Managing Director, Global Head of Research, Economics and Strategy, Wells Fargo Securities

Sharing the stage with Michael J. Fox last November is one experience that helps remind Diane Schumaker-Krieg what it means to be courageous.

She was moved by the actor's courage and optimism long before they met. She had read his two books detailing his struggles with Parkinson's disease — which she said are "among the most inspiring books on personal courage that I have ever read."

But serving as the moderator at the Wells Fargo Securities Middle Market Leadership Forum — as Fox talked about his life — was more poignant than she could have expected. "We looked ahead to the future, sharing Michael's bravery, optimism and wit with our audience," Schumaker-Krieg said. "While I have encountered many legendary leaders in my career, this interview with Michael, an extraordinary human being, stands out as the most moving, meaningful and fun."

Courage is key for Schumaker-Krieg. Her 31 years in financial services is practically a road map on how to embody it — whether sticking up for the only other senior female executive in the room when a male colleague tried to take credit for her idea years ago at another job, or standing by a controversial call from one of her research analysts earlier this year.

The "underperform" rating on Valeant Pharmaceuticals by one of her then-recent hires, analyst David Maris, elicited plenty of scorn. For several weeks, Wells Fargo Securities was the only U.S. brokerage firm with that rating. "Both David and I endured withering criticism and disgruntled shareholders," Schumaker-Krieg said.

That is, until the company's stock tanked due to multiple issues, including missed earnings estimates, an accounting error and an SEC investigation.

"I have worked hard to create an environment where analytical independence is constantly reinforced, and to stand behind the analysts even when their work leads to unpopular or controversial conclusions," Schumaker-Krieg said.

As a reminder of the importance of courageous thinking, Schumaker-Krieg keeps a 2008 New York Times article on Warren Buffett close at hand. One quote in particular stands out to her: "Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful."

"Written during the financial crisis, it provided a welcome shot of optimism amid all the doom," she said. "Despite the homespun simplicity and obvious truth of the quote, human nature makes it exceptionally difficult to apply when needed the most. This is why there is only one Warren Buffett. I reread the piece periodically and distribute it to our team to encourage independent thinking and bold stock calls."

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