From Body Armor to Business Suits

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Editorial Note: As we celebrate Veteran's Day this weekend, we decided to point out what one global financial services firm is doing to help our returning servicemen and women.

There's a small army of 4,500 recently returned veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan marching through the halls and offices of JP Morgan Chase. They're part of the 100,000 Jobs Mission, a collective of 82 companies who have pledged to hire at least 100,000 veterans by 2020.

At last count, the collective has given jobs to over 28,000 servicemen and women since the mission was created in early 2011 by JP Morgan and ten other firms.

Of all 82 firms hiring returning vets, JP Morgan has so far hired the most at a rate of about ten veterans a day since 2011. It has also developed a special training program for them called "From Body Armor to Business Suits."

Military 101

This program is designed to help new military-experienced employees assimilate into the financial services firm. Another internal training program, Military 101, helps hiring managers and other non-military-experienced employees have a better understanding of the veterans’ backgrounds and the experiences they bring to the workplace.

"Our efforts are not simply about helping veterans find jobs but also providing them with the skills and support they need to excel in their new roles and make their transition from the military to the private sector seamless," said Maureen Casey, Managing Director of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

"Long-term success requires that we put as much effort into assimilating and retaining veterans as we do on recruiting and hiring them,” she added.

Tim White, managing partner of the private wealth management practice at Kaye/Bassman International Corp., says he’s placed about 40 veterans in financial services jobs. "Some companies in the financial sector look favorably on ex-military candidates because of their ability to lead and follow instructions," said White.

Similarities in cultures

White adds that there are some similarities in culture between the military and financial sector companies, like Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase, both of whom place a high value on veterans.

Still, he says veterans making the transition into the civilian workforce should keep a couple of things in mind:

First, don’t alienate the employer. “Don’t say things like when I was in the military, I used to do it this way as a way to suggest improvement,” says White.

Second, relax.  “I also think there’s a tendency to be overly respectful,” White says of military veterans. “There’s a tendency to be rigid. It’s good for them to learn how to relax in that kind of environment. “

Choose a job that’s the right challenge

A few years ago White helped place a veteran who ended up as a recruiter at Kaye/Bassman.

"His job in the military was to bring generals to and from areas where the fighting was happening," said White. "This guy’s helicopter got shot at all the time. It was an exciting situation. When he came to work for us his job was to reach out to candidates and clients but he wasn’t successful and in my opinion it was because he wasn’t getting that adrenaline rush.”

Grant Moon, president of VA Loan Captain, a company that helps veterans connect with lenders that provide VA home loans, and a captain in the army reserves. He says veterans entering the civilian workforce need to keep an open mind.

“You might have had a lot of responsibility,” he says. "A lieutenant might be 25 but has already been in charge of 30 troops and millions of dollars of equipment. That’s a lot of responsibility but it doesn’t translate completely well to civilian sector. Your new role might be a lot less responsibility.  You may be in charge of nobody and the low man on totem pole. It’s good to go in with open mind and not have preconceived notions of civilian sector.”

According to Casey, JPMorgan Chase has established a centralized Military Recruiting Team in which 13 out of its 15 recruiters are former military, or are still in the Guard or Reserves. They help remove the obstacle service members face in translating military skills into corporate jobs.

Training Programs Facilitate Transition from Military to Corporate Culture

While military experience develops many skills necessary to succeed in the private sector including leadership, a team-oriented attitude and strong work ethic, JPMorgan Chase has established several training programs to grow the next generation of leaders for the firm.

Last month, Chase launched a Branch Manager Training Program for military veterans. Chase plans to recruit, hire and train twenty veterans to be branch managers in New York, Dallas, Columbus and Tampa.

Each candidate will train in a twelve-month program focused on developing branch banking skills that complement the candidates’ existing skills gained in the military. The program combines classroom, online and on-the-job instruction. Once the training is successfully completed, the candidates will be branch managers.

Veterans understand financial services

Tim Sweeney, strategic accounts manager for Virginia Beach, Va.-based Orion International, which has placed more than 30,000 veterans in jobs since 1991, says his company is working hard at helping veterans understand that positions in the financial services sector are varied.

"The biggest thing we’re overcoming when looking at the financial industry is that there’s a perception that the only types of opportunity available to them are sales oriented," says Sweeney. "What we’re trying to introduce and educate them about is that in the financial industry the largest opportunities are back office positions, like office manager, business analyst, project manager, retail and banking operations - positions that support the financial side of the business."

Lekan Oguntoyinbo contributed to this story

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