Bank of America Corp. has taken lots of heat for its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, but there's no denying that Merrill's securities research has been a real asset to BofA.

The combined research organization has significantly outperformed competitors in client polls and research forecasting awards this year, earning a global award, 11 regional awards and 157 individual analyst awards. And Merrill's brokerage business, supported by this research, helped drive BofA's profits over the past two quarters.

The global research division, led by Merrill veteran Candace Browning, was the first Merrill unit integrated after the acquisition closed on Jan. 1. "On day one, we were hard at work," Browning says.

One of the major issues to be worked out was the conflicting views the two teams held on various stocks, particularly U.S. stocks. "We thought it would be very confusing to have two ratings on a security," Browning says.

The solution was to eliminate the duplication of coverage as quickly as possible, or, where this couldn't be done quickly enough, put a stock under review.

The process of winnowing analysts was completed Jan. 1 and the process of combining the remaining disciplines was completed in mid-February. Browning says the process "really focused on identifying talent on both sides of the merger. As a result of that, we can now create new products that neither side was able to do before, and reach significantly more clients."

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