Employer case study – Investment bank

We spoke with the manager of a tier 1 investment bank, about their recently initiated internship scheme specifically for autistic people who are looking for employment.

Their skills balance the team, they cover a gap in cognitive thinking

What is the background to your autism internship scheme?

Over a year ago, our managing director became interested in launching our internship scheme after listening to a radio programme about employing autistic staff. Since then, we’ve worked with over twenty autistic interns in our bank’s many worldwide offices. Currently, each office has its own approaches to the initiative, but we plan to unify their methods in the near future. As a part of our programme, interns have the opportunity to experience what it is like to work in an office environment, interact with co-workers and go through a typical workday. This is a great opportunity for autistic people to practice their skills and prove their capabilities. We’ve had demonstrable success in helping autistic people build their confidence in the workplace. The two interns who have worked with our London office have both gone on to find permanent employment, one of them was offered a permanent post after their internship.

What is the structure of the internship?

The internship spans twelve weeks. We extended it from an initial ten weeks and are currently discussing whether to lengthen it even further. The internships presently cover only technical roles, but there is the possibility for expanding into other roles in the future. Despite this technical focus, the skills the interns develop are transferable and applicable to other positions and fields. Our internships are based in a single department, but the interns have the opportunity to shadow co-workers in other departments, go to meetings and engage with shareholders. The internship is used as a work trial and interns are recruited to specific vacancies. There is no guarantee of a permanent role although this is a possibility. All interns will have valuable experience of a work environment which they can apply elsewhere at the end of the internship.

How do you recruit your interns and how were adjustments made to the process?

All our candidates have had anxiety about work. We give them exposure to the office, meeting people, the working day. Work experience has given them the understanding of what work is like and gives them more confidence about being in the workplace.

We’ve worked to improve our hiring process for autistic applicants. In line with recommendations for reasonable adjustments, we’ve removed unnecessary required skills from our job descriptions, for example, we no longer require ‘stakeholder engagement’ for junior analyst roles. We’ve also determined that the existing corporate recruitment process is inappropriate for our internship scheme, as it would reject many valuable candidates during the initial screening phase due to issues like gaps in employment. As a consequence, we use a specialist agency to filter through CVs and sit in on interviews. We also eliminated the telephone interview, shortened the in-person interview and provide candidates with the interview questions in advance. The revised recruitment process consists of two interviews of up to fifteen minutes each, the first focusing on technical knowledge and the second is an HR interview. The interview panel is reduced to two hiring managers, who have been briefed in advance, so they can adapt their style.

What other working adjustments were made?

We’ve made several other reasonable adjustments for our recruited and hired interns. We do not require our interns to hot-desk, they each have a fixed workplace. We also allow them to work remotely and with flexible working hours. When learning new tasks, we give our interns extra time to grow confident and be comfortable with the task. The London interns both used ear defenders, to cut out the usual office noise. We worked with HR in advance to agree quite a list of potential adjustments that could be made as a matter of course, but most of them were not taken up. Individually, interns can discuss other adjustments on a personal basis with their manager. We make reasonable adjustments to enable all interns to meet standard performance requirements, and managers have reported that making these adjustments have given them new perspectives and a more open mind

What qualities did the interns bring and has the experience changed how you work?