays a pivotal role in retaining mid to senior-level women in the Canadian finance industry by providing a pathway back to their careers after migration or an extended period of leave. Given her educational background as a mathematics and economics double major, along with her significant experience, Meric was a perfect RTBS candidate.  

“The program was instrumental in my introduction to key decision-makers on Bay Street,” says Meric, now the Managing Director, Deputy Head and Head of Structuring & Innovation, Wealth Solutions Group at WCM Gold Sponsor CIBC Capital Markets. “As someone who had never worked here before, [Return to Bay Street] laid the foundation for a strong network as a newcomer to Canada. The well-designed program also allowed me to get to know the various banks’ cultures to make the most informed decision on the best fit for me.”

For her RTBS placement, Meric joined CIBC’s Institutional Structuring Group in 2015. She was offered a full-time position in January 2016. “With her international experience in derivatives, Meric has had an immediate impact at CIBC through the development of new and innovative products. Her career is on a very positive trajectory and she continues to work diligently with her team to foster client- focused growth,” added Eric Belanger, Managing Director and Head, Global Distribution & Global Markets International at CIBC. 

Since joining CIBC, Meric’s career continues to grow and she is now the Deputy Head and Head of Structuring & Innovation, Wealth Solutions Group (WSG).

“Given the challenges the pandemic has brought upon working parents and women, the need for returnship programs like RTBS is critical,” says Lara Zink, WCM’s President and CEO. “Thanks to a committed group of sponsors, RTBS is now in its thirteenth year. It is a testament to our sponsors' continued focus on proactively increasing the representation of women at the mid and senior levels.”

Recognizing the impact of the program, Meric continues to give back to WCM and RTBS. She’s attended and moderated several panel discussions on the program to promote “a global caliber program”. Meric offers prospective RTBS candidates the following advice:

  1. Ahead of interviews, do as many informal networking/coffee chats as possible. This will allow you to fine-tune your story, highlight your attributes and any unique activities you have been involved with during your time away from finance.
  2.  Leverage all the resources offered by WCM like the information session on the program & industry, interview skills workshop, and any networking events. These have been designed and fine-tuned over time to set candidates up for success.
  3. Finally, once you start your position, maintain proactive communication with your manager, HR, and any other sponsors. These will be at a higher frequency than normal, but the feedback and guidance will help you formulate your strategy to convert to a full-time employee.

With this type of incredible advice, it makes sense that Meric is also a valued member of the WCM community as one of the mentors in WCM’s Professional Mentorship program. She finds fulfillment as a mentor remarking, “I really enjoy meeting younger, driven, diverse talent and guiding them as much as I can. On the flip side, I learn about different initiatives going on in the industry and get to expand my own network.” While mentoring is embedded in financial institutions abroad, she finds that mentoring is not yet an integrated part of Canadian banking DNA and feels WCM is filling an important gap through the mentorship programs.

Meric is one of 92 experienced women who continue to enjoy their careers in finance thanks to WCM’s Return to Bay Street program. Perhaps you’re part of WCM’s 2022 cohort or know someone who will be. We encourage you to share about the program with your own networks and welcome all qualified candidates to apply. Applications for the program are open until March 28, 2022.

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