Head of Global Research and Head of Financial Technology Investments for Global Banking and Markets, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

In a world where information overload is a constant threat to good decision-making and can leave even the most decisive investor mired a paralyzing morass of numbers, Candace Browning's focus is turning mind-numbing reams of data into actionable intelligence.

Browning heads global research for Bank of America, with a team of more than 600 analysts in more than 20 countries. They follow 3,100 stocks and 1,150 credits globally, and provide economic forecasts for 56 countries, 36 commodities and 47 currencies.

Attesting to the quality of that research, Institutional Investor magazine recognized B of A as the top global research firm for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. That award goes on the shelf next to similar accolades for its work in various investment sectors.

Browning's role as a gatekeeper for investments in emerging financial technology also helps keep the bank on the cutting edge of innovation. She was instrumental in rolling out data tools that facilitated projects like identifying failing counterparties.

One area of interest is the nascent field of "artificial reality," which she expects to lead to new interactive tools for both the bank and its clients. A video her team did highlighting the potential opportunities of virtual reality for businesses and investors had 24,000 views on the bank's website and got even more attention on Twitter (250,000 "engagements," such as retweets and likes).

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The use of technology in Browning's operation isn't just outward-facing. She also has overseen an effort to turn some of her team's expertise at data analysis inward, particularly with a view to promoting gender equality within the bank.

"I feel that women in financial services have made progress over the last five years and am encouraged that more institutions are actively tracking metrics and creating goals related to women and gender equality," Browning said.

In her department, she requires that at least two women be considered for every open position. The idea came from a Harvard Business School study showing that women had a significantly higher chance of being hired when at least two females were considered for a role — their odds were 79 times greater. "The research suggests that we can use bias in favor of the status quo to actually change the status quo," Browning said.

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Rob Garver

Rob Garver has been covering the intersection of public policy and the private sector for more than 20 years.