When adopting a role model almost 30 years ago, Candace Browning aimed high: She became — and remains — a big fan of Margaret Thatcher.

The former British prime minister, who was elected the year Browning graduated from business school, is remembered for delivering free-market shock therapy that changed the course of her country's economy.

"She was a very bold person who did what she believed in, even though it was tough," says Browning.

Browning, a Merrill Lynch veteran, has demonstrated her share of mettle in tumultuous times. Following Bank of America's acquisition of Merrill, her global research division was the first to integrate. That involved two sticky tasks: eliminating duplication of coverage on stocks and winnowing down the analyst team.

Browning also had been part of a team that initiated industry reforms seven years ago to help settle charges the Securities and Exchange Commission brought against 10 Wall Street firms for analyst conflicts of interest. "That was a very difficult and complex task," she says.

The turning point in Browning's career came a decade ago when, she says, "I decided I had been an analyst long enough; I put my hand up to go into management."

Moving up the ranks meant moving her family from New York to London. But the decision paid off; in 2003, Browning took over the leadership of the global securities research team.

Browning credits Bob McCann, Merrill's former vice chairman and head of global wealth management, with helping her develop the skills and confidence to do so. "He taught me to believe in myself, to quickly identify issues and talent. And he really taught me to ensure excellent execution."

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