Barclays offers internships to those returning from career breaks

A Barclays logo is pictured outside the Barclays towers in Johannesburg December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko - RTX1YXVE

(Reuters) - Barclays Plc BARC.L said on Wednesday it was launching an internship program in New York targeting people who had taken a career break from the finance industry, the latest move by a big bank to emphasize its focus on work-life balance.

In a profession known for its rigorous schedules, banks are competing fiercely for talent around the world and are taking more active steps to both retain employees and attract new types of candidates.

Barclays’ 10-week paid program is designed for people who took time off mid-career for “personal responsibilities,” which could include raising children or caring for a sick relative. Applicants must have worked for five years previously and earned the title of vice president or above. If accepted into the program, they are placed in an area within Barclays’ investment bank.

“There’s a need for talent which is sparking [this initiative],” said Barbara Byrne, a vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays. “This is a pool of people who are available, experienced and talented.”

Recent efforts at other banks have focussed largely on improving the work-life balance of existing employees to increase retention.

UBS UBSG.S told investment bankers this month to take at least two hours of "personal time" during the week, aiming to give them more flexible hours.

In November, Goldman Sachs GS.N made changes designed to retain junior bankers, including promoting them more quickly and encouraging mobility.

Reuters reported in February that Credit Suisse CSGN.S was establishing a fast-track program for top-performing juniors.

Reporting by Richa Naidu and Olivia Oran in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Bernard Orr