Head of Global Research, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Candace Browning has two very important roles at Bank of America Merrill Lynch — both related to research.

Not only does she oversee research for the investment bank, she also spearheads some of its work to evaluate innovative fintech startups.

In the latter role, Browning and her team met with more than 100 firms last year to determine whether they might be worthy of investments. "The team receives many solicitations and selects with a disciplined approach," she said.

The focus is on companies that specialize in predictive analytics, voice transcription, and distributed ledger technology, among other fields. Browning and her team also established 25 pilot programs focused on new technology and launched a speaker series with entrepreneurs and industry experts to get insight into emerging trends.

She encourages employees to think creatively in their research topics, spurring, for example, a widely read report gauging Airbnb's impact on the hotel industry and a popular collection of statistics and maps called the Transforming World Atlas.

"As my team's leader, my role is to create a vision — identify the hill we want to take and then motivate, inspire, empower and organize my teams to take that hill," Browning said.

Her efforts are paying off, with the bank being named Institutional Investor's top global research firm for an unprecedented five years running. The success is all the more notable coming despite tough economic conditions that spurred cuts in expenses and staffing.

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