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Racquel Oden

Managing director, head of adviser strategy and development, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management

"What I love about my work is the impact I can have on this industry," said Racquel Oden, head of adviser strategy and development for Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. "I'm creating the next generation of advisers."

She certainly is, as she oversees the hiring of about 1,500 adviser trainees per year, as well as the coaching and development of Merrill's 14,000 advisers.

A word her admirers frequently use to describe her is "innovative."

About a year and a half ago, Ms. Oden introduced the Team Financial Advisor program, which focused on recruiting millennials and women, and changed how new hires begin their careers at the firm.

Formerly, new advisers had to build their businesses on their own, with compensation based on monthly numbers. In the new approach, newcomers join an existing practice within Merrill and receive compensation based on annual numbers.

The changes have not only tripled the retention rate of new advisers, they have helped established advisers with succession planning.

"I challenge myself to think about this business differently," Ms. Oden said. "Taking risk is a norm for me. From the day I entered this business, I saw other people taking leaps of faith."

It is essential to look for individuals you can emulate, she said, crediting mentors and sponsors in her life that have helped her develop her confidence and move up the corporate ladder.

Does she ever feel daunted by her responsibilities and risks?

"Not at all. With each role you take, you have an opportunity to round out your skills," Ms. Oden said. "I believe in being comfortably uncomfortable."

— Deborah Nason

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