Racquel Oden

Racquel Oden

Managing director, Merrill Lynch

Racquel Oden, 44, has a gift for strategic vision which has propelled her quickly up the corporate ladder. Currently managing director overseeing 200 advisers at Merrill Lynch's flagship New York City branch, her previous role was directing adviser strategy for the firm's wealth management division.

"Now I'm executing that strategy," she said.

Ms. Oden's innovative accomplishments include recognizing the potential of the internet in the late 1990s, when she returned to school to learn HTML coding. Her foresight and passion led to a wirehouse position building its first internet platform for advisers.

Ms. Oden later worked with another wirehouse, promoting an acquisition (versus hiring) strategy, an approach common now but not in the mid 2000s.

The result, she said, was the fastest growth the firm had ever seen.

At Merrill Lynch, she created training and development pathways for new advisers and enhanced the recruitment efforts for bringing in young and diverse hires. Retention rates rocketed, she said.

Ms. Oden, a native of Long Island, N.Y., credits her education at all-girl primary schools for much of her self-confidence and self-esteem.

"I saw other girls in leadership positions and I always felt empowered," she said. "It allows you to be you. So, when you're coming into Wall Street, you don't fear it."

In her private time, Ms. Oden greatly enjoys community advocacy, sitting on such venerable boards as the Apollo Theater and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports students of historically black colleges.

"We all have a price to pay for the space we occupy on Earth," she said.

– Deborah Nason

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