How one woman escaped banking to make jam, and then came back

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After a 13 year career in financial services, Deidre Critchley, senior banking services manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, decided to quit the City and start a jam-making enterprise. Five years later, she came back. Here’s what Deidre told us about escaping banking and then finding a new job if you change your mind….

Q: You left banking in 2007. What was behind your decision to leave financial services?

“At that time, my husband and I both had full time jobs. He had to travel, I had to travel and it was a demanding lifestyle. We moved house to a rural area and it was one of those times when you reassess your life. We had children because we wanted children. We’d got married because we wanted to spend time with each other. But the way we were living our lives meant that everything wasn’t really as balanced as we'd wanted. We reassessed our priorities.”

Q: Where did the jam-making idea come from?

"It was a question of indulging a hobby and turning it into a business. I set up a company called Jammy Cow [not this one] which made preserves and chutneys. I had the idea and wanted to try it. Starting my own business was hard work but gave me a flexible schedule to care for my family and was also a way I could put my skills and knowledge to good use.”

Q: Did you think you’d come back at the time?

“I didn’t know, but I knew that I had a strong skillset and I felt that the opportunity might be there to return if things didn’t work out.”

Q: You had a very client-facing role in banking. Did you worry that your clients might forget you?

“Not really. The City’s often portrayed as being a very transient place in which people move on, but there are also plenty of people who are in the same role for years. Now that I’ve come back, a lot of the people I knew before are still around. I also have some very good friendships with clients and colleagues.”

Q: Was it difficult to get recruiters to look at your CV after five years out of the market?

“I didn’t use recruiters. A friend of mine mentioned that Bank of America Merrill Lynch was advertising its Returning Talent Programme on Mumsnet. It was open to people like me who had been out of the workplace for a few years to care for their family. . I felt very lucky to be accepted onto the programme – at that time (December 2012), the employment market was still very slow and the people already in jobs seemed to be the only ones getting job offers. The programme made it far easier for me to take the first step towards returning to work.”

Q: And now that you’re back? How are you coping with the notoriously long hours?

"The idea of bankers working very long hours has been sensationalised. It’s no more difficult to raise a family if you work in banking than if you work in another sector.

I frequently travel for work and have a long commute, so I often start working on the train before I get into the office. However, we have a great flexible working policy I can either spend four hours commuting, or I can spend that time productively working from home. I’m not the only one - I’ll often have calls with colleagues or clients who are working from home too."

Q: And what happened to the jam business?

“I had the opportunity to sell it, which I declined – it’s something that I may want to do when I retire perhaps!"

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