10 years of Military and Veterans Outreach at Barclays
It’s been 10 years since Barclays formally started its Military and Veterans Outreach (MVO) through the AFTER employability programme, which has since helped more than 7,000 service leavers to find the right job. Will Dixon, who was the programme’s first ever intern, shares his journey from “reluctant civilian” to Head of Business Management at Barclays UK.
“I joined the army, through a mixture of a sense of adventure, service and curiosity, and to do everything that I assumed bankers didn't do – have an active outdoor lifestyle, not sitting by the desk all day!”
Will Dixon is discussing how his path to Barclays was not what he’d expected when he joined the army aged 23. A decade after joining the bank’s Armed Forces Transition, Employment and Resettlement (AFTER) scheme, he is Head of Business Management at Barclays UK.
The AFTER programme levels the playing field. People coming from the military have got a real sense of purpose and service and if that can be harnessed, it's not just good for Barclays, it's good for society
Head of Business Management at Barclays UK
Barclays AFTER scheme launched in 2010 to help veterans and service leavers transition from military to civilian employment through varied outreach activities – from employability grants for injured personnel, to CV and interview workshops and a 12-week Military Talent Scheme.
In 2013, Barclays signed the Armed Forces Covenant, a pledge that the bank would honour those who serve or have served – and the bank’s commitment to fulfilling this pledge has been recognised through the highest level Gold Award from the Ministry of Defence’s Employer Recognition Scheme.
To date, AFTER has supported over 7,000 service leavers and veterans, with over 600 people securing roles at Barclays. Will, who was the programme’s first ever intern, describes himself as “initially a reluctant civilian”. He had spent two years in the 3rd Battalion, The Rifles, and served in Afghanistan. But in 2009, his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, and the injuries he sustained meant that his leg had to be amputated from below the knee.
“It was incredibly challenging and tough,” Will says. “I was extraordinarily lucky to escape with the injuries that I did and to be able to go on and lead a full and active life thereafter. But I knew that the career I wanted and expected to have in the army wasn't going to be there for me anymore.
“What AFTER gave me was the headspace I needed to settle myself, understand my injuries, and begin to plan next steps. The people I met gave me real confidence that I could make a crack at things outside of the military. Employment for me was a huge source of purpose and a key part of my mental recovery.”
Offering service leavers “a proper break”
Will says that the bank played a vital role in helping him adapt to his new career. Alongside getting to grips with the very different working environment, he cites its support with finding accommodation which meant he “wasn't living in a military environment while carrying out a civilian role”. He says: “I had a proper break, and I kind of needed that.”
The bank also gave him three months of leave at the end of his second year to start a charity, Row2Recovery, with a group of other injured service personnel – a project which led him to take part in a 51-day row across the Atlantic, raising £1m for service charities.
“The key aims were to both raise money, but also send a positive message to fellow soldiers and civilians around what can be achieved after an injury, because the Afghanistan conflict was still ongoing at the time,” Will says. “In terms of my recovery, alongside working for Barclays, it really helped me mentally because leaving the army so early was definitely something I took a bit of time to come to terms with.”
What AFTER gave me was the headspace I needed to settle myself, understand my injuries, and begin to plan next steps
Head of Business Management at Barclays UK
Since 2010, the bank has expanded its range of services and initiatives aimed at the whole Armed Forces community – including dedicated digital banking products; the Veterans’ Employment Transition Support (VETS) programme, which helps veterans find the right jobs; and the Grants Programme, which partners with military charities to support injured and vulnerable veterans. In just five years, VETS has seen more than 5,000 veterans sign up, brought together 170 partners to improve employment access and, more recently, extended its employment support to military spouses. Meanwhile the Armed Forces Banking suite of products includes a tailored loan policy and the Forces Help to Buy scheme, backed by the UK government.
Last year, Barclays launched its Military and Veterans Outreach in the US, formalising the support the bank’s colleagues have long given to the US Armed Forces community – and culminating in award of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award by the US government. This year has seen the integration of veteran-owned businesses into the bank’s global supplier diversity strategy and also the launch of AFTER US.
“The worst thing would be letting that talent go to waste”
Reflecting on the first decade of the bank’s Military and Veterans Outreach, Will says that it is now “very much part of Barclays’ DNA”.
“What the Armed Forces Covenant is all about is making sure that people are not disadvantaged by their service in the military,” he adds. “When they come out, having given up three, 10 or 20 years of service to the country, learning a huge array of skills in the most incredible and challenging environments, they should be able to get measured against their peers who have probably got a more recognised set of qualifications to a normal recruiter.
“The AFTER programme levels the playing field. People coming from the military have got a real sense of purpose and service and if that can be harnessed, it's not just good for Barclays, it's good for society. The worst thing would be just letting that talent and experience go to waste.”
Despite his initial trepidation when he first joined Barclays, Will says he’d wholeheartedly recommend the programme to anyone considering it.
“I've had a wide range of interesting roles that have stretched me in different ways and hopefully I've been able to add value to in different ways. I owe thanks to a huge number of people who in the early days gave me opportunities that I didn't think I was worthy of, but have stood me in good stead since.”